Spirit Airlines: Cheap Airfare, but at What Cost?

Spirit Airlines' Extra Fees

"The reality, aside from those few passengers who are willing to pack exceptionally light, is that Spirit's fares are often not that great when you add everything up," Banas said. "Plus, you have to read the fine print in the advertising. For example, some of Spirit's cheapest advertised fares don't include the cost of fuel, which can add on anywhere between about $11 and $76, depending on mileage flown."

Banas compared prices for flights from Boston to Cancun with one checked bag and one carry-on. Spirit had the lowest advertised fare but the fees quickly added up. In the end, Spirit was $435.17, JetBlue was $426.10 and Delta was $309.10.

"It just goes to show that it's in the consumer's best interest to do their own complete price comparison before plunking down their credit card," Banas said.

Baldanza defends the carry-on bag fee, saying that it will help reduce delays.

Bags squeezed under your seat are still free, but it now costs $30 to place one in the overhead bin. ($9 Fare Club members only pay $20; those who go through security without first paying the carry-on fee will be whacked with a $45 surcharge.) In comparison, it costs $25 -- $19 for club members -- to check a bag.

"The reason that people are so shocked about the carry-on bag right now is that they just don't get it," Baldanza said. "There will be fewer delays and the boarding process will be smoother. They don't understand all the benefits of it. They are just outraged that I used to get this for free and now have to pay for it."

Baldanza asked me how my flight was. I told him it was cramped but bearable. And how about delays? Well, here's what my flight attendant coming home announced when we landed: "Welcome to New York. Local time is 7:47. We're about 30 minutes early. Please tell a few people, because you know if it was the other way around you would."

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