Spirit Airlines CEO Defends Fees; Says Bags Are 'Not Essential' For Vacations

Southwest, which has grown to become the nation's largest domestic carrier, has a philosophy of not charging passengers "for things they have historically received for free."

That doesn't mean that Southwest is immune to the fee bonanza. It isn't. The airline, which doesn't have assigned seating, has imposed a $10 fee allowing passengers to cut the boarding line and pick their seats and overhead bin space first.

Ridley told Congress that the airline still doesn't charge for checking a first or second bag, "or to carry on a bag for that matter." There are no fees to make a reservation over the phone (something rare in the industry) and there are no surcharges for fuel or traveling on a peak day.

"And, as always, snacks, sodas, smiles and the occasional bad joke are all complimentary at Southwest Airlines," he said.

However, Southwest said that the decision to impose fees or not should be left up to the individual airlines, as long as they are clearly disclosed.

"Southwest made the conscious decision to limit our customers' fee exposure to what we view as unreasonable and annoying fees. That was our choice," Ridley said. "Other airlines have chosen a different business model and should have every right to do so."

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