Spirit Airlines will begin charging some travelers $100 for carry-on bags that require overhead bin space, more than doubling its current $45 fee. It's the largest such fee charged by any airline for either a carry-on or checked bag.
The $100 fee will apply only to bags that are handled last minute at the gate. A small bag that fits underneath the seat will still be free.
The fee hike could encourage passengers to check bags in advance at the airline's ticket counter,where the fee would range from $45 to $50, and effectively reduce delays at security checkpoints because there are fewer bags that need to be screened to carry on board.
"We don’t want any of our customers to wait until they get to the boarding gate to pay for their carry-on bags as this delays the boarding process for everyone," Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson tells CNBC.com in an e-mail. "We expect that our new $100 fee charged for those who wait until they get to the gate will ensure that customers purchase their bags before arriving at the gate."
Spirit's business model focuses on offering low fares, thereby relying on add-on fees to generate additional revenue on everything from bags to seat assignments. "Spirit can do this based on their business model and operation," veteran travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt, co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group, tells CNBC.com.
Whether the $100 carry-on bag fee will catch on among larger airlines remains to be seen. "I don't think the network airlines will go to a carry-on bag fee for everybody, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of the carriers said, 'Let's experiment with it,' " Harteveldt says. Major airlines would have to make many administrative and logistical changes to institute a similar carry-on fee, the analyst said.
Spirit's new gate fee takes effect Nov. 6, when the airline standardizes all fees across domestic and international flights. Other Spirit bag fees are increasing, as well. The price for a carry-on paid for at an airport kiosk will increase to $50 from $40. Larger pieces of luggage checked at the airport will cost between $8 and $10 more, while the fee for bags checked online will rise by between $2 and $5.
Spirit is one of two airlines that charge for carry-ons. Allegiant is the other. In the first quarter, Spirit's average revenue from fees per passenger on a round-trip flight topped $100 for the first time.
Most carriers allow one carry-on bag free of charge.
This article contains additional reporting by The Associated Press.