Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Charging for carry-on bags? That's the Spirit.

Avowed nickle-and-dimer Spirit Airlines ushered in a bold new era for air profiteering when it announced today a new plan to charge passengers up to $45 for the privilege of bringing a carry-on bag.

Spirit, which already charges $25 for checked luggage ($19 if you "reserve" space online in advance; you'll find the baggage fee list here), is the first airline to take the logical step of boosting profits by charging passengers for bringing with them bags that they didn't want to check.

The claim is that this new policy will provide revenue that the carrier can use to lower its fares even further than their already-low levels. Indeed, cost-cutting is a way of life for Spirit, which is like the Walmart of air travel. Members of their subscription-based $9 Fare Club can even book so-called "Penny Plus" fares that start at one cent.

That one-cent fare, of course, incurs additional (non-ticketed) charges for "fuel" -- as if that were optional? -- and then adds taxes and fees. The resulting bottom-line cost of the ticket is usually in the $30-40 minimum range, still too low to really be a sustainable business model. Hence, the carry-on bag fee; how many people travel with nothing?

Bags up to 16" by 14" by 12" can be placed for free in the extremely limited space under Spirit's closely-packed seats. That's enough space to cover a weekend trip, assuming you're small enough to fit in the space left to you.

Otherwise, it'll be $45 for that carry-on at the gate. Pay online in advance, and you might spend just $30. $9 Fare Club members pay just $20... all for the privilege of doing something that, last week, was free.

It's a brave new world.

No comments: