Spirit Airlines’ Carry-on Baggage Fees to Soar

It has not been a good week publicity-wise for Spirit Airlines. First, the ultra low-cost carrier reaffirmed its no-refund policy for a dying veteran who can no longer use his Spirit Airline ticket. And now Spirit says it will raise baggage fees in November, which in one instance will mean bringing a carry-on bag aboard a flight will set a traveler back $100.

Spirit Says 'No' to Dying Vet

Some Carry-on Bags to Cost $100

While checked-bag fees are going up, the airline is hitting consumer pockets hardest when it comes to carry-on baggage fees (see chart below). Most carry-on fee increases range from $5 or $10 but the last-minute carry-on fee – purchased at the airport gate – zooms from $45 to a whopping $100, a 122% increase. Note: fees are for one-way travel.


Spirit Carry-on Bag FeeCurrent CostCost as of Nov. 6
Purchased online$30$35
Purchased by phone$35$40
Purchased at airport counter/kiosk$40$50
Purchased at gate$45$100


Another Airline Adds a Carry-on Fee

Checked-Bags Cheaper than Carry-ons, on Spirit

Most of the checked-bag fee increases are modest – $2 to $3 in most cases – although a first checked-bag purchased at an airport counter or kiosk will rise by more than 18 percent, from $38 to $45. However, despite these increases, it is still cheaper to check a bag than use a carry-on on Spirit Airlines.

Human Contact Costs Money at Spirit

Air travel industry analyst Rick Seaney sees the higher fees are an attempt to trim labor costs. "They want to have no kiosks at the airport," he said, "so they want you to do all the work at home, by yourself. If you have to interact with a human being by the simply act of handing over your credit card, you're going to pay a higher fee for that."

Beware: Spirit's Free 'Personal Item' May Not be Free

Spirit does allow passengers to bring a small personal item onboard for free (which the airline describes as a purse, small backpack or brief case) but it must go under the seat in front of the passenger and measure no more than 16 x 14 x 12 inches.

See the Bag that Beat Spirit

This has prompted some clever entrepreneurs to design small carry-on bags that meet those dimensions, but beware: if your supposedly free item does not meet the size requirements or is deemed too heavy, you may be hit at the gate with that $100 carry-on fee at the gate.

Anne McDermott
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