I’m not sure I’ve seen a bigger uproar in the airline industry than when Spirit Airlines introduced carry-on baggage fees last year. If I read 1 article I must’ve read a dozen saying that people would never pay it, and that passengers would stop flying Spirit, blah blah blah. Well, since then Spirit has continued to be one of the country’s most consistently profitable airlines and, despite what pretty much every blogger type out there thinks, people continue to fly them in huge numbers.
I bring this up because news came out yesterday that Spirit earned $50 million from carry-on baggage fees in the first year since they’ve been levied. At $20-$30 each (depending on whether you’re a $9 fare club member), that means they’ve collected fees on roughly 2 million bags. As a shareholder, you’ve got to be pretty satisfied with that.
And while passengers will continue to complain, if you’ve flown Spirit in the past year, you’ve probably noticed that boarding goes very quickly, since people are more likely to check their bags and less likely to try to jam oversized bags into overhead bins.
If loads on Spirit continue to be high (85.7% in November), and passengers continue to fly them (Revenue Passenger Miles up 21% year-over-year and load factor up 4 points year-over-year), Spirit, frankly, would be crazy NOT to charge carry-on fees. And I’m starting to think that major carriers are crazy leaving this money on the table. After all, 10 years ago would you imagine that network airlines would charge people for airplane food? Ten years from now (less?) everyone will charge for carry-on fees, under the guise that it allows for faster boarding, faster turnarounds and, hence, lower fares. Elites excluded, of course.