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

Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza says fees help him keep tickets cheap.

ByABC News
July 14, 2010, 12:57 PM

July 14, 2010— -- The head of the nation's most fee-happy airline told Congress today that bringing luggage on vacation was "not essential" to travel and his airline was actually helping the poor fly by charging up to $45 to place a carry-on bag in the overhead bin.

"We are certain that Spirit's decision to unbundle services not essential to the transportation of passengers, has enabled more passengers to fly at lower cost," said Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza. "Indeed given our low fares, it has allowed many to travel who otherwise simply could not afford to do so."

And it's not just carry-on bags that Spirit charges for.

Want to pick your seat in advance? That will cost anywhere from $8 to $60 depending on the seat. Spirit charges extra even to reserve the much-dreaded middle seat.

Want a nice cold Coca-Cola, Sprite or even a cup of hot coffee? That will cost you an extra $2.

"Spirit's business model to provide maximum choice to passengers to purchase the specific services they want, while keeping fares as low as possible, is unique among U.S. airlines," Baldanza told Congress.

"Carrying more than one bag is not necessary for all travelers and we believe it is unfair to charge those customers for extra services they do not use -- indeed, it is the basis for Spirit's policy to unbundle services not essential to passenger transport," he added.

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In the past three years, airlines have started to charge for once-free services. It is now standard practice on most airlines to pay $25 to check a piece of luggage. But Spirit went one step further in April, announcing it would start on Aug. 1 charging passengers $20 to $45 to place a carry-on bag in the overhead bin. (Bags squeezed under the seat would still be free, but that would likely eliminate any leg room on the airline which already has the least amount of space between its seats.)