Tuesday, April 06, 2010



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Spirit Airlines to become first to charge for carry-on luggage
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UPDATED (12:50 p.m. ET): Spirit Airlines has become the first airline in the USA – perhaps in the world – to say it will charge fliers for putting carry-on bags into its overhead storage bins. That news came this morning as part of a complicated new fee and fare scheme Spirit announced.

As part of that effort -- which Spirit describes as "progressing to the next phase of unbundling" -- customers must pay to join Spirit's "$9 Fare Club" to get access to discounted fees and fares. Tucked away in that somewhat convoluted release is the mention of the carry-on fee.

OTHER FEES: Ryanair to increase checked luggage fees during peak months (Business Traveller) | Continental Q&A: 'We made the right decision on bag fees' (Today in the Sky)

How much will checking a bag in Spirit's overhead bins cost you? Fliers that do not belong to the $9 Fare Club will have to pay up to $45 each way to put a bag in the airline's overhead storage bins if they don't declare their bags until they get to the gate. The fee drops to $30 for customers who "reserve" a spot before getting to the gate – either online or at a ticket counter. Members of the Fare Club pay $20. The carrier also charges for checked bags.

MORE: JetBlue pokes fun at Spirit's carry-on fee by touting luggage 'outerwear'

Basic carry-on items -- things like a purse or laptop bag -- can still be brought on for free, but only if they measure 16" by 14" by 12" and can fit underneath the seat in front of you. The carrier apparently will have new bag sizers at its gates to help enforce its policy, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Scott McCartney, The Middle Seat columnist at the Journal, explains what boarding will look like: "Passengers who have paid for carry-on bags will board first. Those that haven't paid will be warned–their boarding pass will say 'No Carry-On Bags.' Once the first group has boarded, it will be easy for gate agents to police the fee rule during boarding, Spirit says." Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza tells McCartney: "After Zone 1 is on, there are no more carry-on bags. If you have one, you'll have to pull out your credit card and pay at the gate."

The carry-on fee will start no earlier than Aug. 1 and only on tickets purchased after April 5 as Spirit works to tweak its reservations systems for the change -- as well as to train its agents on the policy, according to McCartney.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Does Spirit Airlines's new fare sale ad poke fun at Tiger Woods? | DOT smacks Spirit with $375,000 fine for 'host of consumer-protection violations'

As for Spirit, the carrier claims the change will help it lower base fares while also giving "customers the option of paying only for the services they want and use rather than subsidizing the choices of others."

MORE: Spirit Air now charging for both carry-on and checked baggage (Jaunted.com) | No Joke: Spirit Airlines rolls out carry-on bag fee. Seriously. (Onlinetravelreview.com)

"In addition to lowering fares even further, this will reduce the number of carry-on bags, which will improve inflight safety and efficiency by speeding up the boarding and deplaning process, all of which ultimately improve the overall customer experience," Spirit's Chief Operating Officer Ken McKenzie says in the airline's release. "Bring less; pay less. It's simple."

The Associated Press writes "even though (Spirit) is a minor player, bigger airlines are likely to watch to see whether customers are willing to pay for carry-ons. None of the major carriers made any immediate changes to their fees on Tuesday morning. Fees for checking bags on the big U.S. carriers got started in 2008. At first, many travelers thought they wouldn't last. But now all the big airlines except Southwest and JetBlue charge to check a bag on domestic flights."

Today's talker: What do you think of Spirit's carry-on fee for items that don't fit under the seat in front of you? Share your thoughts.

Photo: A Spirit Airlines jet at Detroit Metro Airport. By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY.

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Comments: (219)Showing: Newest first Oldest first Most recommended New: Most recommended!

Frank Slide (10 friends, send message) wrote: 1m ago
iEverything (0 friends, send message) wrote: 2m ago
re-regulate the industry!!!


Great idea if you want to substantially increase fares. The deregulation of the industry substantially decreased fares.

Why is it that some people think regulations is the answer to everything. Regulations always increase costs and reduce choices.

Only a socialist would think more regulations are what is needed.

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SchmeckelBeck (22 friends, send message) wrote: 1m ago
A terrible precedent and a bad business practice. I hope they suffer greatly for their thoughtless decision, they deserve to. Not that I would anyway but I'll never fly this airline.

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Frank Slide (10 friends, send message) wrote: 5m ago
ghc (0 friends, send message) wrote: 1m ago
YEA! I hate flights that have all these people and their big carry on bags. Does everyone who travels now days take everything they own when traveling?????
About time they did something about it I hope this works.


This is just a stupid policy. But it doe s not bother me because I don't travel Spirit any way.

You can blame the airlines for all of the carry on bags. What do you expect passengers to do when they charge for checked luggage. These charges only encouraged people to carry their luggage. If they are going to charge for both checked and carry on bags, they would be better off just increasing fares. What do they expect, passengers to travel with no bags?

I always carry my bags because I don't want to waste an hour waithing for my checked luggage.