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Spirit to raise baggage fees

It’s not earth-shattering news on the level of United or US Airways’ baggage fees, but Spirit will be raising its own checked-bag fee by $5, effective June 20. Spirit’s policy, which we first reported on a few months ago, will now require a $15 fee for the first bag checked in online, and $25 for the first bag checked in at the airport. Second bags cost $25 a pop no matter how you check in.

I’ve written a great deal on new baggage fees from the legacy lines, so why say Spirit’s move isn’t earth-shattering? It’s mainly a matter of the different expectations passengers have of a self-styled ultra low-cost-carrier such as Spirit versus a legacy carrier such as United, American, or US Airways.

On the one hand we have Spirit, which has gravitated toward the Ryanair model of obscenely low fares and a-la-carte pricing for all amenities. On the other hand is United, part of the “old guard” group of airlines that, whether they like it or not, are (or were) seen as torch-bearers for the service-oriented flying experience we all grew up with. For Spirit to raise its baggage fee (in fact, for Spirit to have a baggage fee at all) is more in line with its long-time business model. For legacy carriers, however, it’s akin to sacrilege, a smack in the face to passengers who, justifiably, expect a higher level of service to come along with the legacy lines’ generally higher fares.

That’s not to say Spirit should get away with just a disappointed head shake—its move is still another example of industry nickel-and-diming. But a certain amount of nickel-and-diming is part of Spirit’s game (and allows the carrier to offer those insanely low fares), so it’s difficult to get too aggravated.

After all, you get what you pay for.

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