Charging for carry-ons

By Felix Salmon
April 6, 2010
negative bag-check fee. But how about charging money for carry-ons? Spirit Airlines has now announced it's going to do just that: while a small carry-on which fits underneath the seat in front of you is fine, anything which requires stowing overhead is going to cost at least as much as that checked bag.


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Airlines save money when their customers check bags rather than carry them on board the plane. How to encourage their customers to do just that? They don’t seem to be jumping at the idea of the negative bag-check fee. But how about charging money for carry-ons? Spirit Airlines has now announced it’s going to do just that: while a small carry-on which fits underneath the seat in front of you is fine, anything which requires stowing overhead is going to cost at least as much as that checked bag.

The point is that it makes no sense to penalize people for doing something — checking their luggage — which makes the flight more pleasant for their fellow passengers, and which saves money for the airline as well. Unless you have a baby, you don’t need more than a small bag’s worth of stuff on the flight itself. So if you insist on carrying that huge wheelie suitcase or duffel bag on board, then why should the airline let you do so for free if they’d otherwise charge you to check it?

And as Basili Alukos notes, we’re still talking here about sums of money significantly less than it would cost to ship the same bag. Maybe, if people start having to pay good money to travel with luggage, they might start traveling with less. Which would be a boon to everybody.

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