Spirit Airlines generated quite a bit of commotion this week by announcing that it would soon start charging passengers for carry-on luggage.
Every piece of carry-on luggage stored overhead will now cost $45 each way. The price drops to $30 if purchased in advance.
This is a controversial move but a smart one. Spirit is cheap. You don’t fly Spirit for the meals (there aren’t any), the frequent service (it isn’t) or high-minded branding (it is just cheap). You pay for coffee on Spirit. And water. But I checked Orbitz, and it costs $220 to fly from round trip from Chicago to Ft. Lauderdale on Spirit. This is a lot less than the price on American, $328.
Charging for carry-on bags will let Spirit keep fares below almost every other carrier. A $45 fee is huge when tickets are running $200 or $300.
This move will force United, American and the other full service airlines to think about charging, too. I suspect they won’t follow, at least not yet. But the full service airlines will have to start delivering on the promise of full service to hold share against aggressive, low-price upstarts like Spirit.
I suspect we’ll see more of these moves from Spirit and other low-cost airlines. Why not charge to use the bathroom? Why not charge extra for a window seat? Standing room only isn’t a completely outrageous idea, either. That would get a bit old on a 13 hour flight to Hong Kong, but on a 30 minute hop from Chicago to Detroit, well, why not?