Gadling readers have spoken – Spirit Airlines carry-on bag fee is a bad idea

Several days ago, we asked you for your opinion on the Spirit Airlines carry-on bag fee. As a quick refresher – the airline is planning to charge up to $45 for each carry-on bag that does not fit under the seat in front of you. This is in addition to their checked bag fee.

The whole plan has triggered a lot of responses, from both sides. Some people are (justifiably) annoyed that airlines don’t pay much attention to oversized bags from passengers that take up too much space. Others (correctly) point out that when airlines started to charge for checked bags, passengers had no choice but to carry stuff on board.

Still, nothing makes a point better than some cold hard numbers in the form of a survey – a whopping 5,425 of you took the time to respond (thanks!). The results are pretty clear – 93.2% are against the fee and a mere 6.8% think it is smart.

Of course, 5,425 Gadling readers won’t be enough to convince Spirit Airlines that they making a stupid mistake, but if enough passengers do indeed decide to fly someone else, the message will eventually get through to them.

Spirit Airlines CEO stuffs himself in an overhead bin to justify paid carry-on fees

Spirit Airlines president and CEO, Ben Baldanza took some time out of his busy schedule to try and calm the masses about their upcoming paid carry-on baggage fees.

In his video clip, he claims passengers are annoyed by full overhead bins, and long lines to board the plane. He tells people that Spirit has lowered ticket prices, and lowered checked bag fees. In his logic, by introducing these new carry-on bag fees, the entire experience of flying Spirit Airlines will improve.

Now, lets take a look at his logic – too many people bring too much stuff on the plane. They crowd the overhead bins, and they create long lines for boarding. Why do people bring stuff on the plane? Because Spirit Airlines is one of a long list of airlines that charges for checked luggage ($25 for the first two bags when paid at the airport).

So, instead of removing that fee, and making the experience nicer for everyone, the airline earned itself the ridicule of the airline world by introducing the carry-on bag fee.

And seriously, even though the CEO thought he could be cool by trying to spin this with a funny video, the fact remains that the move to paid carry-on bags will probably cause the airline more than they’ll ever make off their new scheme.
Assuming Mr. Baldanza reads Gadling, I’ll explain why his scheme sucks from the perspective of a traveler:

  • People carry bags on board because they don’t want to pay the checked bag fee – they also want to prevent the airline from losing their bag, setting it on fire or having someone steal the contents.
  • Telling people that their carry-on bag fee is offset by really low price of their ticket doesn’t make the situation any better – people have a built in distrust of anything an airline tells them. A family of three may be forced to pay for three carry-on bags (each way). I suspect Spirit Airlines won’t be able to show that these tickets will be $270 cheaper when the carry-on fee is introduced.
  • People will vote with their wallets – there are still airlines out there that don’t charge for checked bags, and as of right now, Spirit is the only one with a carry-on bag fee.

In a Reuters interview, Ben Baldanza sated the following:

Sprit has reduced fares “by at least as much, or even more than the amount of the carry-on fee”, says Baldanza. “Southwest makes you pay for checked bags even if you don’t check bags, since they have to cover those costs but give you no break if you don’t use the infrastructure. At Spirit, you spend only for what you use and don’t pay for what you don’t use.”

We did an entirely non scientific test to check that. On a Boston Detroit-Tampa ticket, we found the following cheapest prices:

Spirit Airlines: $195.40 total

Southwest Airlines: $220.80

Both flights are priced after the new carry-on fee goes into effect. As you can see – Spirit really is cheaper (by just over $25). This means that a passenger on Southwest Airlines will pay more than on Spirit Airlines.

Assuming of course that the passenger on Spirit is able to pack a weeks worth of luggage into a bag that will fit under their seat.

In reality, nobody is able to do that (unless they ship their bags), so a family of three will end up saving $76.20 on the ticket, but will have to pay a minimum of $90 for three carry-on bags (if they pre-pay online, $135 if paid at the airport).

Goodbye savings.

To me, the fact that the CEO of the airline had to resort to filming a stupid video means the PR backlash from this idea has hit them a little harder than they expected. At least Ben Baldanza is no stranger to bad PR (though he is no Michael O’Leary).

In the end, I’m sure the new measure will take place no matter how much we complain, though I doubt it’ll create the “soaring sales” claimed by Mr. Baldanza, as I really can’t think of a single kind of traveler that saw the new fee and thought “hey, that is really smart – let me start flying this low cost carrier with all the fees”.

What is your opinion? Do you think the idea is smart? Or more importantly – why do you think it is smart (or not)?


UPDATE: See the results of the poll here. A surprising number of folks actually like the new fee.

Passenger thoughts on carry-on bags: Wear a helmet

In yesterday’s article “Travelers Weigh in on Policing Carry-ons” in the New York Times, Joe Sharkey said that he received 300 e-mails with complaints about overhead bins and carry-on bags. According to Sharkey, people are fussing right and left regarding other people’s carry-ons.

Reading the responses that Sharkey highlighted reminds me a bit of people’s complaints about other people’s driving. Instead of grousing about the lack of blinker use, people driving too close, people driving too slow in the fast lane, or too fast in the slow lane, or talking on a cell phone instead of paying attention to the road, people are turning other people’s carry-on bags into modern day travel hazards and symbols of human rudeness.

For example, one person suggested that with the amount of stuff people are cramming into overhead bins and the dangers of falling objects, wearing a helmet while flying isn’t a bad idea. He might have a point.

Here’s an idea. Like Sharkey also mentioned, maybe the airlines could rent helmets as a way to make more money. Hard hats, for that matter, could easily be decorated with an airline’s logo.

Less space in overhead bins? Blame it on the airplane

There’s a video of Aaron trying to close an overhead bin. He’s a determined sort, so eventually it looks as though he hits pay dirt once he moves the bag to another location. If you noticed the first bin, you’ll see it was full. Very full. So was the final bin, for that matter.

That’s becoming a common problem according to this article originally published in the St. Petersburg Times. More and more overhead bins are proving to be quite the challenge for passengers scoping out space. Is it that people are carrying on more than ever before to avoid those pesky fees? One of Scott’s posts today pointed out how those fees are continuing to climb.

Actually, the number of carry-ons hasn’t increased that much.

What is happening is that as flights are becoming fewer as airlines have cut back the number of flights each day, planes are becoming more crowded. More crowded planes equal more carry-ons because there are more people. In research terms, this is what can be called a direct correlation.

Also, because airlines are tending to fly smaller, older planes, the bin space is smaller. Newer planes are the ones with the bins that look like they could double as sleeping quarters. Think of the closet space difference between brand new homes and those built before people could buy so much inexpensive stuff.

And here’s one more reason given to explain the lack of bin space. Last summer the baggage fees weren’t charged to people who had purchased their tickets prior to early June. Now, we’re having a different scenario.

Regardless of why bins are becoming more full, know that they are more often than not stuffed to the maximum and be prepared. Hopefully, you won’t have to work as hard as getting the bin to snap closed as Aaron did.

Love the snow globe, but don’t hand carry it on an airplane

While perusing the list of things not allowed as carry ons on airplanes, snow globes caught my eye. These are those items I usually associate with Christmas. Remember the one in “It’s a Wonderful Life” — the Jimmy Stewart classic holiday movie? The snow globe represented the main character’s idlylic town–all cozy and snowy in winter. Even if you had that snow globe– calling it an antique–a movie classic piece of memorabilia, TSA wouldn’t blink an eye before snatching it up and selling it on Ebay. (See Catherine’s and Neil’s posts.)

Okay, I remember a snow globe at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but maybe I’m making this up, and I just think I saw it. But, there was also a snow globe in “Citizen Kane” that crashed to the ground and broke at the end of the movie when the main character dies, right as he whispered, “Rosebud.” Either one, doesn’t matter. You can’t take it on the plane.

See, the water in the snow globe might not be water at all–and heaven knows what those white flakes or glitter that swirl about when you shake the globes might be made of. Plastic, sure. How about EXPLOSIVE plastic? Just kidding, I have no idea.

I’m actually not faulting TSA for putting snow globes on the list. I never would have thought of their possible use as a terrorist weapon. Seems mean to me. Clever, sure, but definitely mean. Snow globes are magic. They are where you hold a world in your hand that you can alter by turning it upside down or shaking it. They are like the best memories of childhood–like pudding. You can take pudding on the plane, but just 3 ounces or less.

So if you happen to be traveling for the holidays and pick up a snow globe in some gift shop, just remember, wrap it in a towel or something, and pack it in the middle of your checked suitcase–otherwise, maybe you can buy it back on Ebay like Neil suggests.