Spirit Airlines has hit a new low. Four hours ago I received an email from the airline announcing that it would begin charging as much as $45 fee for carry-on bags, the first U.S. airline to add that surcharge. This is only the latest move in the industry’s “unbundling” trend, in which airlines tack on fees for services and amenities that traditionally were included in your airfare. But Spirit’s move today marks the trend’s nadir. Perhaps the only surcharge that could surpass it for egregious gouging would be if an airline charged passengers to use the toilet—a day that certainly can’t be too far off.
Spirit will begin charging the carry-on fee for flights starting on August 1. Exceptions to the carry-on fee include medicine, food for immediate consumption, and assistive devices, presumably because it wouldn’t look right to have passengers going into convulsions for lack of meds or to charge someone for bringing crutches on board. The carry-on rule applies only to baggage placed in overhead bins. Personal items that can be placed under your seat—such as your wallet, your change purse, your ATM card, and loose cash—are free.
Why has Spirit sunk to this level? Aside from being at the avant garde of unbundling (the airline already charges for seat assignments, checked luggage, beverages, booking airfare on their website, and much more), Spirit is doing this for your own good, according to Ken McKenzie, Spirit’s chief operating officer.
“In addition to lowering fares even further, this will reduce the number of carry-on bags, which will improve inflight safety and efficiency by speeding up the boarding and deplaning process, all of which ultimately improve the overall customer experience,” McKenzie said. “Bring less; pay less. It’s simple.”
It’s also enough to make me wish this blog had a different name…
Mark Orwoll is Travel + Leisure's international editor.