Spirit Airlines Fees Review

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Tickets may be cheap, but a minimum $35 fee for a carry-on bag plus an additional $30 to $100 for a checked bag, along with myriad other fees, make a flight on Spirit more than you might expect. Other unusual fees include $2 to $3 for nonalcoholic beverages and up to $50 just to pick a seat.

Spirit Airlines fees and other "ancillary revenue" accounted for nearly 40 percent of the budget carrier's total 2013 revenue, according to a report by consulting firm IdeaWorksCompany. That's the highest of any airline and may reveal how Spirit is able to offer low-cost plane tickets and remain profitable. The average base fare was about $69 in 2014, according to the company's annual report.

Spirit Airlines' fees can be complicated to navigate, because many of them vary based on when and where you make a purchase. Take a carry-on bag for example (yes, Spirit charges for that, although a personal item such as a purse or briefcase is always free). If you pay online when you book a flight, or anytime before check-in, it's $35; if you use the reservation center or pay during online check-in, it's $45; if you wait until you get to the airport, it's $55 at the kiosk or counter. If you get all the way to the gate without paying, a carry-on will cost $100. Frequent Spirit customers may come out ahead by joining the airline's $9 Fare Club, which costs $59.95 per year and offers online baggage fees $9 lower, in addition to heavily discounted ticket prices.

Spirit seems to charge fees for everything. Planning to print boarding passes at the airport? That'll be $2 at a kiosk or $10 at the counter. Want to choose a seat instead of having one assigned? Be prepared to pay up to $50 (and that's not even for a so-called Big Front Seat. Those wider seats with extra legroom demand up to $199). Some flyers are fans of this "unbundling," which seems to keep base fares low. Even if you find a good deal on a flight, though, be sure to consider the total cost of the trip, not just the cost of the ticket.

Compare Spirit with other airlines using the charts on pages 2 to 4 of our guide and visit the company's website for a full list of Spirit Airlines fees.

Louis DeNicola

Louis DeNicola is a freelance personal finance writer who specializes in credit, debt, and practical money-saving tips. He loves stacking savings opportunities to get amazing deals, traveling for free using credit card rewards, and teaching others how to do the same. Connect with Louis by visiting louisdenicola.com.

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