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Ouch! Spirit Nearly Doubles ‘Passenger Usage Fee’

Ouch! Or should I say “gouge”? Self-styled ultra-low-fare carrier Spirit recently increased its “passenger usage fee” from $8.99 each-way to $16.99 each-way. That means you’ll now have to tack on nearly $34 to the base price just to book a round-trip flight—and that’s not even including government-mandated taxes and Spirit’s own fees on everything from your boarding pass to your carry-on bag.
Because most online travel agents (OTAs) display the base price in the earliest phases of your search, it’s common to see Spirit turn up as the best option. It’s even possible to find fares as astoundingly low as $0.02 round-trip on Spirit’s site (as I did just the other day). Add the taxes and fees, however, and your two-cent flight spikes more than 2,700 times—still a reasonable value proposition, but it’s difficult to shake the feeling that you’ve just been bamboozled.
Not that Spirit is the only guilty party here. Allegiant charges a $17 “convenience fee” on all flights. That means that regardless of whether you book one-way or round-trip, you’re billed $17 in addition to the airfare, airport fees, and September 11 Security Fees. Direct Air’s jab is even stronger with a “convenience fee” of $15 each-way ($30 round-trip). The only way to avoid these kinds of fees (including Spirit’s “passenger usage fee”) is by purchasing your tickets at the airport. Just don’t have the Spirit agent print your boarding pass—that’ll soon cost you $5.

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