About a year ago, light-packing travelers drew a collective gasp when Spirit Airlines announced that it would start charging $20 for carry-on bags. There was a catch. That $20 was the pay-in-advance fee; you would be charged more if you showed up at the check-in counter. This fee would increase if you managed to sneak past the check-in crew and show up at the gate.
Last October, that gasp turned into shock when Spirit began implementing a new fee: a whopping $100 to check in your carry-on bag at the gate.
That’s almost more than the price of your airplane ticket.
There is a trick, though. This fee is only charged if you can’t place your carry-on under the seat. Basically, what this means is that anyone with an internal frame (or hard-sided) rolling upright that’s 21 inches long, like those you see from TravelPro, would get dinged because it lacks the give to stuff under the seat. What do the smart light-travelers do? Use a soft-sided bag like those from Rick Steves, Patagonia, or Tom Bihn. As big as their carry-ons look, if you don’t stuff them ’til they burst at the seams, you can put them in the underseat area.
… and my suggestion, if you fly Spirit, is to avoid overpacking (we’ll save that for another discussion).
Allegiant Airlines joined Spirit last spring with this fee, and now, we see another domestic carrier: Frontier Airlines today announced that it, too, will start charging for carry-on bags. It’ll cost you $25 (or that nasty $100 if you go to the counter).
The thing is, this baggage fee is imposed only if you don’t purchase your airline ticket online from Frontier’s website. Do people even phone airlines to buy tickets anymore? Apparently Frontier’s press release is spinning this to make it sound like a benefit for its website users. Oh, and they are also waiving this fee for its elite frequent flyers. I guess we’re just penalizing the 80-year-old grandmas who still make phone calls on their landlines to make travel plans to visit their grandchildren.
Frontier says an acceptably sized carry-on bag can be no larger than 18″ by 14″ by 8″. That’s actually pretty compact, and a lot of the maximum-sized carry-ons (like Rick Steves’ Classic Back Door Bag) would be too big. The good news? Tom Bihn’s Western Flyer is only 18″ by 12″ by 7″, giving you a bit of breathing room.