No Honest Customer Will Pay $100 to Carry a Bag on Spirit

You’ve probably seen at least one of the dozens of stories reporting on how Spirit is going to charge $100 for a carry on bag. Those stories are incredibly misleading at best. If you’re an honest customer, Hiding From Spirit's Bin Space Chargethere’s no way you’re going to pay $100 to carry a bag on the plane. And that’s exactly why it’s there, to punish those who aren’t honest.

I wasn’t going to write about this, but after seeing all the misinformation out there, I figured I should chime in with what’s actually happening. Here’s the story.

I actually hate the phrase “carry on fee,” because that’s not really what it is. It’s an overhead bin space fee. You can still bring on a bag without charge on any Spirit flight as long as it fits under the seat in front of you. But if you need to put a bag in the overhead bin, then Spirit will charge you and has done so for the last 2 years. It recently announced fee changes that begin on November 6 of this year, and one of those fees is $100. Will you have to pay the $100? Only if you’re dishonest.

Spirit has created a structure that gives you incentive to sign up for bin space in advance, because it will cost you less. The cheapest way to do this is to be a member of the $9 Fare Club. That’s a club that costs $59.95 a year and gets you access to fare specials, discounts on fees, etc. If you fly Spirit more than a couple times a year or if you have a lot of bags, it probably makes a lot of sense. Members of that club pay $25 per bag for bin space in advance, and it goes up from there. Here’s the rundown on a per bag basis:

$9 Fare Club Online Before Check In

$25

$9 Fare Club Online at Check In

$30

All Online Before Check In

$35

All Online at Check In

$40

All via Phone Reservation Center

$40

All at Airport Ticket Counter

$50

All at the Gate

$100

Does Spirit have way too much complexity in here? Yeah, probably. It’s hard to wrap your head around all these different prices, but the concept is easy. Do it early and do it yourself and it’ll be cheaper.

If you book online at spirit.com, then you can sign up right there during the booking process for $35. Piece of cake. If you book through an online travel agent, then you have no clue what’s happening because they don’t do a good job of incorporating fees in any way. But you can still come to spirit.com and make that purchase if you know about it.

But let’s say you don’t know about the carry on fee because the online travel agent didn’t tell you. Or let’s say you just didn’t know in advance whether you were going to have a carry on or not. Well, you can still get it during the online check-in process for $40. What if you aren’t tech savvy at all? Then you can pay $50 when you check in at the airport ticket counter. I’ll agree that it is pretty awful when you show up to check in after having booked on an online travel agent site only to find that you have to pay for bin space. The online travel agents need to do a better job with that if they’re going to sell airline tickets. But the fee still won’t be more than $50.

So who is it that’s paying that $100 fee the media has been jumping on? Crooks. That is a fee for those people who blatantly disregard the requirement to pay for a carry on with the hope that they’ll be able to sneak it on the airplane at the gate. That’s a real pain for everyone when they try to do that, because the gate agent will see it, stop that person, and have to take them out of line to process the fee. It slows down the boarding process.

In other words, this fee is completely punitive. Spirit would like nothing more than for there not to be a single person to pay this fee. That means everyone is doing it before security, and that makes boarding much quicker. I think that particular $100 fee is a pretty smart way of creating a disincentive. If you don’t like it, then don’t try to game the system.

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96 Comments on "No Honest Customer Will Pay $100 to Carry a Bag on Spirit"

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Wonko Beeblebrox
Guest

“If you don?t like it, then don?t try to game the system” …Or, you know, don’t fly Spirit.

mannarie
Member

There NO WAY I WOULD EVER FLY THAT AIRLINE THEY ARE CRROKS AND A JOKe

Ben
Guest
why are they crooks? They charge next to nothing for the actual plane ticket. Yes, you have to pay bag fees. My guess is you’d pay less by just checking your dang bag from the get go. These fees are for the people who try to cheat the system and stuff an oversized bag into a bin that was designed for small roller bags. It’s annoying, and quite frankly, I’m sick of having to deal with travelers who try and pull this stunt. You saved big bucks on your ticket, so pay a little more for your bag. If you… Read more »
Konstantin
Guest

How does it actually work on board, how do they enforce it? Do bags have labels that say they’re registered? What if you want to put just a jacket into the bins?

Nick Barnard
Member

I’m also curious about this, since Spirit specifically calls out that “outer garments (e.g. coats, hats, and wraps)” always are free.

Konstantin
Guest

How does it actually work onboard? Are bags labelled so it is clear that the fee has been paid? What if you just want to put a jacket into the bins?

NO Spirit
Guest

No – I totally disagree. Its SPIRIT that are the crooks. I will never fly them. I would rather pay a few more bucks for the ticket on a REAL airline rather than be ripped off for my carry on.

Ben
Guest
Ripped off? The only people who are ripped off are the passengers who are honest and pay the bag fee only to have cheap a@*es like you try and cheat the system. Honestly, when did people lose sight of the fact that airlines help you travel a long distance for not that great of cost? Do you think you could drive across the country for cheaper? Would it be worth it to drive when you can save hours or days flying? Why is it that people think they should be able to fly cross country, and receive first class treatment,… Read more »
Bill from DC
Guest

Is this you, Mr. Baldanza?

billyshearer
Member

That’s an interesting point.

Ryanair in the UK have allowed me to visit the most amazing placed for literally pennies, yet, when I think of Ryanair, I think “rip off”.

And that’s some achievement: Ryanair’s business model allows people to fly for next to nothing yet they are despised. Way to go!

MartyNearDFW
Guest

Of course, you’re right, Cranky. But it’s always fun to hammer on Spirit.

=M=

Felix
Guest

Incredibly self centered comment but how does NK handle OA nonrevs. Are the bag fees waived??

Mark
Guest
It’s amazing watching some of the comments left here. In fact, it’s not the airlines that are nickel and diming anyone. It’s the cheap passengers that are nickel and diming. Do you realize that the cost of flying, relative to inflation, is extremely low??? While prices of everything else skyrockets, airfares have remained affordable to the masses. There was a time when only the upper-middle class and higher could afford to fly. Now, almost anyone can do so. And why? Because of carriers like Spirit Airlines! Sure, there are a lot of whiny, cheap people who don’t get it and… Read more »
NKFan
Guest

Spirit provides non-revs with one free carry-on and one free checked bag, and with that, Zone 1 boarding.

Markoh80
Member

Good analysis

Chicago Chris
Member
I’ve flown Spirit many times because I know the system and have saved a lot of money thanks to the true un-bundling. I’m not sure I agree with “Spirit would like nothing more than for there not to be a single person to pay this fee” after all it is a business and they make a lot of money off fees. –That said, it’s not my fault people purchased a ticket for next to nothing and are too dumb to read the signs and heed the warnings. I’ve seen airport staff go out of their way to stress to stubborn… Read more »
letstry2
Member

Just curious but what happens when you pay your fees in advance and there is no room in the overhead bins to place your item when you board. Be willing to bet your just going to be stuck with no refund or help from the onboard crew.

NKFan
Guest
Those who pay for a carry-on bag are boarded in Zone 1. Plus, given that checked bags are cheaper (and Spirit, by the way, has a very low mishandled bag rate so checked bags tend to arrive with the customers about three times as often as most major carriers) a lot of people don’t bring anything more than a personal item. Plus at larger cities like FLL, Spirit staffs agents at the checkpoint to turn back those who have a big carry-on and who haven’t paid (meaning no Zone 1 on their boarding pass) so they don’t make it to… Read more »
AndrewBW
Guest
This isn’t a lot different than fees for anything, whether it be for airline travel, credit cards, parking tickets, whatever: They exist to catch crooks, and to make money off of people who are too stupid or lazy to manage information, time, and process to make the system benefit *them* instead. I realize that sounds harsh, but it’s the reality. And I’m not declaring myself above this trend in modern business: I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of those screws, and it’s forced me to become as educated and alert a consumer as possible to cover my… Read more »
mannarie
Member

sprit as well as others really try to get every penny from the customers.
also Jet blue is falling into that when they changed their points system it used to cost you 10 points to fly non stop in the US now it cost 17000 points to fly onw way to vegas from NYC.

Nick Barnard
Member

Your comparison for JetBlue doesn’t hold. Sure it now costs 17,000 points, but they give a whole lot more points than they used to, so you’re comparing Honeybees and Elephants. They’re both living creatures, but definitely not interchangeable..

skyguyj
Guest
Regarding Non-Revs on Spirit…….here’s a REAL story: A few years ago, I worked a flight (I’m a flight attendant for a charter that handles the Military); from Kuwait into Atlanta. I needed to get home ASAP, so instead of laying over and then commercialling home to LAS the next day, I purchased a ticket online with NK. We arrived into ATL early, so I was able to make the flight in plenty of time. However, I was in Uniform, but on a full fare ticket. They charged me not only for my baggage but my seat assignment as well! While… Read more »
Todd
Guest

This is not a story about non-revs. It sounds like you bought a ticket and were annoyed that you were treated like any other passenger.

skyguyj
Guest

Somebody ASKED the question above, I was merely answering it!

Nick Barnard
Member

You answered a question different than the one being asked. You were flying on a full fare ticket, not a non-rev reservation. I doubt there is any leeway in Spirit’s system for this. If you’ve purchased a full fare ticket, you’re a paying passenger and are treated like one. You’re not a non-rev.

skyguyj
Guest

The POINT I was trying to make, is whether you are a Crewmember (in Uniform) on a Full Fare ticket, OR a Non-Rev, there is no distinction with Spirit….EVERYONE pays the fee’s. That’s all.

Nick Barnard
Member

@skyguyj – I’m sorry your logic doesn’t hold. Felix asked “how does NK handle OA nonrevs. Are the bag fees waived??”

Nonrevs are entered into the system as non-revs, and as such are handed by NK’s non-rev policy.

You were a paying passenger, entered into the system as a paying passenger, and were treated under the same policy NK uses for paying passengers.

If NK is known for anything beyond fees, its for not bending its policies. There have been several incidents that have gotten all the way upto the CEO’s level and NK has refused to bend their policies.

NKFan
Guest

It’s the same at many other airlines…. you buy a ticket, you are no longer a non-rev.

Don
Guest
That would be just the kind of scamming they are trying to prevent. Someone dressed as a flight attendant hoping to avoid the bag fees because of “professional courtesy”. If you’re really a non rev you don’t need a full fare ticket. Even Spirit recognizes ID90 and participates in non rev flight cooperation. And for you folks griping about the carry-on bag fee in general, Spirit has one of the fastest boarding and exiting processes in the industry because of the limited number of carry-on bags. Its good for passengers since it get them off the plane sooner and its… Read more »
mannarie
Member

Airlines need Passangers to fly and they are making it harder and harder and more expensive to fly. The better wake up and that includes Jet Blue and their new points system

SubwayNut
Guest

Any one have an answer to the putting your coat in the overhead bin on Spirit question? I’m curious.

Chicago Chris
Member

Once the boarding door closes you can place a coat or other item in the bin.

Shane
Guest

Its fair as long as there is plenty of signage in the check-in area. Like you pointed out, there are those who will book through an online distrubtion or travel agent and not have exposure to the fees prior to check in. And many people still do not check in online, especially for international flights since that sometimes puts you in the “special services” line (ahem, United) where it takes over an hour for the 3 people ahead of you to get processed.

Don
Guest

When has any of you seen Spirit on a Kayak or Orbitz site? You haven’t. You can only buy tickets from Spirit’s online web site. There is plenty of “signage” on the web site so nobody has an excuse at the ticket counter.

jaybru
Member
Overhead storage bins and carry-ons that go in them, I believe, are becoming such a waste and a great frustration for the average traveler. Likewise, are we paying much more and getting much less security by the amount of work carry-ons are creating for TSA? Just wondering, on the average flight, what is the percentage breakdown of baggage weight and cube by (1) checked bags, (2) carry-ons placed in the overhead bins, and (3) items that are stored under one’s feet? And, as far as the work of TSA for the passenger and carry-ons, how much of their work and… Read more »
David M
Guest
It was kinda like that right after the liquids ban was put into place. Nobody could figure out what was allowed to be carried on so most people were checking bags. It got a lot easier since so many fewer people were carrying on bags and more people were checking. Eventually the airlines ruined this by implementing the checked bag fee (I know American was the first of the major carriers to do this; I can’t recall if Spirit was doing it before AA), and everyone went back to trying to carry everything on. And yes, this slowed down boarding,… Read more »
Nick Barnard
Member

The TSA also processes checked luggage. So it probably is a zero sum game from their perspective..

jaybru
Member

I find it hard to believe that the time and cost for processing a carry-on and a checked bag are the same. Carry-ons have more TSA restrictions than do checked bags. Thus, it would seem the processing of the carry-on takes more time and effort to ensure everything is OK and results in greater cost to TSA than does the processing of a checked bag.

No study proving this, but it just seems logical.

Nick Barnard
Member

True, although carryons go through just a plain ol’ x-ray machine. AFAIK checked bags go through a bomb scanner, which isn’t exactly cheap.

Kilroy
Guest
Carryons also get randomly swabbed and tested, however, especially if they have to open the bag. I agree with JayB, I suspect that checked baggage is much faster and cheaper to process for the TSA, given that there are relatively fewer interruptions. If I were the TSA, I’d run everything through a conveyor leading into an X-ray, then figure out how many “bag checkers” you want to employ on the other side of that conveyor. When there are no bags flagged by the X-ray machine, the bag checker gets a random bag to check, ideally without telling them what to… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member
The comments that Spirit are crooks is not right since no one is being forced to fly Spirit. As long as they are up front with their fees and polices, they are not crooks. I believe when they say they don’t want anyone to have to pay the $100 as if even half the plane did it would be doing so at the gate and slowing the boarding process and the flight leaving late. If that happen on even half their flight, it would mess up their whole flight schedule. I bet if people were to check Spirits ticket prices/fees… Read more »
Todd
Guest

I think the concern is that Spirit’s practices are so far outside of the mainstream that less-informed travellers may get stuck paying fees they never anticipated, especially since Spirit fares show up on Orbitz, etc. (where there are fewer warnings about ancillary fees).

Nick Barnard
Member

Is it Spirit’s fault for what Orbitz and other online ticket sellers don’t inform their customers about?

malbarda
Member
A quick Kayak search reveals that, actually, Spirit is not cheap. Especially if you factor in the extra fee’s they charge. I checked three sectors that are serviced by Spirit and competitors, and in all three instances, Spirit comes out more expensive. Here is what I discovered (dates May 30 – June 6; took the cheapest reported option): NY – Miami. Cheapest option is AA, with a base fare of $ 170. Check a bag at $ 25, carry on for free. Sprit charges $ 233 before adding anything is added like checked bag at $ 28 if done online,… Read more »
Sean S.
Guest

Like many other allegedly low-cost X, Spirit in many cases ends up being a bad value in most cases. The $9 dollar fare club is an interesting concept in theory, but in practice is again a much worse deal than simply being a frequent flier with a specific airline and/or having a mile card with a specific airline. By having a Delta SkyMiles card I get free checked baggage, and build up in my day to day spending free miles anyways.

mannarie
Member

GOOD WORK SPRIT LIKES TO MAKE YOU THINK YOUR GETTING A DEAL,BUT LIKE ALL THE OTHERS THEY ARE GETTING MORE $ FOR LESS SERVICE. HOPE CRANKY LOOKS INTO THE JET BLUE pOINTS SYSTEM . uSED TO BE 10000 MILES AND FREE RT AIR NOW IT 17000 TO THE SAME DESTANATION.

Nick Barnard
Member

@sprit NO WAY: I recommend removing your computer’s capslock key. You apparently don’t know how to operate it properly.

Kilroy
Guest

Not to mention the multiple posts ranting about the same issue. Sounds like this guy has come straight from the comment section of YouTube.

In all honesty, one of the things that makes Cranky so interesting are the comments, at least some of which (yours included, most of the time) are well-thought-out, logical, and fact based.

mannarie
Member

i AM SORRY THAT WAS 17000 POINTS ONE WAY WHEN YOU WERE ABLE TO GET A RT FLIGHT FOR 10000

ChuckH2390
Member

The last dozen years have seen the decline and fall, self-inflicted and otherwise, of a once-great national air transportation system. This piece of idiocy is just another nail in the coffin.

Nick Barnard
Member

Eh, I’d argue that our air transportation system is greater now. It manages to move many more people for a very low cost.

davidp627
Member

I think it is really disingenuous that SWA touts their no carry on fee policy in ads, while their AirTran unit gladly charges for them…

DesertGhost
Guest

That is kind of interesting, isn’t it?

NKFan
Guest

It’s because since Southwest after years can’t figure out how to merge reservations systems, and they are slowing making FL smaller and smaller, bag fees are probably the only thing causing FL to make them money, since they still can’t codeshare and connect customers.

Jim
Guest

I have never flown Spirit, but I am glad that some airline is challenging the system. The US airline market is an oligopoly where the few airlines all have practically the same product and same fare structure and don’t really compete against each other. We need airlines like Spirit to think outside the box and do things differently in order to inject some competition into the market.

Oliver
Guest

Pepsi or Coke? Similar products, similar prices.

Kilroy
Guest

I could get into the two political parties too (similar policies), but I’ll try to keep it civil and not go there. :-)

DesertGhost
Guest

One point seems to escape the critics. No one is forcing anyone to fly Spirit. Believe it or not, there are other airlines.

Kilroy
Guest

Exactly. This!

Don’t like Spirit? Take the bus or another airline!

Want to whine that they are the “only way” to get where you are going in a reasonable amount of time? Then either suck it up and take them, knowing what you are getting into (and setting your expectations accordingly), or don’t go. Remember that the alternatives in the past would have included a stagecoach over bumpy roads, a sailboat, a railroad, etc etc.

Kilroy
Guest
Thanks for point this out Cranky. As much as people will rant and rave about Spirit’s policy (want to take bets as to when the first gate agent will be assaulted, probably by a guy in his 70s who bought a ticket from Expedia or Travelocity, who failed to read the fine print yet clicked “I agree” anyway…?), I like it. No one forces pax to fly on Spirit, and it is not being deceptive about it (online travel agents, possibly, Spirit, no). If the market likes a completely unbundled airline like Spirit or RyanAir well enough for that airline… Read more »
Tomstrr
Guest
On detail I didn’t catch in Crank’s article is that the usual costs to check a bag is only a couple of dollars ($2 or about 10%) less then then it usually costs to carry on a bag (costs vary a LOT – The bit Crank supplied is only a fraction of those posted). This leads to all sorts of things: 1) Once people figure out that there is little financial impact to carry on, you might expect that more people will (faster, more secure, etc), hence slowing boarding, etc. 2) since taking a bag is a pretty mandatory part… Read more »
Nick Barnard
Member

If you can manage to get your clothes just in a carry on bag that goes under the seat, there is no need to check a bag or put it in the overhead compartment. I tned to be an overpacker, and I can put three days or so of clothes in a bag under the seat.

Jeff Sigmon
Guest

Spirit has a place in this business and they appeal greatly to the experienced frugal leisure traveler who knows the system and reads the fine print. Spirit appeals to someone like myself for vacations, except when traveling for work…

Jim M
Guest
Timely post. My brother almost lost his mind paying the $50 fee on a DEN-LAS flight this weekend. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, and didn’t read the fine print — but he NEVER reads the fine print. He just looked at the WN price, and then the Spirit price and thought he was pulling a deal. Not so fast. . . . I think Spirit’s model is fairly bizarre, but it seems that they do have some brand loyalty. They don’t service any routes I take for business or fun so no first hand knowledge. . .… Read more »
chinger
Guest

The airline industry deserves it’s fair share of criticism, however most people seem to jump on every little thing an airline does and call foul. This is no exception.

Nick Barnard
Member

This is slightly tangental, but there was a really good article at the WSJ: A Stingy Spirit Lifts Airline’s Profit Random tidbits: Spirit was started as a trucking company of all things..

billyshearer
Member

Why are people who pay at the gate branded as crooks?
Why must flying with an airline require so many hoops to jump through? Are you really telling me that this “transparency” is good for the customer?
Why must passengers who only want to get from A to B at a price they can afford “play the game”?
If this transparency is so good for us consumers, why do I feel ripped off?

stan
Guest

this has nothing to do with ‘honesty’.

i have no idea why you love spirit so much. it seems like you won’t sleep until everyone is paying an ‘overhead bin fee’

of course this blog has just become advertising space for your concierge service anyway, so maybe it’s just time to move on….

Nick Barnard
Member

Stan, I don’t have anything constructive to say, but I have to say something.

Your comment pisses me off. Please move on.

Jim
Guest
Why should I pay even $1 for overhead bin space? First come, first serve. Maybe if the airline was a little more diligent in both the number and size of bags a passenger is trying to drag on board as well as those bin hogs who put BOTH of their 1+1 bags in the overhead (instead of the small one under the seat in front of them) there wouldn’t be a bin space problem. But, what do the airlines care? They just found some additonial “cargo capacity” for which they can generate more revenue. Screw Spirit. Never flown ’em, and… Read more »
Gio
Guest

Overhead bin space ???? Absolutely RIDICULOUS ! Carry on bags are meant to be stored under the seat in front of you and in the overhead bins. Charging for bin space is purely a cash grab, it has nothing to do with honest or dishonesty!

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[…] No Honest Customer Will Pay $100 to Carry a Bag on Spirit – >> The Cranky Flier – crankyflier.com You've probably seen at least one of the dozens of stories reporting on how Spirit is going to charge $100 for a carry on bag. Those stories are incredibly mis […]

Dave Goldhirsch
Guest
I am a professional travel agent for over 35 years and I have seen it all. I had a client fly on the original unbundled airline, PeoplExpress on its first day of carriage. But Spirit, and Ryanair, take it to a whole new level. I have a simple answer. As the French would say, ca n’existe pas. I just ignore Spirit and use other airlines. Also, there could be “honest” disagreements as to what fits under a seat and what will not. That could be a $100 question. Why bother? There are always other carriers.
Alan
Guest

So I have to disagree with your Southwest claims. I just priced a round trip from Chicago to Tampa. Depart Chicago on June 4 and Return on June 8. The round trip fare on Southwest is $286.40 and the Fare on Sprit for the Same days is $359.00. So the Fare on Southwest with a checked bag and 2 carry-ons is $72.60 less then Sprit with no checked bag or carry-on. If you check a bag and a carry-on you are looking at well over $100 more on Sprit. That’s the Hard numbers. You just can’t argure with the numbers.

David SF eastbay
Member
Alan for the days/times you booked WN may have been lower then NK, but if you go to a travel agency or your companys travel department and have them pull up the fares each airline publishes you would see NK is lower then WN for CHI-TPA. NK may be sold out for the lower fares when you go to book which can happen with any airline, but overall they can still have the lowest publish fare. For Chicago-Tampa here is what NK/WN have for published fares NK – 104.00/134.00/164.00/244.00/344.00 WN – 176.00/201.00/230.00/263.00/301.00/393.00/425.00/447.00 Notice how much lower NK’s lowest published fare… Read more »
Alan
Guest
OK, went back and did Las Vegas and Los Angeles from Chicago, same dates and one carry on and one checked bag. Southwest $325 Sprit $331 to LAS. Southwest $299.40 and Sprit $355 to Los Angeles. I have been in the Travel Industry for 38 yrs and I worked for an Airline, Hotel, Tour Operator and a Very Large Travel Company during my career and I am considered an expert in the travel industry. Spirt will always have their customers, but you have to consider all of your costs and what your time is worth. The less hassle the better… Read more »
Jake
Guest

This airline sucks customer service and outrageous pricing for baggage. No honor for military either.

nate
Guest
So I went through the gates when I departed through spirit with my one bag, which I barely had anything in it. They let me through with no problem. When I board my on returning flight, they had me step aside due to my bag being too big, note that I only have 2-3 days of clothes, which is clearly nothing. She insisted that I check my bag in this make shift bag size checker thing. My bag was too big, and she said I needed to pay $100! I was like, listen I am a active duty Marine and… Read more »
Austin
Guest
It’s already a known fact that the Ultra Low Cost Airlines charge for carry on bags in a tier pricing structure, but other airlines may start doing this for things such as oversize bags that won’t fit into the overhead space. This would only be smart of them because having worked in the industry I have seen people try and bring on very large bags that won’t fit into the overhead bins no matter how much cramming you do, or they will fit but only by taking up several spaces in the overhead bin. This is a great way for… Read more »
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