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Spirit Airlines to Charge for Carry-On Bags

And we thought Ryanair was bad...

That lumpy person seated next to you on your next Spirit Airlines flight may not be so large in real life.

The budget carrier announced Tuesday it will begin charging a fee of up to $45 for each piece of carry-on luggage placed in overhead bins. The fees will be assessed on travel August 1 and beyond.

That means that come summer, you may notice some Spirit Airlines customers wearing multiple layers of clothing on flights in an effort to avoid the carry-on fee...

Great. More fees. But wait! It's actually GOOD for us!

In the company’s press release announcing the policy change, Spirit Airlines Chief Operating Officer Ken McKenzie suggested the fee will be good for air travel, as it will “reduce the number of carry-on bags, which will improve in-flight safety and efficiency by speeding up the boarding and deplaning process, all of which ultimately improve the overall customer experience.”

Further, by unbundling the fees even more, McKenzie said passengers might save money. “Bring less; pay less. It’s simple.”

You mean, "Bring less; pay the same?" It is true that that customer boading and deboarding will likely be faster, but good for air travel? Only to a small niche of the commercial airline market. Spirit can kiss its business travelers goodbye. Unless other carriers decide to follow...

At Alaska Airlines, charging for carry-on luggage “has never come up in any conversation,” spokesperson Bobbie Egan said. United Airlines is not considering adding the fee, according to spokesperson Robin Urbanski. And AirTran Airways spokesperson Christopher White said the carrier has “no immediate plans to change carry-on baggage policies.”

That's not exactly comforting, though I am happy to see that the strongest statement comes from Robin Urbanksi. I never check bags and always have one large rollerboard and one large personal item when I travel on United. My Monday morning United Express flight from IAD-PHL is timed such that if I get off the plane with my bags (that were purchased specifically to fit in the overhead bin of a regional jet) and briskly walk to the train station, I can catch the 9:12a train into Center City. With checked bags, I'd have to wait till at least 9:42a, but likely 10:12a.

Spirit won’t charge for carry-ons until August, and there will be exceptions for items that fit under a seat. Furthermore, charges will not apply to several objects, such as umbrellas, assitive devices, outer garments (coats, hats, wraps), cameras, car seats/strollers, infant diaper bags, medicine, pet containers, reading material or food for immediate consumption.

I hope there will be enough room in the overhead bin for my reading material and food.

SCOTTEVEST founder and CEO Scott Jordan called Spirit’s decision “ridiculous and insane,” but acknowledged business will be great “if other airlines are stupid enough to adopt the same program.” The company sells jackets, shirts, vests and other clothing with built-in pockets originally designed to help travelers maximize the one carry-on bag rule.

Let's hope other airlines won't follow. For an airline to outdo Ryanair in terms of cost-cutting is really something. I would not have a problem with this fee if fares were $15 lower on all Spirit flights, but when fares stay the same or are increased along with added fees, Spirit better realize that it is not fooling anyone.

JetBlue has had some fun with Spirit's announcement:

photo courtesy: JetBlue

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