Just when we thought there was nothing left they could charge us for, Spirit has announced that they will start charging for carry-on bags.
And we’re not talking about just a few bucks, either.
As of August 1st, for tickets purchased on or after April 5th, Spirit will charge a whopping $45 each way for each carry-on bag! That’s the same price they charge for a checked bag. You do have the option of lowering it to $30 if you book your bag in advance, on-line. And if you join their “$9 Fare Club” you can get it down even more, to $20, but the club membership costs $40 per year (and, no, it doesn’t really get you $9 fares).
Spirit will still allow you to bring one “personal item” for free. They define that as anything that can fit under your seat (so a laptop, a purse, or a very small bag).
The move to charge for carry on luggage is part of an industry-wide trend to “unbundle” air fares — that is, to provide a low base fare and then charge more for any and all extra “services” that you consume. Spirit is taking this concept to the extreme, even isolating out their exact fuel cost per seat and charging that separately.
We have applauded their transparency in the past and can live with the unbundling, so long as at the end of the day the total cost to fly (with luggage) is reasonable.
We put Spirit to the test with a very limited, very unscientific exercise. We selected a set of dates at random (May 10 – May 20) and checked round trip fares on 3 of Spirit’s most popular routes. Here is what we found:
Los Angeles – Ft. Lauderdale
Spirit Fare: $357
Lowest Fare: $288 (AirTran)
Other Carriers: $299-485 (American, Delta, Virgin America, US Airways, United, and Continental all beat Spirit)
Detroit – Las Vegas
Spirit Fare: $362
Lowest Fare: $276 (AirTran)
Other Carriers: $298-$504 (American, Frontier, United, Continental, Delta, Midwest all beat Spirit)
New York – Ft. Lauderdale
Spirit Fare: $255
Lowest Fare: $183 (AirTran again)
Other Carriers: $190-$247 (all other carriers beat Spirit)
See a pattern? And none of these prices include the potential $90 round trip charge for anyone who wants to carry on a bag.
To be fair, Spirit does from time to time have some very low fares. In fact, right now they are advertising a “Penny Sale” where they are giving away seats for $.01 plus the cost of fuel, taxes, etc. The problem is that the airline only makes available a handful of seats per flight at these rates. So while a small group of people may come out way ahead, the rest of us are having a hard time seeing what makes them call their fares “ultra low”.