Tip: Avoid Spirit Airline’s fees.

Spirit Airlines is notorious for charging the customer for everything from water to printing a boarding pass. The main fee you need to avoid is the carry-on bag fee which is $35 to $50 for each leg of the trip. For a round-trip this means $70 to $100 just to carry-on a bag.

Here’s a copy of Spirit’s fee structure. We’re going to try to avoid all of them.

Standard Fees – Online purchase
Domestic and International
Carry-On Bag (At booking / before check-in)$35.00
First Checked Bag (At booking / before check-in)$30.00
Second Checked Bag (At booking / before check-in)$40.00
Third, Fourth, Fifth Checked Bag (At booking / before check-in)$85.00
Carry-On Bag (During online check-in)$40.00
First Checked Bag (During online check-in)$35.00
Second Checked Bag (During online check-in)$45.00
Third, Fourth, Fifth Checked Bag (During online check-in)$90.00
All Customers – Reservation Center purchase
Domestic and International
Carry-On Bag$40.00
First Checked Bag$35.00
Second Checked Bag$45.00
Third, Fourth, Fifth Checked Bag$90.00
Group Booking – Group Desk purchase
Domestic and International
Carry-On Bag (More than 24 hours before flight departs)$35.00
First Checked Bag (More than 24 hours before flight departs)$30.00
Second Checked Bag (More than 24 hours before flight departs)$40.00
Third, Fourth, Fifth Checked Bag (More than 24 hours before flight departs)$85.00
Carry-On Bag (Within 24 hours of flight departure)$40.00
First Checked Bag (Within 24 hours of flight departure)$35.00
Second Checked Bag (Within 24 hours of flight departure)$45.00
Third, Fourth, Fifth Checked Bag (Within 24 hours of flight departure)$90.00
All Customers – Airport Counter/Kiosk purchase
Domestic and International
Carry-On Bag$50.00
First Checked Bag$45.00
Second Checked Bag$55.00
Third, Fourth, Fifth Checked Bag$100.00
All Customers – Airport Gate purchase
Domestic and International
Any bag purchased at Gate$100.00
Overweight Baggage
Domestic and International
41 – 50 lbs. (18 – 23 kg)$25.00 per bag
51 – 70 lbs. (23 – 32 kg)$50.00 per bag
71 – 99 lbs. (32 – 45 kg))$100.00 per bag
Oversize Baggage
Domestic and International
More than 62 linear inches (158 cm)$100.00 per bag
More than 80 linear inches (203 cm)$150.00 per bag
Sporting Equipment
Domestic and International
Bicycles$75.00
Scuba Tank$75.00
Surf Board (Maximum of 2 surfboards in one bag)$100.00

Seat Fees

Spirit Assigned Seating at Check-InFree
Customer-Requested Seat Assignments / Deluxe Leather$1.00 to $50.00 per seat
Big Front Seats (In advance)$12.00 to $199.00 per seat
Big Front Seats (Onboard upgrades—depending on flight length)$25.00 to $75.00 per seat

Booking Related Fees

Booking Fee – Reservation Center$10.00 per customer, per booking
Package Booking Fee – for package bookings purchased via Reservation Center$10.00 per customer, per booking
Group Booking Fee$5.00 per customer, per booking
Colombia Administrative Fee – for bookings originating in Colombia – fee applied depends on amount of per-customer fare$15.00 to $95.00 per customer, per booking
Revenue Standby Fee$25.00 per customer, each way
Passenger Usage Fee – Domestic Flights$8.99 to $16.99 per customer, each way
Passenger Usage Fee – International Flights (Includes PR and USVI)$8.99 to $16.99 per customer, each way
Unintended Consequences of DOT Regulations Fee$2.00 per customer, each way
Charge for Airport Agents printing Boarding Passes$10.00 per boarding pass printed

Special Service Fees

Unaccompanied Minors (Price includes snack and beverage)$100.00 per customer, each way
Infant (Lap Child)Free (taxes may apply for certain countries)
Pet Transport Fee (Limitation of 4 pets total in the cabin)$100.00 per pet container, each way
Travel Guard Insurance / Domestic Itinerary$14.00 per customer, per booking
Travel Guard Insurance / International Itinerary$21.00 per customer, per booking
Travel Guard Insurance / Vacation Package Itinerary6.5% of total package price ($25 minimum)

FREE SPIRIT™ Award Booking

Agent Transaction Fee (Booking/Modification/Cancellation) – Reservation Center$25.00 per customer, per booking
Award Redemption FeeFree to $100.00 per customer, per booking
Award Modification Fee$110.00 per customer, per booking
Mileage Redeposit Fee$110.00 per customer, per booking

Modification or Cancellation Fees

Web Modification or Cancellation$115.00 per customer, per booking
Reservations / Airport Modification or Cancellation$125.00 per customer, per booking
Group Booking Itinerary Modification or Cancellation$50.00 per customer, per booking
Name Change Fee ($9 Fare Club membership fee may also apply)Up to $70.00 per customer, per booking

Onboard Snacks and Drinks

Snacks$1.00 to $10.00
Drinks$1.00 to $15.00

Pretty horrid fee structure here. If you’re not careful you can pay more in fees than for the flight. Let’s step through this real quick.

Spirit allows a “Personal Item” to be brought on board free of charge. Here is the fine print:

  • Spirit may require that a carry-on item travel as checked baggage if the item cannot be safely stowed on a particular flight or if it doesn’t comply with Spirit’s baggage policies set forth herein, pursuant to Spirit’s Contract of Carriage available at www.spirit.com. Excess items will be charged according to checked baggage fees.
  • Fees apply for carry-on baggage that will not fit in the under seat space (max size of under seat space is 16 x14 x 12 in. All baggage fees are non-refundable and may be paid in advance or at the airport.
  • Personal item dimensions may not exceed 16 inches by 14 inches by 12 inches (40 x 35 x 30cm). Only 1 per seat purchased. Must fit underneath a seat.
  • The following may be brought on board free of charge in addition to your personal item or paid carry-on baggage:
    • Umbrella
    • Camera
    • Infant Diaper Bag
    • Assistive Devices
    • Outer Garments (Coats/Hats/Wraps)
    • Car Seat/Stroller – Car seats may be carried on board the aircraft at no charge if a seat has been purchased for the child.
    • Reading Material
    • Food for the flight
  • Spirit may require that a carry-on item travel as checked baggage if the item cannot be safely stowed on a particular flight or if it doesn’t comply with Spirit’s baggage policies set forth herein, pursuant to Spirit’s Contract of Carriage available at www.spirit.com. Excess items will be charged according to checked baggage fees.

As you can see, Spirit will basically allow you to bring a small bag free of charge if it is less than 16x14x12 in size and will fit underneath the seat in front of you. I plan on using a messenger bag that is 16x14x6. It is basically an over-sized laptop bag that’s big enough to hold a few days worth of clothes if need be.

Messenger Bag

Amazon actually has a good number of bags that fall within (or close to) the required dimensions. One of their most popular bags with over 1000 positive reviews is this one linked here:

This is a 13 x 16.7 x 8.5 bag. It’s a bit bigger in height, but I don’t think it will be a problem.

There’s another way to avoid the bag fees. Don’t pack one; just go to your destination with the shirt on your back and see what happens. I suppose that’s a little extreme, but no harm in thinking about it, right?

There is one fee that was listed above that will be pretty much impossible to avoid despite Spirit insisting that it’s optional; It’s the Passenger Usage Fee. Spirit charges you to make your reservation on their website. This fee is $9 to $17 dollars each way. The only way to avoid that fee, that I’m aware of, is to drive to IAH or Hobby and make your reservation with the ticket agent like how everyone used to do it before the invention of the telephone. However, if you do decide to try and do it that way you’ll be charged a $10 reservation fee instead. Isn’t that hilarious?

You shouldn’t worry too much about this fee since it’s bundled in the base fare when you buy your ticket. It’s not going to come up at the last minute and bite you. I just wanted to point out that even though Spirit calls it an “avoidable” fee, it’s basically impossible to do so. This should give you an idea of the kind of business relationship that you have with Spirit as their customer.

Spirit is currently defending against a class action lawsuit against this kind of behavior. Hopefully it will work out in the consumers favor, but I’m sure that even if that happens Spirit will find some other way to stick it to you.

You should know that when you fly Spirit that you’re in an adversarial relationship with the travel provider. Keep that in mind. They hate you but really love your money. Definitely review Spirit’s fee structure on their website and study it closely before flying with them. I’ve linked to their fee page here: [Spirit Airline’s ridiculous fee structure page].

The rest of the fees are easy enough to avoid: Print your own boarding pass, check-in online before you arrive at the airport, don’t pay extra for an assigned seat, and don’t buy Spirit’s crappy food.

Spirit’s flight prices are actually pretty good if you take the time to not let them nickel-and-dime you.

If you found this article helpful, you may want to check out [Tip: Avoid Frontier Airline’s carry-on fee]. You can also check out the [Budget Travel Tips] category on this site for all of the other tips.

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