I always thought Ryanair was the airline everyone loved to hate. After all, they are the master of additional fees, including floating the possibility of pay toilets.
But now Spirit Air has lowered the bar, becoming the first airline to charge for carry-on bags. Yes, you heard that right; they are charging passengers for bags that are carried on the plane, not just checked bags.
Perhaps thinking the impact would be minimized, Spirit bundled this announcement in a press release which included some welcome news. Members of their $9 Fare Club will pay less for checked bags, only $15 if reserved online.
Members who pre-reserve their carry-on bags pay “only” $20, compared to non-members who will pay $30. Generally, it is always worthwhile to be a member of loyalty programs. However, Spirit charges $40 to join their $9 Fare Club, a lot of money unless you fly them frequently or maybe travel as a family.
It should be noted this carry-on fee applies only to those bags which can not fit under the seat. If you are one of the rare passengers who can stuff your carry-on under the seat, this will have no impact on you.
At least Spirit was smart enough to exclude certain items from the fee. These include diaper bags, medical devices, outer garments, and car seats. You can bet passengers will be stuffing these excluded items with everything possible.
What happens if you intend to place your bag under the seat but it just won’t fit? What if you are in a bulkhead seat where there is no seat in front of you? What if you don’t have the money to pay the additional fee?
If you wait to pay the carry-on bag fee at the gate, the cost is a whopping $45 for everyone, including members. Presumably, Spirit also intends to charge this $45 fee if the bag is oversized and needs to be checked. Good luck trying to collect these fees from passengers, Spirit.
It seems inevitable this will lead to flight delays as Spirit gate agents attempt to collect the additional fees before takeoff. I won’t be surprised if harsh words fly, leading to more requests by Spirit for additional security. This may get ugly.
That said, you can be sure the other airlines will be watching this closely. If somehow Spirit pulls this off without too much uproar, the other airlines will be drooling at the chance to do it as well.