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Fliers Beware: More Fees for What Used to Be Free

Michelle Lodge

Airlines are now touting their summer fares to lure travelers. But they are also introducing a slate of fees for items and services that used to be free, including SpiritAirlines’ new policy of charging up to $45 for one oversize carry-on bag.

Passengers are pictured at Check-In desks at London's Heathrow airport.
Carl de Souza | AFP | Getty Images

Ben Baldanza, president and CEO of Spirit told CNBC Wednesday that at the same time the company insituted the carry-on bag fee, it also lowered fares and checked-bag costs. As a result, he said, “Sales are up 50 percent.” 

Spirit passengers are still allowed one carry-on for free, as long as the luggage fits under the seat in front of them. It's when the bag must go into the overhead bin that the fee is charged. The $45 fee applies at the gate; passengers are charged $15 less for the carry-on if they pay online or at the airport check-in counter.

Most airlines charge between $20 and $30 for checked bags and allow two free carry-ons. As Reuters reported Wednesday, the airlines been shoring up their nearly bare coffers by introducing auxiliary sources of revenue by charging customers for items and services, while also cutting capacity and adjusting their business models; in the last few years, the industry has been hammered by the combination of unpredictable fuel prices, a poor economy that has hindered travel and competition from budget carriers.

Spirit Airlines to Charge Fee for Carry-On Bags

Spirit isn't the only airline getting more money from passengers: Travelers on other airlines now pay for in-flight blankets and pillows and even as much as $75 for an extra-legroom seat on a cross-country flight.

As outrageous as it sounds, Ryanair, a budget European carrier, has revived its much-debated plan to charge for a trip to the restroom by using coin-operated toilets.

JetBlue still gives you a free bag of blue potato chips, but it now charges for other perks, including, for April only at this point, whopping fees for extra-legroom seats. For a San Francisco to New York flight, for instance, more legroom will cost you $75 each way.

According to JetBlue, the airline is trying the fee structure to gauge demand and determine whether to replace the longstanding fees of between $10 and $40 per flight.

Here’s a sampling of other fees charged by airlines:

  • Pillow and blanket, American, $8
  • Wi-Fi, through gogoinflight.com, $4.99 for 1.5 hours to $39.95 for a 30-day unlimited pass good for multiple airlines that include AirTran , American, Delta and Virgin America.
  • “Deluxe” sandwich, $10, JetBlue
  • Headsets, $2, JetBlue

For a list of domestic baggage fees, check out airfarewatchdog.com’s chart (you can see it here). The site’s founder, George Hobica, recommended in a February post that heavy packers may want to fly Airtran, Alaska , Frontier and Southwest , due to their lower baggage fees, even if there’s a cheaper fare on another airline.