Spirit Airlines, the Florida-based budget carrier, announced this morning that it will become the first American airline to impose a fee for carry-on baggage.
While passengers will still be permitted to bring a small bag aboard free of charge -- so long as its dimensions are within the 16"x14"x12" limit, USA Today reports -- any luggage stored in the overhead compartment will incur a fee that starts at $20 and can go as high as $45.
Members of Spirit Airlines's $9 Fare Club (which, for $39.95 per year, gives members access to exclusive fares, according to the Wall Street Journal), will pay $20 for carry-on baggage. Passengers who are not members of the club but who reserve a spot in the overhead bin in advance will be charged $30. Only nonmembers who wait until they're at the gate to pay will be subject to the $45 charge.
Spirit, which has hubs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Detroit, Michigan, maintains that the new fee will allow the company to keep fares low by giving "customers the option of paying only for the services they want and use rather than subsidizing the choices of others."
The concept of awarding lower fees for forethought may be part of a global trend: while European discount airline Ryanair does not yet charge fliers extra to store luggage in overhead compartments, the carrier does require that all passengers check-in online prior to their flight and bring a printout of the boarding pass to the airport. Any passenger who does not print out the boarding pass in advance is slapped with a £40/€40 fee.