The mainstream media is at it again with dysfunctional headlines and articles — this time, they’re attacking my favorite low budget airline, Spirit. The budget-minded airline has designed a great system for allowing customers to decide what services and products they want, and selectively purchase them if it’s in their budget or needs. The headlines are full of fire: “$200 for carry-on luggage on Spirit!” Spirit has announced that they will be charge $100 per flight ($200 round trip) for carry-on luggage checked at the gate. And I support this fee.
I travel Spirit practically weekly, and I book cheap flights with no add-ons. Spirit charges for everything: want to sit next to your travel companion? There’s a charge. Want an exit row or a big front seat? It costs you. Bringing a carry-on or checking in a bag? There’s a fee. Bottle of water? Fee. Cup of coffee? Fee.
Of course, what the naysayers don’t want you to know is that all of these fees are completely optional. Here’s a list of some recent travel I booked with Spirit:
- Feb 8, 2012 – Feb 14, 2012, Chicago to Fort Lauderdale @ $185.58
- March 3, 2012 – March 4, 2012, Chicago to New York City @ $117.58
- April 15, 2012 – April 17, 2012, Chicago to Las Vegas @ $55.60
- March 20, 2012 – March 27, 2012, Chicago to Fort Lauderdale @ $167.58
- May 1, 2012 – May 2, 2012, Chicago to Las Vegas @ $57.58
- April 21, 2012 – April 23, 2012, Chicago to Los Angeles, $57.58
- May 3, 2012 – May 8, 2012, Chicago to Fort Lauderdale, $77.58
These prices are all inclusive including taxes and all government fees. Try finding those prices anywhere else. I travel for work, I travel for pleasure, I travel to catch a few days of sunlight when Chicago’s clouds are overhead. I fly first class to Europe, but for a 2-3 hour flight, I don’t mind traveling on the cheap. It gives me a freedom that no other airline allows.
Of course, those airfare costs don’t include a checked bag or a carry-on. If you look at how many days I travel for, you can see that I don’t need a lot of clothes. Instead, Spirit allows one personal item sized up to 16″ x 14″ x 12″ — this is huge. I recommend the CarryOnFree bag which fits this size perfectly. Personal items are free to bring on. I can fit up to 5 days of clothes in the CarryOnFree bag. Total cost for carry-ons and checked luggage? $0.
I’ll buy a cup of coffee on board — $2, unlimited refills. Sometimes I’ll upgrade to an exit row ($25 each way) or a Big Front Seat ($35 – $50 each way) but that depends on if I need to sleep on board or if it’s a long flight (over 3 hours). I can get to New York City in 2 hours for under $100 round trip, have lunch and dinner, and be home in the morning. Food and cabs costs me more than the airfare.
So what’s the big deal over $100 carry-on fees with Spirit? Nothing. It’s a non-deal. Spirit is charging that fee to people who have to pay for a carry-on at the gate. This means those travel imbeciles did not notice on Spirit’s website that they can get the carry-on fee at a reduced price. I pay $18 for a checked bag, $20 for a carry-on (each way) if I decide to bring one. By paying for the bag when you book the flight, you help Spirit reduce the number of staff they need at the gate. If you bring a carry-on to the airport and didn’t pay $20 each way, you slow down the check-in process, you slow down the boarding process, and you cost the airlines more in wasted labor. If they have to deal with your extra unannounced luggage, they should charge you $100.
It’s a penalty to you for trying to raise my future travel costs.
Of course, Spirit has low ratings from many travelers — they’re comparing a low budget $100 flight with a $400 flight with a top tier airline. The difference between the two fares goes to higher labor costs for better service. I’d rather keep my $300 per flight and read the fine print. If I want a carry-on, I pay for it when I book the ticket. I am pleased that I am not forced to pay for the carry-on fees in my ticket price — it allows me to travel nearly every week at an incredibly low price.
Now people are calling for government to step in and force Spirit to not charge these fees. What will that mean? Higher airfare prices. It’ll cut my own personal travel down by up to 50%. I am, so far, 100% pleased with Spirit’s service, their prices, and the products they offer. If I have more in my travel budget, I can afford better services and products from them. If I’m zipping out to Las Vegas for 24 hours to have lunch with a friend or a customer, I want my $57 round trip ticket.
If you want to fly cheap — you get what you pay for. Don’t expect a filet mignon at McDonald’s. Don’t expect a Jacuzzi tub at the no-tell motel. Don’t expect top tier benefits from a discount airline.
Spirit is doing exactly what they need to do to keep their ticket prices down: charge fees for the extra products and services that some people want, but not all people. I support this move, and anyone complaining about it doesn’t understand the service and product they’re buying.