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Spirit Rubs $100 Bag Fee in Travelers’ Faces

Beginning November 6, Spirit will charge a $100 fee for carry-on bags paid for at the gate. But this isn’t a newly announced fee. We reported on the outrageous surcharge when the airline first publicized it this past spring.

Spirit has successfully thrust itself into the media spotlight once more; this time not by introducing another of its myriad optional fees (see the comically lengthy list here), but by reminding us that customers who neglect to purchase their carry-on in advance will be relieved of a large sum of money. The airline sent out a press release yesterday reminding travelers about the fee, which is an increase of 122 percent over the current price of $45. As a result, a handful of news outlets have picked up the story yet again.

In the spirit of negative reinforcement, the carrier, in its recent press release, advises travelers to book their carry-on bags ahead of time; the fee for that is $34 if booked online, $40 if booked over the phone, and $50 if booked at the airport ticket counter. This lineup of fees couldn’t be more confusing. But Spirit nevertheless claims to care about its passengers’ budgetary concerns. Just ask the airline’s Chief Operating Officer, Tony Lefebvre, who says, “When our customers choose these time-saving, self-service options, our costs go down, and we can pass those savings along to our customers.”

Note that Lefebvre is referring to the airline’s fee-collecting costs. This is getting so meta.

The airline’s strategy—blatant fee-birthing and bad publicity—is ostensibly working. Otherwise, the carrier would change course. I’d guess Spirit can keep inventing non-compulsory surcharges because most travelers will book the cheapest plane ticket they can find, regardless of anti-customer practices, and then try to wiggle around as many optional charges as possible.

Some travelers might even get a sense that they’re saving money by studying Spirit’s fee log and planning accordingly. And maybe they are. But that doesn’t make the airline’s slippery pricing strategies OK.

Would you book with Spirit if it offered a competitively priced fare?

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