If You Ever Fly on Spirit Airlines You Need to Read This – How to Avoid Baggage Fees

Spirit Airlines is a budget airline with some really good deals. You can fly to many cities across the country (and international) for $50-$100 one way. With these cheap tickets it does bring some drawbacks, however. Spirit Airlines charges for carry-on bags whereas most airlines allow you to bring one for free. Read on to see how to avoid these baggage fees.


Actually, with Spirit, don't carry-on
Actually, with Spirit, don’t carry-on


Three types of bag classifications:
Personal Item – Backpack, laptop, purse (goes under the seat)
Carry-on – small duffel bag or suitcase (goes above your seat)
Checked bag – A large suitcase (goes under the plane)


What is considered a carry-on bag? To Spirit, a carry-on bag is any bag that is above 16 X 14 x 12 inches and less than 22 x 18 x 10 inches. I know, it doesn’t really make sense, but I will explain further.

The only thing, and I mean the only thing, free on Spirit Airlines is your “personal item”. This is usually a purse or a laptop bag. Currently, a personal item has to go under the seat in front of you, and cannot exceed 16 x 14 x 12. Come 3/31/2016, the dimensions for a personal item must not exceed 17″ x 13″ x 8″. If your personal item exceeds any – and I mean any – of those dimensions, which they check at the gate before you board, you will have to pay for a carry-on and put it above your seat. The cost of a carry-on bag, if you pay for it at the gate, is $100 one-way! Yes, you read that correctly, if your laptop briefcase is 18″ in length they will make you pay $100 and force you to put it above your seat.


$100 if it doesn't fit in the box on the right
$100 if it doesn’t fit in the box on the right (which changes on 3/31)


Still shocked that they charge you $100 for a carry-on bag if you wait till the gate? You’re not the only one. You can avoid this crazy charge in one of two ways:

1. Make sure your personal item is no more than 16 x 14 x 12 inches
2. Pay for your carry-on bag before you get to the gate



Here are the fees for your carry-on bag (smaller than 22 x 18 x 10):

-Online when buying your ticket: $35
-Online before you check in for your flight: $40
-While you are checking in online: $45
-At the ticket counter at the airport: $55 (this is before security)
-At the gate when you are boarding the flight: $100

If your bag is larger than 22 x 18 x 10 you will have to check it. In typically Spirit fashion, it is actually cheaper to check a bag than it is to carry it on yourself, makes zero sense. One thing to note is that your checked bag can only weigh 40lbs max. Almost all other airlines allow your bag to weigh up to 50lbs. If your checked bag is over 40lbs it will cost and additional $25. (it it gets more expensive the heavier the bag gets, up to $100 extra)



Here are the fees for your checked bag (up to 40lbs):

-Online when buying your ticket: $30
-Online before you check in for your flight: $35
-While you are checking in online: $40
-At the ticket counter at the airport: $50 (this is before security)
-At the gate when you are boarding the flight: $100



Here is your best option if you are not wanting to pay these baggage fees but you do want to bring at least a change of clothes. (that’s always nice)

Samsonite makes a bag called the “Underseater – Large”. This bag is designed to maximize every inch of the space under your seat. You can fit a decent amount of items in this bag, definitely enough for a weekend getaway.


Samsonite Underseater Large
Samsonite Underseater Large

I recently purchased this bag on Ebags.com for $49, which is a great deal for a Samsonite bag with a three year warranty. It can be rolled or carried and has a ton of storage compartments. It measures 16 x 13 x 9 so it will meet Spirit’s silly personal item restriction.

You’d be surprised how much you can fit in a bag this size. Check out this YouTube video of a similar bag showing how many items this guy was able to fit in there. (and fly free on spirit)


So to recap, if you are going to take a bag on spirit that is over 16 x 14 x 12 you will want to make sure you pay for it at the time you are purchasing the ticket otherwise they will charge you out the butt!


Do you think you will put up with these silly Spirit policies to save money on a ticket? It is tempting when you see those ticket prices but here are a few other things to keep in mind:

– Spirit has the worst customer service of any airline, rated by the ACSI
– Spirit has a ton of delays. In June, Spirit had an on-time rating of 49%. Over half of their flights were late, measured at more than 15 minutes after the scheduled time (average in US is about 75%)
– Spirit’s seats have only 28″ of pitch, the lowest of any US airline


Seat pitch is your “personal space” which equates to leg room. Most US airlines have 30-32″ of seat pitch, compare that to Spirit at a frugal 28″.

If you have had a good experience with Spirit, please share 🙂