Applause for Spirit Airlines for charging for carry on bags

Spirit Airlines is taking a lot of heat for its latest move — charging for carry on bags. I will not add to that heat. In fact, I applaud them.

It is moronic to charge for checked bags while allowing passengers to bring on free carry on bags. Think about what you want from a flight, and what kind of behavior that you incentivize by giving free overhead bin space. Have you ever sat on the tarmac, waiting for a plane to take off because some stupid prole can’t figure out how to cram a 75 pound floral-print full sized suitcase into a carry on bin? Meanwhile some other jackass is trying to stuff a cardboard box full of god-knows-what tied together by string into his overhead bin. Meanwhile, the entire boarding procedure grinds to a halt because these cheapskate proles wouldn’t pay $20 to check their goddamned bags.

Carry on bags, being dragged down the aisles, crammed into overhead compartments, (usually by weaklings who packed too much shit) delay the boarding process – which adds to travel time for everyone and which makes the airline’s route less profitable. To make matters worse, old people and poor people move slower than regular people. Of course, these are also two kinds of people who are likely to want to avoid paying checked bag fees. So, you have the slowest and most annoying travelers incentivized to do something that will slow the entire process down (and increase costs) for everyone.

On the other hand, checked bags can be controlled by the airline. Although the handlers may beat the shit out of your bags, they at least place them in the airplane in an efficient and orderly fashion. The plane takes off on time.

Now, lets think about how charging for carry ons will change the flight experience. In fact, we don’t need to speculate. Ryan Air in Europe doesn’t charge for carry ons, but it does have overhead bins that are barely big enough for a lunch box. You need to check everything on Ryan Air, and thus Ryan Air flights board and discharge passengers with lightning speed efficiency. That means more flights per day, that means flights are on time more often, that means that you don’t have some slovenly fuck trying to cram a wildebeest into an overhead bin in row 12, while all the rest of the passengers stand on the jetway waiting for that one jackass to get out of the way.

That is behavior we want to discourage, but charging for checked bags has done just the opposite. Boarding times are now longer, and flights are delayed taking off more often, and overhead bin space is about as precious as unobtanium.

If all airlines charged more for bin space than for checked bag space, it would make flying just a little bit more pleasant.

35 Responses to Applause for Spirit Airlines for charging for carry on bags

  1. arizonaplatt says:

    Marc, I think the time you save during the boarding process will be more than outweighed by the time you spend waiting for your bags to appear on a carousel … quite apart from the risk of them not appearing at all. I generally find that the boarding process is complete within half an hour, during which I sit and read and ignore the irritations that you refer to. However, I would like to see some realistic enforcement of carry-on size limits.

    I think the real answer to your problem would be to go back in time to before airline deregulation, when everything was so much more civilized, and the significantly higher ticket prices were a disincentive to the types of travelers who annoy you (and me) the most.

    • I generally find that the boarding process is complete within half an hour,

      I guess I just have a fresh experience in my mind of a flight from Hawaii being delayed by 15 minutes solely by proles who couldn’t sit the fuck down. It matters when you have a connection to make.

  2. gearoid says:

    Size limits – exactly. Recently I’ve noticed more people being forced to check their bags because they’re too big to put on the plane. I figure, bring a small bag that fits under the seat in front, check anything bigger and wait until everyone else is boarded before you get on. I’ll never understand the rush to squeeze yourself onto a plane. Not to mention everyone standing in the aisle waiting for the doors to open at the end of the flight – you’re not going to get off any faster.

    • On Randazza airlines, anyone who has checked bags will not be allowed off the plane until all the carry-on only passengers have de-planed.

  3. It’s kind of hard for me to applaud Spirit for giving disincentive to the carry-on proles when they created the problem in the first place. In the end, this isn’t about luggage, it’s about deceiving us into thinking we’re getting cheap airfares. Let me pay for my ticket, take on my two small items, and have the rest handled by baggage. It worked quite well until someone in marketing got creative about ticket prices.

  4. South Ocean says:

    “Although the handlers may beat the shit out of your bags, they at least place them in the airplane in an efficient and orderly fashion?” “Ryan Air flights . . . discharge passengers with lightning speed efficiency?”

    What does it avail you to disembark the plane rapidly, only to have to wait 45 minutes to an hour for the baggage handlers to deign to present your bags?

    With all the advances in air travel since Orville and Wilbur — radar, radio, GPS, everyone speaking English! — baggage is handled the exact same way Orville’s rucksack was back in 1903.

    People don’t use carry-on bags to inconvenience fellow travelers — they use carry-on bags because you can’t count on the airline delivering checked baggage in a timely manner. If airlines would update/modernize their baggage handling process, you’d see carry-on bags become a rare species.

    • A) I never check bags.
      B) I would be delighted to pay $100 for the privilege of not checking bags.
      C) The delay in getting the bags to you does not stem from the time it takes to get them off the plane. Once the plane is empty, they can refill the plane and be off.

      I understand that people don’t use carry ons to intentionally inconvenience others — but with paid checked bags, we have created an incentive for them to do so. I think that creating a disincentive would be a positive. I’d be happy to pay Spirit’s fee, if I ever flew anywhere that they go.

  5. Nadia says:

    Do you also approve of Ryan Air when they decide to do this?
    I guess people will have to start bringing diapers and then they will get charged a waste fee as well. If people start peeing in their seats, I will be livid.

    • I don’t approve of a flat fee for using the bathroom. But, I would approve a fee as long as it was on a timer.

      • Gearoid says:

        They will never charge for toilets. Michael O’Leary is a publicity whore and when he brought this up first last year, it caused an uproar (and generated acres of free publicity). I can’t stand Ryanair (the color scheme in the planes makes me want to puke) but his genius is in making flying in a plane indistinguishable from taking a bus – cheap, on time, and you pay for anything extra.

  6. blueollie says:

    I think that you enjoy making arguments for things that are unpopular. :)

    • They are not unpopular with everyone!

      If I got a little more detailed, I think I could have shown that charging for overhead bins will benefit *everyone*. There is a reason why Ryan Air can sell flights for ONE EURO. They have VERY low costs, charge for everything on the flight, have in-flight gambling, and have really fast load and unload times. That way they wind up with an extra flight or two per day, the flights are cheap, and even homeless people can afford to fly on them.

      Paying for an overhead bin is paying to delay the plane.

      • W says:

        I don’t think that your marginal cost to the airline (e.g. your marginal portion of the delay of the aircraft) equals to $45.

        As an economist, I find it hard to justify in my mind that Community surplus is improved. That is, these people at Spirit are extracting each last bit of consumer surplus and an overall loss of utility, or well being.

  7. I know this is frustrating for you, but your level of anger over this is almost funny. But even if you start making people pay for carry on luggage, they’ll find another way to delay take off, won’t they?

    • Sigh… you know what, Joe? You’re right. If I step back for a second, take a deep breath, and try and mentally teleport into someone else’s body and look at this … yes, it’s not just almost funny It is downright laughable.

      Go ahead. Laugh. Laugh and point at me you bastards!

      But when Randazza Airlines takes off, “Fly the prole-free skies!” you’ll wish you had a ticket!!!!

  8. smurfy says:

    I’m just excited to see the movie selection on Randazza Air. You could keep airfare down by charging 13.99 like a hotel.

    I think at some point it’s going to be cheaper for me to ship my luggage with UPS or Fed ex.

  9. teacher says:

    When you rant about “proles,” it says more about yourself than people who ride on airplanes, dbag. :)

  10. jeffman says:

    I fly a couple of time per month and LOVE this. I never check bags because I can’t afford to lose my stuff. If you fly often enough (or change at ORD)you are mathematically certain to lose a bag eventually. I have.

    Currently, since everyone is avoiding check fees, I always have to be the first person in “zone 17” to board so that I have a shot at any remaining overhead. I can expense any new carry-on fee, so this will actually work in my favor.

    I say do it.

    Also, Gate-check on smaller planes at every opportunity. Miss both the overhead hassle and the carousel weight. And NO MIDDLE SEATS!

  11. Aaron says:

    “What are you doing? You’ve got like three inches here and you’ve got like a dead yak! You don’t see these people jammed up behind you? Oh, I see, it’s all about you. The world revolves around you. I apologize, Mr. You-people.”
    Love Brian Regan.

  12. Thilo says:

    Marco, I generally agree with your point, but I believe that the best way to handle these issues is (1) stop charging extra for checking bags (just add it to the ticket price for crying out loud) and (2) enforce carry-on size and be rigorous about it. I too have been more than annoyed with people who can’t manage to efficiently board an airplane. All of us who are frequent flyers have had these experiences.

    Personally, I’ll be happy to pay a little more on my ticket if there are less annoyances on the flights (like US-Air charging for blankets and pillows on domestic flights), decent food and more service with a smile. Hot flight attendants wouldn’t be bad either…

    But I have to disagree with your praise of Ryanair. That airline is a complete sham. The reason they are cheap has nothing to do with luggage policy. Rather, they do fun things like claiming to fly you to Frankfurt, when the airport you actually wind up at is at a place called Hahn (Frankfurt-Hahn in Ryanair-speak), which means you have a 1.5 hour bus ride to look forward to before you actually get to Frankfurt. Well, Hahn is cheaper for the airline to fly into and Ryanair wants to make you believe that Hahn is a suburb of Frankfurt. Hey, douchebags, I can read a map, ok? Frankfurt is not the only destination where they play that game: want to go to Vienna? Good luck with that, but not on Ryanair, However, they will gladly fly you to Bratislava (Bratislava-Vienna in Ryanair-speak), which is in Slovakia! Another 1.5 hour bus ride later you’ll be in Vienna.

    Also, Ryanair has some of the most exorbitant additional fees in the industry. Such as their “boarding pass reprint fee”, which they charge you if you didn’t check in online and printed your own pass: 40€ per person. Also, they charge credit card fees not per booking but per person per flight, so if you are traveling roundtrip with a family of four, you’ll pay eight credit card fees, even though you booked all of this in one transaction. Details here:



    • Good point about Ryan Air flying in to obscure airfields. I guess that when I flew them, they just happened to be airfields that were closer to my destinations than the actual major airports that other airlines flew into.

      • Thilo says:

        Ok, if you actually want to go to Bratislava, or Hahn or Girona or Reus (the last two both about 100km from Barccelona but billed by Ryanair as being Barcelona airports) then obviously the fact that Ryanair flies to those places is an advantage. But generally they are playing fast and loose with the facts and its pretty disgusting. They do other things that border on the unethical, but I don’t want this thread to become a “bash Ryanair” rant.

  13. […] Randazza has excellent rants; here he discusses the airlines charging for carry on bags. He is disgusted that so many try to […]

  14. Jozef says:

    To each his own. If Spirit wants to charge for carry-ons and Ryanair wants to keep their overhead bins small, more power to them. I prefer to pay a little extra for comfort. As long as there’s a free market for both, I’m okay with flying. Of course, free market also means that as demand shifts towards more cattle transports and fewer full-service airlines, my demand for flying drops.

  15. MikeZ says:

    I don’t disagree but it does seem pretty distasteful for an airline to say don’t check anything valuable because our baggage handlers are morons and will likely drop/break/steal anything valuable you have in there, and we specifically don’t insure any valuables in your luggage. Then for the airline to say, well you can carry the bag yourself but that costs extra.

  16. EV says:

    Yeah, well, is there a fee for wearing cargo pants?

    Problem solved!

  17. […] If we had that, I could probably get by without my laptop on at least 75% of my business trips. What would that mean? No more taking the laptop out of the carrying case for the TSAtards, elimination of another couple of pounds of stuff, maybe even eliminating the need to take an overhead bin on a plane! […]

  18. ag says:

    “…poor people move slower than regular people”


    • Well, don’t they?

      • Rogier says:

        I don’t know. I thought that was an unexpected turn too when I read that. Do they?

        • Well, think about it. How many times have you been stuck behind a piece of shit kia in traffic and how many times have you been stuck behind a porsche?

          Naturally, you’ll always have your redneck in a pickup truck that shouldn’t go over 30 doing 90 in a 20 mph zone, but for the most part, I think my statement would stand up to scientific scrutiny. But, I do admit that I have not tested it scientifically — its just anecdotal.

          • Rogier says:

            Owners of sports car probably tend to drive faster, on average, than drivers of middling minivans. I doubt that that translates into less-moneyed people moving slower through checkout lines or airplane aisles.

            In general, I’d go easy on the anti-prole invective, but that’s just me.

            • I don’t see it as anti-prole. I don’t think that being prolish makes you slow, but lets face it … people who know how to efficiently use their time, and who are not slovenly slow dipshits, probably remain in a lower economic class at a higher rate than their counterparts who learn how to move their asses. You never hear of anyone “relaxing their way to the top.”

              Ergo, you’ll find more slow-movers at the bottom of the ladder than at the top.

              Of course, you have to figure in the trophy wives who then turn into elderly useless hags with little dogs under their arms… they’ll move as slow as the slowest WWF fan in Ocala, FL, despite having access to major wealth.

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