Shocked by Spirit’s luggage fees – can you help me get a refund?

Markus Mainka / Shutterstock.com

Vash Patel is like most air travelers: He doesn’t like to pay a lot but he also doesn’t like surprises. But that’s exactly what he got when he booked a recent flight from Boston to Atlanta on … wait for it … Spirit Airlines.

OK, regular readers. You can stop rolling your eyes now.

I’m seriously thinking of taking Patel’s case because it exposes the disingenuous way airlines in general, and Spirit in particular, handle a la carte pricing, the controversial practice of unbundling items like luggage, seat assignments and even the ability to print a boarding pass from the price of a ticket.

Ben Baldanza, Spirit’s CEO, has this endearing, “Who me?,” response when he’s asked about the way his tickets are advertised and priced. I like Baldanza, but I do not like the complaints I get about his airline. Nor do I like the way his partners – the online travel agencies that advertise and sell Spirit tickets – collude with him to dupe passengers into paying more.

Patel found what he thought was a terrific deal on his ticket through Kayak, a meta-search engine that looks for low fares across numerous sites.

“I was never told about any abnormal baggage fees that Spirit Airlines charges,” recalls Patel. “Therefore, I packed as I normally would for any other flight: a personal item – a laptop – and a carry-on bag with clothes.”

(Actually, Spirit’s website is pretty upfront about its fees, but not everyone reads its disclosure.)

When he arrived at the gate … well, you know what happens next, don’t you? A Spirit ticket agent told him the airline only allows a “personal item” for “free” and that he would have to pay for the extra bag. But good news! If he called now and paid by phone, it would only cost $30 instead of $100.

“I obliged and paid the fee so I could board,” he says.

Patel believes that since the airline didn’t inform him of the fees before his flight, he shouldn’t have been charged. And he was determined not to make the same mistake again, so on his return flight, he packed light.

“I left most of my clothes I had brought along at home to avoid being charged again,” he says. “I packed only a few things, along with my laptop, in a small duffel bag.”

But this time, Spirit took a harder line. The duffel would cost him $100, even though he could easily fit it under his seat.

A Spirit ticket agent gave Patel an ultimatum: Either pay $100 or miss his flight.

“Never have I been disrespected by a customer service representative, who I was nothing but polite to. I had no choice but to pay the fee so I could board.”

Patel wrote a brief, polite email to Spirit after his flight, requesting a refund, but you can probably guess what it did. That’s right, it sent him a form denial.

At this point, half of you are probably thinking: Well, that’s what you get for flying on Spirit. One or two of you (see comments) will come to the airline’s defense, saying that you shouldn’t have to subsidize Patel’s carry-on luggage.

But others will see this the way I do: Patel is being punished for wanting a good deal on an airline ticket and he was deceived, first by Kayak’s inadequate disclosure, and then by Spirit’s confirmation and subsequent verbal assurances that a single carry-on would fly “free.”

Personally, I think a la carte pricing is essentially a deceptive business practice, at least the way it’s done by airlines. Sure, in-the-know passengers can travel at considerable discounts, but the average air traveler – the Vash Patels of the world – pay a high price for air travel. Don’t believe me? Have a look at Spirit’s earnings, thanks very much.

Companies should not be allowed to build their business around fooling their customers. If Patel’s story is to be believed, then Spirit hoodwinked him and then held his return flight hostage until he paid another $100. I’m seriously thinking of getting involved in this case, even though Spirit appears to be crystal-clear about its luggage policies.

Should I mediate Vash Patel's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • Dutchess

    Wait, so he got burned once then didn’t even BOTHER going to Spirit’s website to see the baggage charges?

    Seriously, the link is on THE FRONT PAGE

    http://www.spirit.com/OptionalServices

    If he had even taken a moment to look at their website at very least he would have seen the fee for carryons could be paid before getting to the gate.

    Don’t take this case, you’re rewarding lazy consumers.

  • y_p_w

    I rather like their model. I flew on Spirit in the past half year. They not only charged for carry on, but it was more than for one check in piece. They did have a very low 40 lbs, but I was over that by one lb and the counter agent actually let it slide. There were few people with carry on, and they were strict that any personal item must go in front. So that meant few passengers blocking the aisles or fighting over bin space.

    I understand why people detest it when they didn’t make it out well. I would guess that Mr. Patel probably spent less than he would have for a different airline.

  • y_p_w

    I’d add these days it’s incumbent on the passenger to affirmatively find out what the fees are along with the size weight limits. I would never assume, and even check before finalizing the purchase.

    Frankly every airline is different. The legacy carriers now have an official 22″x14″x9″ limit, where a typical 20″ carry on with wheels is 22.5″x14.5″x7.5″. It’s almost like they’re playing gotcha, although they haven’t typically been known to take out a tape measure. Southwest and the big regional airlines are at the traditional size.

  • bodega3

    I find this article to be so full of spin that it is hard to even start. Kayak isn’t a booking agent. Kayak will show fares and they provide an OTA to book the flights with. I just went to Kayak and I had to specifically ask for Spirit as it isn’t the first carrier to be shown since they don’t fly nonstop for the OP’s routing. I picked some Spirit flights and right below the ticket price is:
    All prices in USD
    Additional baggage fees and options service fees may apply.
    This is BEFORE I got past the first page. Sounds like Mr Patel is a college student and since he left his clothes ‘at home’ before his return flight to Boston. In fact, there is a Vash Patel who attends Harvard. Pretty scary if this is the OP.
    If you take this on Chris, you will be falling into the dumb pool with Mr Patel. Are you sure this isn’t a college prank being played on you?

  • bodega3

    Mr Patel is trying to pull the wool over Chris’ eyes on this one. The information is there for all passengers to read. If you google the OP’s name and Boston, you will find he attends Harvard. If a Harvard student can’t figure this out, maybe he should attend Yale!

  • bodega3

    I agree and I think this is a college prank from a dumb Harvard student!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I think this falls under the rubric, Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me. I cannot get over Mr. Patel failing to check the website on the return flight.

  • FQTVLR

    Do not waste your time mediating this one. The big issue here is personal responsibility and Mr. Patel seems to be lacking it. With almost all airlines charging fees for a variety of services most passengers check out the fees before booking. Like bodega3 said the information is all over Spirit’s site. And Kayak is simply a search engine–it is not a booking site and only gives fare information.

  • sirwired

    After he was charged baggage fees the first time, you’d think he would specifically check for baggage fees the 2nd time.

    In any case, Spirit prides itself on it’s customer-hostile attitude; mediation would be futile.

  • TonyA_says

    Could this just be karma for a member of the Patel Motel Cartel?

  • TonyA_says

    Sounds like his folks should get a refund from Harvard.

  • TonyA_says

    Here’s how Vash Patel describes himself at the Seeking Alpha stock trading blog.

    I’m a recent graduate of biotechnology from Penn State. I study stocks and options in my free time. I initially started researching the market and how to invest during my freshman year at Penn State to see if it was possible to pay for school by investing. Researching one thing lead to learning another and the domino affect led me to spend most of my free time in front of a computer reading something or other about financials. I started by looking at analyst ratings to look at which stocks would perform well and it didn’t take long for me to figure out that analysts are wrong more often than not. This led me to research how to value a company intrinsically, and how to read technicals and fundamentals to gauge performance. Eventually my research led to learning about FOREX and stock options, which I had initially thought weren’t for me.A couple years and here I am writing on SeekingAlpha. As always, I understand the risks and I will make sure to outline them for my readers in each article to make sure you get everything out of them that you possibly can.

    I know it’s only 7am in New York City and I have not had a cup of Joe yet. Anyone else here smelling the coffee?

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Spirit’s website is VERY CLEAR about the baggage fees. Since the norm is for airlines to charge baggage fees, a reasonable person would have checked the airlines website to see what the fees are. I have ZERO sympathy here because the customer wants it both ways. Spirit is able to offer low fares because they charge extra for pretty much anything. This guy wants the super low base fare AND the extras for free. In other words, he believes he deserves special treatment and wants something for nothing.

    As for Kayaks disclosure…Kayak is a search engine, not an OTA. They don’t actually sell the ticket, they link to the airlines site where the ticket is offered. So Kayak doesn’t have the normal burden to disclose every little fee, like an airline or OTA does.

    I also seriously doubt that he was “nothing but polite” to the customer service representative. In my personal experience, and what I’ve seen from traveling, customers frequently become very irate and demeaning when they are informed of extra costs they didn’t adequately plan for. They believe that by screaming and demeaning the CSR, they will get their way. I have no problem believing that happened here.

  • omgstfualready

    Yet again….which is it?

    Start of story: Actually, Spirit’s website is pretty upfront about its fees, but not everyone reads its disclosure.

    End of story: …Patel is being punished for wanting a good deal on an airline ticket and he was deceived, first by Kayak’s inadequate disclosure,…

  • John Baker

    Chris … I think you’re being used. I went through the entire booking process except for entering the credit card information. You can’t complete the process without going through a screen that clearly indicates, and tries to get you to add, the charges for both a carry-on and a checked bag. So, it goes beyond ignoring a link or some footnote. There’s an entire page dedicated to just this.

    It is possible that Spirit changed their booking process between the time him booked and I check but considering that their entire business model is driven by this, I doubt it.

  • MarkKelling

    Kayak used to just link you to the actual airline’s web site when you clicked on a flight. But I just went there and when I selected a flight, the next page opened up and asked for all of my traveler details including credit card for payment. Sure looks like it is selling the ticket to me.

  • Doug Marshak

    The only reason I think it’s worth taking this case is the inconsistency in how Spirit applied its policy. They offered to let him phone in the payment for $30 on the first trip, then hit him up for $100 on-site on the second without recourse. The customer at least should have had the option to pay the $30 by phone the second time. And if Spirit’s rep made a mistake on the first flight, then you honor the $30 option on the second flight and advise the customer that the first rep made an error, and in future cases there will be a $100 fee. That would be the appropriate way to have handled this situation.

  • Stereoknob

    Does anyone like the way Spirit operates? I don’t think anyone does. I will not fly Spirit for any reason. This guy learned a lesson and shouldn’t be compensated for being lazy. Read the rules next time, act like an adult and be prepared.

  • James Gerber

    Shame on you. First, Kayak doesn’t do the booking. You wind up on Spirit’s website where the fee is disclosed right under the fare. Except for Southwest, every airline charges for luggage and some other things that should be in the advertised fare so Patel should have checked to see the all-in fare and paid up front to avoid the punishing last minute charge. I kind of like Spirit’s way of doing things because that way, you board faster as you don’t have to wait for people struggling with two carry on’s to avoid the checked bag fee. The onetime I used Spirit, I had a great time. Unlike United, American, and USAir, they were thoroughly professional and did what they promised, They treated me and my wife with respect and unlike other airlines,had a wheelchair available on both ends of both flights.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I did the exact thing you did before reading the comments. Spirit wasn’t even the cheapest airline on the Boston to Atlanta route, so it took me several “Next page” clicks to get to Spirit’s airfares!

  • Daniepwils

    In this day and age you need to go to the airlines website and READ… it isn’t like they are hiding it. And has this poor guy been living under a rock. Everyone knows how Spirit Airlines operates…

  • http://woofwoofmama.com/ Woof Woof Mama

    Spirit is very clear about the fees during the booking process on their site. You can’t complete your order without getting past the part where they show you the baggage price options and you choose to pay now or pay later for however many bags you plan to take. If booking on Kayak means that the customer wasn’t shown that at time of booking, then that is the fault of Kayak’s booking engine, not the airline and he should be upset with them, not Spirit. It would be like booking through a travel agent, and them not advising you of all the fees up front.

  • Thomas Ralph

    Choose a bargain-basement airline and you need to follow its rules. The guy was cut some slack on the outbound flight (charged $30 instead of $100), still chose not to comply with the carry-on baggage limit coming back, and now wants a refund? The only appropriate place for this to be filed is cylindrical (and not a Mac Pro).

  • Michael__K

    What are you claiming he didn’t check for the return flight?

    Kayak quoting Spirit:

    Carry-On (if it does not fit under seat): $35 at booking, $45 at online check-in, $50 at kiosk/desk, $100 at boarding

    kayak(dot)com/airline-fees?precheck=NK

    Chris:

    The duffel would cost him $100, even though he could easily fit it under his seat.

  • S363

    Chris, I don’t think you should mediate, because any traveler knows, or should know, about Spirit. But you should continue to vigorously publicize how bad Spirit is. If we’d all just say NO to Spirit, they’d be forced to change their policies. Unfortunately, unwise people continue to be duped into flying them.

    Sadly, I see Frontier, a formerly pretty nice airline with good service out of DEN, heading in that same direction. Don’t fly Frontier, either, people, until they change.

    Let’s all reward Southwest for the way they do business by flying them! Baggage fees and change fees are enough of a ripoff, let alone charging for a drink of water.

  • Michael__K

    Did you read the baggage policy that you linked?

    We allow one free personal item per passenger on every flight (e.g. purse, small backpack, etc.)

    Personal item: (e.g. purse, small backpack, etc.) dimensions must not exceed 16 x 14 x 12 inches (40 x 35 x 30 cm) including handles and wheels.

    Chris:

    The duffel would cost him $100, even though he could easily fit it under his seat.

  • Helio

    The duffel easily fits under his seat doesn’t necessarily means it matches the size requirements…

  • MarkKelling

    Frontier still hasn’t changed much in the direction of Spirit, yet, so I still enjoy flying them. As soon as they do start acting like Spirit, I will stop flying them.

    The only thing I noticed them doing recently is actually using the carry on bag sizer at the gates and not allowing oversized bags on the plane. This I like.

  • Fred Rupert

    Sounds to me like the compressed duffle would be a person item, especially since it fit under the seat in front of him.

  • Michael__K

    Sure… but everyone is assuming he didn’t read the policy and that he deserved to be charged $100… when there is no information provided in Chris’ article to support that conclusion.

  • Michael__K

    Do you know the exact dimensions of the OP’s duffel bag?

    No?

    And yet you claim Spirit’s website is “very clear” AND you believe that a fee is automatically due on Spirit for any duffel bag that fits under a seat?

  • S363

    Apparently James Gerber, right below this, does. I personally agree with you – I would never fly Spirit. I will stick with Southwest, as I very much like how they do things. I’ll even pay a little extra (not often necessary), for the good service and in the interest of rewarding with my business the Southwest model. On Southwest you don’t “have to wait for people struggling with two carry on’s to avoid the checked bag fee” because there isn’t one! (BTW as a grammar purist I disapprove of the apostrophe in that quote from Mr. Gerber.)

  • ctporter

    There is just NO excuse for this guy. He was savvy enough to go online and search for a flight. The flight he found actually took some doing. To NOT know about luggage fees of any sort after doing online searches is not possible. To disagree with the amount of the charge is one thing, but the proper response to that is to not choose that airline. To try to dispute the charge after the fact when told of it in advance is ridiculous. So, he had to know about the charges when he purchased the tickets. He also knew about the charges when he made his outbound trip, why does he think he should be absolved of all responsibility for his return flight? (btw, was his laptop and the small duffle were both supposed to fit under the seat in front of him? how does one bag plus one equal one bag?)

  • emanon256

    Patel is being punished for wanting a good deal on an airline ticket and
    he was deceived, first by Kayak’s inadequate disclosure, and then by
    Spirit’s confirmation and subsequent verbal assurances that a single
    carry-on would fly “free.”

    No good deal goes unpunished. Sadly, this is always the case everywhere, not just with travel. In today’s market, people want the cheapest option, and the cheapest options is not always what the people expected and/or ends up costing more. Also, when was the OP given a verbal assurance that one bag would fly free? Spirit clearly states a personal item such as a small backpack or purse is free, not that any one bag is free. A duffel bag is clearly not a purse or small backpack. I believe the OP was trying to game the system with 1 duffel bag.

    I don’t doubt that the OP didn’t read the statement, even though it’s displayed prominently and he was told about it before his return flight. However, I am still voting no on mediation as all Spirit did was follow its disclosed policy. I am not a fan of Spirit, and wont’ fly them, even if they cost less for this very reason among others.

  • Helio

    Usually we have few pieces of information missing in the cases, some important, some nog.

    I tend to assume that the missing information may prejudice the OP. In this case, he told he packed light, but he could be using a regular 20″ carry on, which is in on the edge for legacy airlines, but it is considered large for Spirit.

  • flip44

    Absolutely take on this case, if for no other reason than to give more publicity to the erroneous practices of Spirit in filling their pockets on the backs of customer’s angst.
    Their luggage restrictions seem more horrendous now. I flew Spirit with a backpack and Manpack and was not charged. However, the experience of sitting in the airport as every
    take-off time was pushed from 1:30 to 4:30 to 8:30, and three hours later cancelled (and a $75 rebooking fee). That happend both times on a R/T. The debilitating effects on body and mind, plus lost days, is not worth saving a few bucks. It is just not worth flying Spirit, EVER!!
    A lot of comments here on blaming Mr. Patel. Yes and No. This is not only about baggage, but more about an airline holding a passenger “hostage” until they squeeze every dollar from a customer that has no choice if they want to continue a flite. You can fly Spirit and be, “Penny wise and pound foolish.” I will gladly pay a higher fare and arrive on time, relaxed, and sane!

  • nyctraveler

    The OP should not be rewarded for not doing his homework. Everyone knows that Spirit is the airline leader in charging you extra for everything. It’s precisely why I avoid them like the plague. Southwest and JetBlue are the only airlines that still include a free checked bag with your ticket, plus 2 carry-on items. These days you always have to read the fine print on additional fees before buying an airline ticket. And if you don’t, then buyer beware.

  • emanon256

    I am still so sad by what has happened to Frontier.

  • Helio

    The guy says he wants to pay his studies investing, which means he needs to check everything in order to make the best business decision possible. And he didn’t read the fine print for his ticket?!?

  • TonyA_says

    I love this – No good deal goes unpunished. ROFL

  • Michael__K

    It’s interesting that none of the comments disparaging the OP even admit to making any assumptions.

    It’s as if they don’t think the size of the bag even matters, even after reading Spirit’s crystal clear policies…

  • http://www.jeffkolkerart.com Jeff Kolker

    When there are missing facts, as may be some in this case, I generally side with the consumer. After all, this is a consumer advocacy site. Right?

    But in this case I voted no only for the fact that I think trying to get a refund from Spirit is like trying to take food from a rabid dog. I just don’t think it’ll work.

  • Helio

    Please remember the first time he had the carry on AND a laptop, and – I hope – he kept the laptop and checked the carry on. I also hope that the laptop isn’t no larger than 16x14x12″, matching Spirit carry on requirements.

    In the second time, he had only the carry on, with no real information about its size (he duffel could easily fit it under his seat isn’t exactly accurate). It may be larger that Spirit requirements, and the rest of the story…

  • TonyA_says

    Even though he could easily fit it under his seat.
    Isn’t that an assumption? Even Chris ain’t god and all knowing :)

  • Mel65

    Actually, this is the only part i’m confused about. Why was it different on the way home? If I pay x dollars on the way out, I would assume I’d pay x dollars on the way back, assuming it’s the same or smaller/less baggage. But, if he was offered the option to “call and pay” on his outbound and didn’t figure he’d have to do that on his way back to lessen his cost, that’s on him.

  • Michael__K

    No, that’s not assumption, it’s an assertion.

    You are free to continue to claim that every single assertion in any of Chris’ articles that doesn’t match your predetermined narrative is a lie. And then we don’t have to worry about the possibility that any carrier ever fails to follow its own rules. Because that obviously is guaranteed to never ever happen.

  • Carchar

    I almost always say mediate, ’cause you never know. I did in this case too.

  • TonyA_says

    You are free to believe that everything written in Chris’ articles are indeed FACTS :-)

    I guess you didn’t read the case of the woman and her sister who attended the funeral in DeRidder.

  • Doug Marshak

    The story indicated he had a laptop bag (his personal item) and carry-on bag for the first flight, and was charged $30 to bring the carry-on bag on board as a fee. Yes, I know Spirit lists this, and I don’t have a problem with that so much. However, on the second flight he stashed his laptop in a small duffel that he said would fit under the seat- just like the laptop bag on the first flight- and no second carry-on, and was charged $100 for the duffel. First flight, bag and personal item, $30. Second flight, personal item only, $100.

    Even if you call the duffel on the second flight a carry-on, he should have been permitted to do the $30 option. That’s inconsistent application of the policy and warrants a complaint about fairness. He purposely put the laptop in a duffel thinking this would be his one “personal item.” I have no issue with Spirit calling it a carry-on and charging a fee, but he should have been given the $30 option.

    I don’t think he can claim he wasn’t told in advance. Yes, the airline should be more forthcoming in its fees, but Chris often notes that an amazing deal usually isn’t. Most people know about Spirit’s rep, and for those who don’t, they aren’t doing their homework. Nonetheless, if I was in this gentleman’s shoes, I think it would have been within reason to expect that he would not have had to pay more than $30 for the duffel considering his first experience.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    He’s making the same mistake that you are. Erroneously believing that a personal item and carry-on are identical

    Per the Spirit website.

    Personal item:
    (e.g. purse, small backpack, etc.) dimensions must not exceed 16 x 14 x
    12 inches (40 x 35 x 30 cm) including handles and wheels.

    Carry-on bag: Maximum of 22 x 18 x10 inches (56 x 46 x 25 cm) including handles and wheels.

    Had he checked the website he would have seen two distinct definitions and thus realized that his duffel is perhaps a carry on, not a personal item, or would have been on notice to pick up the phone and call to find out if unsure.

    Incidentally, American Airlines, a legacy, also distinguishes between a personal item and carry-on. For the math geeks, a personal item is a subset of the carry-on.

    AA:You can bring one small carry-on bag plus one personal item per passenger

  • John Baker

    UA has started doing the same thing with its own sizewise measuring device

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The problem with that logic is that when business extend a courtesy, some customers will expect that courtesy every time, thus making the business less inclined to bend the rules out of compassion.

    Basically, the end result would be that the first rep should have said, sorry tough luck, pay $100

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The size doesn’t matter in this case. Spirit apparently doesn’t consider a duffel a personal item

  • Guest

    (a) We don’t know the dimensions of his small duffel bag. I already quoted the same limits you quoted from Spirit’s “learn more” page in other comments.

    (b) If he booked starting from Kayak he would have seen the baggage terms I quoted.

  • TonyA_says

    as·sert
    : to state (something) in a strong and definite way

    : to demand that other people accept or respect (something)

  • Doug Marshak

    No argument with that logic. Had the initial rep charged $100, then the customer doesn’t have a case here.

    But that’s not what happened. The customer was given the impression that he could pay $30 for a carry-on. This isn’t a case of “compassion.” It’s a case of uniform policy application by the company. It’s OK to change how policy is applied, but then you have to inform the customer there is a change. That did not happen here.

  • Michael__K

    If that’s true then they’re not following their written policy…

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The dimensions don’t help the OP. If it’s not considered a personal item (admittedly a warm and fuzz term), then it doesn’t matter. To my attorney ears, that’s what the problem here. Not that it didn’t fit or not fit under the seat, but rather Spirit doesn’t give duffel bag to be a personal item, which is a defensible position if personal item has the implication of daily use.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    But that’s the rub. You are arguing against ever bending the rules for a customer. No waivers, no favors?

    Uniform policy application = no compassion

  • Hanope

    I rarely find any airline matching Southwest’s prices (not to mention service). Just checking Spirit on a trip I’m taking this summer to compare with my Southwest tickets. Same price for the ticket, but would actually be a much longer flight (longer layover and arriving the following morning rather than the night before), plus, of course, all the extra Spirit fees. I suppose there might be times/places that don’t work as well as Southwest, but that is always my ‘go-to’ airline.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Which policy?

  • bodega3
  • TonyA_says

    I don’t need a Harvard degree to understand this picture (from Spirit).

  • kiester66

    I flew Spirit February of this year. I pre-paid for one checked bag and one carry-on bag. When I got to the ticket counter the day of my flight the agent took a look at my checked bag and questioned why I paid since it could fit under the seat (for free). The agent said she’d have the carry-on bag fee refunded to me. Surprisingly, the free was refunded back to my credit card. Yes, this from Spirit…Shocking!

  • Michael__K

    I don’t see the distinction between a “small duffel bag” and a “small backpack, etc.”

    If the OP satisfied the written criteria in Spirit’s policy, then IMO Spirit deserves to be shamed and the OP deserves a refund.

    Even if you disagree, the facts at hand do not demonstrate that the OP didn’t read the policy.

  • TonyA_says

    We allow one free personal item per passenger on every flight (e.g.
    purse, small backpack, etc.), and we charge for carry-ons and checked bags.
    Understanding the TYPE of an object that qualifies for a free personal item is the key.

  • Doug Marshak

    I didn’t say that. I said in this particular case the company did not uniformly apply its policy, leading to the customer expecting a certain level of service for a specific cost. The cost then changed without providing him (a) notification that it had changed or (b) advising him that the first rep had erred.

    It’s up to each individual company to decide when to waive policy to be compassionate. Yes, when you waive policies, you get the next person saying, “But you did it for the last guy!” That’s a company decision with consequences that they have to consider.

    I think trying to sell a waiver here on the basis of “compassion” is a reach. There were not any extenuating circumstances… the customer is upset about the cost of bring a bag on the plane. Spirit does tell people there is a cost for this.

    But that cost shouldn’t change from flight to flight based on the attitude of the gate attendant. The issue of customer expectations and compassionate are completely exclusive in this specific example.

  • Michael__K

    We allow one free personal item per passenger on every flight (e.g. purse, small backpack, etc.),

  • Michael__K

    So you claim that a passenger who brings aboard (only) a small backpack which does not exceed 16 x 14 x 12 inches (40 x 35 x 30 cm) on a Spirit flight should be charged for a carry-on?

    Or do you claim that a laptop and/or any clothing does not qualify as a personal item (and if so, where is that disclosed?)

  • Dutchess

    I’m sorry but duffel that could easily fit under the seat does NOT necessarily equal falls withing spirit’s personal item threshold.

  • Tigger57

    I don’t know why you would bother helping someone who was to lazy to read the information on Spirit Airlines website. Spirit makes no secret of their ridiculous charges. You should concentrate on people that are unjustly screwed by the airlines. This was his own fault

  • Steve Trizis

    What ever happened to personal responsibility. I learned a long time ago, Price, service, Quality, pick any two. Seems like a lot of people grew up entitled, thinking they’re are special, and deserve all three. They want it cheap, expect stellar service, and expect everything to be perfect. Well, it’s not going to happen, and if I were you Chris, I would stop accepting complaints like this. I’ve flown Spirit, and had zero problems. I don’t fly them anymore, because it’s too confusing to figure out what the end price is going to be after all their charges are added, same with Allegiant. People need to vote with their wallets(like fly Southwest, even if it’s a few pennies more), and the airlines will change their behaviors.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Where does it say duffel bag is a personal item. That is an assumption on your part.

  • Helio

    You just missed the part:

    (Size and weight limits for all bags.)

  • bodega3

    Yes it does. The policy, which I provided in an earlier post, does say they many charge a passenger if they find the size to not meet their allowance. A passenger is allowed ONE personal item and they charge for a carry on. He brought his laptop, so that met his personal item allowance. Are you saying a Harvard student can’t read and follow rules, so should be exempt?

  • HHNCARRIE

    I have flown Spirit a few times. EVERY time I measured my personal item to make sure it adhered to their guidelines. EVERY time, I was able to take on my small backpack which fit their guidelines for FREE. I paid the $35 to checkin a bag. Had no problems any of the times I have flown. I have however seen someone like Mr Patel who wanted to take on a bag that didn’t fit their guidelines and Spirit charged them. This idiotic woman held up the plane for 15 minutes cause she didn’t want to pay. Finally Spirit said pay or we will escort you off the plane. She paid. She had NO argument. Their policies are super easy to find. Theu make it super easy to pay online. If you cannot measure a bag – how stupid are you? Good for Spirit. I side with them 1000%

  • bodega3

    Have you read the policy? Only ONE personal item goes onboard for free. A carry on get charged a fee.

  • Michael__K

    Have you read the article you are commenting on?

    He had Only ONE small duffel bag. Do you know it’s exact dimensions?

    “I packed only a few things, along with my laptop, in a small duffel bag.”

  • Helio

    In this case, we don’t know the duffel’ size.

  • Michael__K

    So you claim a “small backpack, etc.” does not include a “small duffel bag?” And that is “very clear?”

  • bodega3

    Michael, it doesn’t matter. He only gets one free item. He brought two.

  • Michael__K

    Carver is saying the size doesn’t matter, and Tony is liking those comments and implying the same thing.

  • Michael__K

    Not according to Chris’ article.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Here’s an interesting story about Spirit and the way it adds fees, which I should have included in this post.

    This candid quote from Ben made me do a double-take:

    “We know some customers are surprised by our unbundled, a la carte model and that creates some complaints.”

  • bodega3

    “Therefore, I packed as I normally would for any other flight: a personal item – a laptop – and a carry-on bag with clothes.”

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You can’t have it both ways. You cannot make an assumption when it suits you, then fall back on what is explicitly stated when it doesn’t

    You cannot assume that a duffel equates to small backpack, when its not explicitly stated, but then object when someone assumes, based on the OPs actions, that he didn’t read the website.

    But, even if the OP read the website, then he assumed that the duffel would be a personal item. That was his error. He should have called and confirmed. Either, it’s his bad.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You cannot mix different folks arguments. But let me be explicit as different responses to different posts focus on different items.

    There are two criteria

    1. Type
    2. Size

    Is #1 (TYPE) was not a criteria, there would be no reason to distinguish between a personal item and carry-on.

  • Michael__K

    does NOT necessarily

    It does NOT necessarily fall outside Spirit’s threshold…. But you were certain that the OP is lazy and deserved to be charged regardless.

    that’s a HUGE AND a duffel bag

    Pure speculation unsupported by Chris’ article.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Lol. Sorry, you don’t get to put words in my mouth, or define what I’m saying. Lawyer trick 101.

    I am saying that you assume at your risk.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Your assumption is duffel = small back pack. After being “burned” on the outgoing flight, prudence dictates that assumptions are a bad idea with Spirit. Call and find out. Don’t assume.

  • omgstfualready

    Southwest’s prices are comparable to most other airlines (at least where I live), even when I add on the $25 r/t early check in option since I can have the option to check a bag or not. If I am checking a bag I may not buy the early check in but if I know I am carrying on I want to be sure to have the space. But they are not facing the legacy issues of the other airlines (outrageous union contracts, bad fuel contracts, etc etc). As more mergers occur Southwest and whomever is left will be more on the same footing as far as those operational costs. However Southwest’s process of choosing smaller places to fly to/from will continue to keep their costs down as the gate fees are much more attractive than bigger cities (just look at New York – you won’t find Southwest at LGA or JFK, they are further out on Long Island potentially costing you a ton in taxi fare if your goal is to go to the city. But if you lived there how awesome is it to have another carrier option! And Southwest can continue to match the other fares and have a bag free and still make more profit on the ticket price.

  • bodega3

    This is all silly. He had a laptop which was his free personal item. Anything else would cost him.

  • omgstfualready

    I would like more carriers to enforce the rules on bag size/weight. I would like more people to learn to put the wheels out on the overhead to make things fit better. I would like people to understand physics just a bit better to understand their bag hanging out of the bin will not allow the bin to close and not just shrug and walk away. I would also like people to be able to lift their own bag. Barring an injury/age it seems many women simply assume someone will help them. As a woman frequently traveling alone I make damn sure I can lift my own bag for myself and not assume others will help me, or worse, have to ask! Off topic but that’s my rant for the day (I hope).

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    We see it fundamentally different.

    There is no suggestion that the policy changed. In fact, most airlines, including Spirit, grandfather old tickets so that the old rules when you bought the ticket apply.

    This is a simple matter that the first agent exercised his discretion in allowing the OP to call and get the cheaper fee. The second agent declined to exercise such discretion and enforced the rules.

    I called it compassion because the OP is a “poor student” and as such may have gotten a break from the first agent.

  • omgstfualready

    It is consistent. Spirit charges $100 at the gate. His $30 was for doing it in advance. Which is their price for doing it online in advance (could have been $26 if he did it at the actual time of booking his flight).

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    This man has no problems with a women, or anyone else for that matter, asking for help lifting a bag.

    Except when I held a door open and was cursed for doing so.

    :-0

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    In fairness to Michael, I read it that everything was in the duffel, including the laptop

  • Doug Marshak

    So why was he not offered the $30 price the second time? The first time he got to the airport and was advised he could call in and do it, instead of paying the $100 fee… he was apparently not permitted to do this when he arrived at the airport the second time? How do you see that as “consistent” application of policy?

  • omgstfualready

    They didn’t bend any rules. I went to their very clear and obvious chart for pricing listed on the home page of their website called bag prices. Tons of options on when you pay and how much it will be. Paying when you book is $26, paying after booking but before the flight is $30, paying at the gate is $100. Also the dimensions are a click away (personal item 16x14x12), they don’t say ‘fits under the seat’ as a size like the OP would like. Anyway no compassion needed for this OP, crisis averted! ;-)

  • Helio

    Each time I return here and read more about this case, I believe this guy tried to gamble, lost his bet, and now are trying to avoid his loss.

    The first time, he had a laptop and a (let’s assume) an stuffed duffel. The gate agent noted the OP was an student (2nd assumption), he tried to be nice, he bend the rules and allowed the OP to call CustomerService and buy the cheaper carry on fee.

    Now it’s time to flight back. let’s imagine OP isn’t savvy (which contradicts his ability to enroll Harvard, but I’m assuming he is a Harvard student), he solely understand for the previous gate agent he could only carry one item, and packed accordingly. But… if he packed lighter than before, he must know his duffel was larger than the allowed size. Even if you are able to compress it, its standard dimensions remain the same.

    He probably know it, but instead of buy an earlier carry on fee, he decided to go to the gate, try to board with one pack, and when the gate agent told him that his duffel was larger than the allowed size, and asked for the $100, he tried to buy the cheaper one by phone, and the gate agent denied it. OP probably argued the other gate agent had allowed, he have rights, bla bla bla, and…he pissed off the last gate agent.

    3rd assumption: he is the guy who intends to pay his studies investing.
    Economics 101: previous results or performances don’t assure similar future results. Corollary in Gamble 101 (or Statistics 101, your choice): If you have tail in a coin flip, it doesn’t mean you will always have tails.
    Corollary in this case: if someone bends the rules for you once, it doesn’t means everybody will bend the rules.

  • Helio

    Question: how small is this duffel bag? We don’t know!!!

  • omgstfualready

    The first time the agent suggested he CALL and pay so it would be $30 which agrees to their policy price. The 2nd time he paid at the gate which is $100.

  • Guest

    If he called now and paid by phone, it would only cost $30 instead of $100.

  • TonyA_says

    Kayak is now an e-whore for Vayama and Airfare dot com and maybe another OTA.

  • Michael__K

    What assumption did I make?

    I pointed out to those who assert that the OP didn’t read Spirits’ (“very clear”) policy and who assert that the OP was rightfully charged, that we don’t have enough information from the article to conclude either of those things.

    You’ve asserted that the size is irrelevant.

    I’ve stated that I don’t see any distinction between “a small duffel bag” and “a small backpack, etc.“, if it meets the dimension requirements. Your mileage may vary.

  • Helio

    According to the text, no:

    “I was never told about any abnormal baggage fees that Spirit Airlines charges,” recalls Patel. “Therefore, I packed as I normally would for any other flight: a personal item – a laptop – AND a carry-on bag with clothes.”

    (the upper case are mine)

  • Mark Cuban

    Each airline has different rules for baggage. It isn’t a consolidator’s role to disclose all of the fine print. You “do it yourself” you have to accept some responsibility for doing your due diligence. This is just plain “stupid tax.” Nothing more.

  • omgstfualready

    The dimensions of a ‘personal item’ are very specific and is not ‘fits under seat’ which the OP seems to think is the rule.

  • Helio

    All is speculation. We don’t know the duffel’ size!

  • omgstfualready

    He doesn’t say he’s any good at it, just that he likes to do it. :-)

  • Mark Cuban

    The privileged class. “What,m you’re going to charge me???”

  • Michael__K

    Just for kicks I called Spirit.

    It’s actually fairly challenging to reach a live agent.

    I finally spoke to Ian from Spirit Airlines.

    I asked him if a duffel bag can be used as a personal item.

    He said “yes, as long as it meets the size requirements.”

    I asked him if I can have a laptop bag and a change of clothes in the duffel bag.

    He said “yes.”

  • TonyA_says

    This is what happens when someone cannot differentiate (correctly) between an assumption and an assertion.

  • Michael__K

    For his outbound flight.

    For his return flight he had ONE bag — a small duffel bag.

  • Mark Cuban

    Good, I’m tired of tools bringing on oversized bags and spending five minutes trying to jam them into the overhead.

  • TonyA_says

    What does that prove?

  • bodega3

    He says small, the airline says it is a carryon, therefore the fee. He gambled and lost. Oh well, maybe this Harvard boy has learned a lesson.

  • Doug Marshak

    I think you need to read the story a bit more closely. The first time Chris wrote, “When he arrived at the gate … well, you know what happens next, don’t you? A Spirit ticket agent told him the airline only allows a “personal item” for “free” and that he would have to pay for the extra bag. But good news! If he called now and paid by phone, it would only cost $30 instead of $100.” It would seem he had the $30 option “at the gate” the first time. But when he was “ate the gate” the second time, he was not given that option and was forced to pay the $100 on-site fee.

  • Helio

    I asked him if I can have a laptop bag and a change of clothes in the duffel bag.

    He said “yes.”

    What exactly did you ask? Because reading your text, I can assume that you have a laptop bag and a change of clothes, both INSIDE the duffel bag.

    Did you explicit ask if you can have a laptop bag AND a duffel bag stuffed with clothes? Two different bags as carry on?

  • omgstfualready

    Was that you? Sorry. lol I just don’t like people going through life assuming someone will bail them out. But I’m the ‘personal accountability’ person most of the time on here. Should someone offer assistance I may say ‘thanks, I’ve got it’ or I may say ‘thanks, i appreciate it’ but regardless, barring injury, I’m going to plan on taking care of myself and packing accordingly.

  • Michael__K

    See my other post.

    Just for kicks I called Spirit.

    Ian from Spirit airlines confirmed that it doesn’t matter if I use a duffel bag, a laundry bag, a shopping bag, or anything else. It just has to meet the size requirements.

    And I further confirmed that it was okay to have a laptop in a laptop bag inside the duffel bag with a change of clothes — as long as it meets the size requirements.

  • omgstfualready

    I read it. He didn’t pay the person at the gate. He called Spirit to pay. The 2nd time he did not step away from the gate to call.

  • Michael__K

    Yes. Ian got tired of me asking different variations.

    He stated that all that matters is that the bag being declared as a personal item is within the dimensions.

  • Helio

    And??? We still don’t know the size.

  • Helio

    We have noted… ;-)

  • TonyA_says

    You were correct the first time, IMO.
    On the return leg – “I packed only a few things, along with my laptop, in a small duffel bag.”
    If the laptop and small duffel bag were separate items, then the laptop was the personal item and the duffel bag was the carry-on ($$$).
    If the laptop was inside the duffel bag, then I assume the duffel bag was larger than the size allowed for the personal item ($$$).

  • Michael__K

    So who cares what the policy actually states or what the dimensions of the small duffel bag was? “Harvard boys” must be taught lessons regardless.

  • Helio

    The first time the agent was nice and bend the rules. The second time the agent was correct.

    Being nice is a unconsistency. It doesn’t mean that everybody will be nice.

  • Doug Marshak

    Because he was told he had to pay the $100 or he would not be allowed to board:

    “But this time, Spirit took a harder line. The duffel would cost him $100, even though he could easily fit it under his seat.

    A Spirit ticket agent gave Patel an ultimatum: Either pay $100 or miss his flight.”

    The first agent told him to call, the second one told him he couldn’t board unless he paid $100 right there. You can defend crappy customer service however you want, but that’s inconsistent behavior and is unfair to the customer.

    Regardless of how you or I or anybody else feel about this, I go back to my initial post on this topic… any deal that looks too good to be true probably is. Spirit draws in customers looking for bargain-basement prices and then takes advantage of their inability to recognize the ruse. That’s not all Spirit’s fault. Customers should just be smarter.

    I think Chris should take this case not because he would win the customer a refund… with Spirit’s history, he won’t, because they don’t care what people think of their customer service.

    But it might get Spirit to do a better job of being consistent with its baggage policies… even if it means that the $30 option is only available up until 2 hours before the flight leaves. At least there would be no more gray area on situations like this one.

  • Michael__K

    Who cares what the size is? You’ve all made up your minds regardless of the size.

  • Michael__K

    Is [if?] #1 (TYPE) was not a criteria, there would be no reason to distinguish between a personal item and carry-on.

    Why do you say that?

    They are distinguished by size and by where they must be stowed (under the seat or in the overhead bins).

  • Michael__K

    You disagree with Ian.

  • SoBeSparky

    People who want something for nothing, or close to nothing, deserve exactly what they get…nothing or close thereto.

    No disclosure? Come on. If I buy a stereo from Amazon, I still go to the manufacturer’s website to find out the info about warranty, and detailed specs. If I buy a cruise through an agent, I still go to the cruise lines website.

    1. He was too cheap to use a real travel agent.
    2. He saw an unbelieveable price…compared with the competition. And we all know what the result is if it seems too good to be true.

    A novice, or at least naive, traveler has every obligation to protect themselves by consulting experts before they spend hundreds of dollars. We cannot protect consumers from every exigency if they refuse to find out basic information clearly displayed by the service provider.

  • Helio

    The same assumption I did.

  • Helio

    I care. All the case is based on it. If the bag fits Spirit requirements, I’ll side with OP.

    But so far I have no proof that it is true. As I posted before, this is one of the usual missed pieces of information which is fundamental to evaluate the case. “Small bag” isn’t an objective measurement. The bag has aa x bb x cc inches size is.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I have a bag that will fit under (most) seats in front of me [sometimes there are obstructions] that fits doesn’t fit the “personal item” dimensions. It’s very much like a small duffel bag and measures 20 x 12 x 10 (inches). I use that in lieu of a regular bag, when I’m only gone over a weekend. My laptop fits in it. When I use a carry-on, I use a smaller bag which measures 16 x 12 x 8 fully stuffed as my “personal item”, but I would never call it a “duffel bag”. Too many assumptions going on for us to get into an argument with other people making assumptions. :)

  • Michael__K

    Carver, are we reading the same article?

    Patel is being punished for wanting a good deal on an airline ticket and he was deceived, first by Kayak’s inadequate disclosure, and then by Spirit’s confirmation and subsequent verbal assurances that a single carry-on would fly “free.”

    Moreover, I called Spirit myself and Ian from Spirit Airlines verbally represented to me that only the size of the bag matters.

  • Doug Marshak

    If the rules were bent, then the agent would have had to created an exception to allow him to pay the $30 fee instead. If the guy was able to call in the $30 charge with his cell phone at the gate, that’s not bending the rules. The system allows him to do that. If he couldn’t have gotten the $30 charge without the agent entering some sort of exception into his account, then no rules were bent.

    To me, the second agent was simply being rude by not allowing him to use the phone-in option. If the $30 option was, in fact available, then the second agent refused to allow the customer to use the rules to save him money. That’s not correct… that’s unethical.

  • Helio

    And what is the definition of what is a carry on? Spirit has one, and we don’t know if the OP’s bag meets it or not.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I don’t need a Harvard degree either to research sizes of traditional duffel bags. All are larger than Spirit’s “Personal Item” size. See for example duffelbags dot com. Or Amazon – look at “travel size” duffels. OP should have measured the duffel bag to see if it met “Personal Item” requirements. Period.

  • John Baker

    Yes but you would think that he would have told Chris… “They charged me even though the bag easily fit in the measuring box at the gate” instead of “easily fit under his seat.” In the first case, I would say that Chris should defend him but in the absence of that, I willing to make the assumption that there a reason why he left it out. It did not fit. Especially with him raising a stink at the gate, its too easy for the gate agent to measure it and show him. That’s why he’s using the argument he is instead of the “it fit their dimensions” argument.

  • Helio

    The rule is US$100 at the gate. OP was at the gate. Therefore, the US$100 rule applies.

    The 1st GA was nice, allowed him to call AT THE GATE to save $70. The 2nd GA was correct, and charged OP $100 AT THE GATE as stated in the rules.

    Nothing unethical in this case. If someone was unethical, was the 1st GA with his employer.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Carver, as I have noted before, you are a sweetheart. If I ever run into you and you hold the door for me, I’ll say “Thank you!”.

  • Michael__K

    So you know the dimensions? Or you think the dimensions don’t matter?

    Spirits’ rules are so VERY clear, that some of your esteemed fellow commenters disagree as to whether a small duffel bag smaller than 16 x 14 x 12 inches qualifies as a personal item.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Because, under very basic contract drafting you would call both carry-ons, e.g carry-on under such and such size have one set of requirements, carry-on under such and such size have different requirements. However, different nomenclature, e.g. personal items v. carry-on, is used when the type has changed.

    Consider checked luggage costs: Checked luggage costs are normally purely a function of number, size, and weight.

    But, for example, sporting equipment is specifically delineated and has its own rules. You cannot bring luggage, of the same size, etc as say skis and expect the same exceptions to apply.

  • bodega3

    It is pretty easy to figure this out Michael. Are you a Harvard student, too?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I can’t speak to your phone call to Spirit, but this is simple. You see a personal item and carry on as the same thing. That’s on you. If you allow for the possibility that they may not be the same thing, then you see that comments like the underlined, make no sense.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Thanks. I appreciate it.

  • Helio

    Michael, I believe that for almost everybody, dimensions maters in this case. The problem is… (ok, I won’t repeat myself ;-)

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Yes, but on the return section of the flight it is worded as follows: ““I packed only a few things, along with my laptop, in a small duffel bag.”

    He repacked for the trip back and assuming everything was in the duffel as it says, it’s not clear why that wouldn’t have counted as his personal item. Possibly the duffel was much larger and wouldn’t fit under the seat after the laptop and other items were jammed into it?

  • Helio

    OK, I assumed Carver was talking about the 1st flight. It’s also clear to me that in the return flight OP has everything inside the duffel bag.

  • MarkKelling

    Since Spirit does use measurements to determine what is a “personal item” vs a “carry on item” then the dimensions do help the OP. If the “small” duffel bag does not fit in the personal item sizer at the gate, it is not a personal item on Spirit regardless if it fits under the seat or not.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    What i find interesting is that I don’t believe that the article explains why the duffel was $100. The LW states that it fits under the seat. I take the LW at his word. Presumably there is a carry on sizer at the gate.

    Presumably, the agent told the LW why the $100 was to be charged. I find it interesting that that is not disclosed.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Wow, the poll results are fascinating today. We rarely get such a close vote.

  • MarkKelling

    Depends on what the OP considers “small” vs what the airline considers “small.” If they don’t agree and the duffel does not fit inside the sizer at the gate, it is not small enough to be considered a personal item.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Actually, the real speculation is why the $100 was charged. I’m assuming that it was because the agent didn’t consider it a personal item. I doubt the size was an issue.

    Ian from customer service hasn’t seen the bag and neither have we.

  • DesignIt

    Off topic, but I am loving your avatar, Chris.

  • MarkKelling

    I have a carry on bag that was sold to me with that description when I purchased it many years ago. When traveling on any airline (UA, F9, AA, AC and so on), the bag comfortably fits into the “personal item” sizer at the gate. So which is it?

    To me it is a carry on because it allows me to carry on everything I need to be comfortable on most 2 or 3 day trips I take. But to the airline it is a personal item because of the size.

    Yes, what airlines are referring to as either personal items or carry-ons are the same thing – items you carry onto a plane. But to them, and especially to Spirit, they are very different and may only vary based on physical dimensions.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Thanks!

  • MarkKelling

    And there was much rejoicing … but not by travelers. LOL

    Another web site I will have to avoid. Sad to see this.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s a good point. Different aircrafts have different configurations and under seat storage might vary. The sizer rules.

  • Helio

    The fact the duffel fits under the seat doesn’t imply the duffel meets Spirit’s requirements. This may be the reason for the fee.

  • y_p_w

    However, United/American/Delta have deliberately modified their carry on size to be a half inch more in two dimensions than most carry on sized luggage. They haven’t changed the size of their overhead bins, which vary depending on aircraft.

  • y_p_w

    Dimensions wouldn’t matter since he was already at his one personal item limit with the laptop bag.

  • Helio

    The problem is with the return flight. I’m assuming he stuffed his laptop and his clothes inside the duffel bag this time.

  • Michael__K

    The phrase “personal item” (vs. the phrase “carry-on baggage”) comes from Congress. The airlines didn’t choose that nomenclature.

    It is the sense of the Congress that–
    (3) the Federal Aviation Administration should maintain its current restriction on carry-on baggage of 1 bag and 1 personal item.

    govtrack(dot)us/congress/bills/107/s1447/text

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I’m not tracking what you’re saying, sorry. Is your comment saying that those 3 airlines are now showing larger sized allowances than is standard for a “carry-on”?

    My most recent experience was with United. In that case, I noted that their current allowed carry-on size is somewhat smaller than what was allowed a year ago. I now have 2 sets of “carry-on” luggage – the newest being slightly smaller than the other set. Which means I have a real problem with shoes. (Definitely a First World Problem!)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That bolsters my position in that even Congress sees a distinction between the two.

  • Stereoknob

    Totally agree… I’m a Southwest flier as much as possible. They do a lot of things great! Just have to remember to set the alarm to check in.

  • y_p_w

    I’m saying it’s smaller than it used to be, and they know that many luggage manufacturers were making a standard “carry on” size that was smaller than 24″x16″x9″, but larger than their new standards. A typical 20″ upright spinner adds about 2.5″ with the handle and wheels.

    It’s been assumed that they won’t check if it’s that close or will let it slide. However, I’ve heard of cases where they’ve seen it as a revenue source.

    I remember a day when “we don’t really care that much” was every airlines unofficial motto regarding luggage. They just wanted people quickly and and off the plane. It was also a time when there were two included check in pieces. As long as you weren’t inconveniencing others, it wasn’t a problem. I remember a particular full flight from Las Vegas to Oakland, where I think I had one check in piece and two carry ons that my employer asked me to bring back without checking in. I also had two pretty full shopping bags. They didn’t care.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Wow – that *was* a while back!

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Who is playing the role of “Consumer Advocate Man”? I’m not up on all of the current crop of leading men these days.

  • Michael__K

    The TSA sets the parameters as to what’s allowed as “personal items” (per Congress) — and laptops, clothing, and duffel bags all fit the bill.

    Other than size and a few very specific cases (e.g. pets) the TSA makes no distinction between which items can be packed as “carry-on baggage” or as a “personal item.”

  • bodega3

    Size determines if it is a personal item or a carryon. We have various sized duffel bags here at our house. One is small enough to be considered a personal item size, one has been used as a carry on and another it filled, would have to be checked. ALL airlines give specific. Sad that Harvard students can’t read and figure these things out.

  • Michael__K

    Size determines if it is a personal item or a carryon

    Then why are you arguing with me?

    That’s what I’ve been trying to convince TonyA and Carver….

  • bodega3

    It is you who have been arguing with everyone. Just because his duffel bag can fit under the seat, doesn’t make it a personal item.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Please cite. I suspect that you have 1/2 the story.

  • emanon256

    The quoted rule continues and specifies that the TSA defines what is considered a personal item, and the link to TSA states that a personal item is: “a laptop computer, purse, small backpack, briefcase, or camera case.”

  • Michael__K

    Tell it to your fellow commenters and colleagues who have argued that the dimensions don’t even matter and who think that the OP should have called Spirit to clarify its VERY clear rules.

    Of course the article says the OP *did* receive “verbal assurances” that the small bag on his return flight would be “free.”

    But who cares what the article says when you’re itching to break out Harvard jokes.

  • Doug Marshak

    If the employer allows customers to call from the gate and save $70, then the employer needs to write better rules. If you believe the employee was doing the employer a disservice, you should send in an application to Spirit Airlines… they want people like you!

  • MarkKelling

    Oh but Southwest is at LGA now. And EWR. And many other big airports they used to shun.

    The business model of flying only to the smaller airports near major population hubs worked for Southwest for a long time, but they have run out of secondary airports to expand into and have to go into the bigger ones if they want to continue expanding. While many of their expansions into the larger airports were due to the merger with Air Tran, they are actively searching out available gates at all the major airports they don’t currently serve. This hopefully won’t impact their way of doing business too much and they will remain the fun airline to fly.

  • Michael__K

    Then it sounds like you agree with me that “duffels” aren’t precluded from being personal items if they are small enough?

    Because I replied to this assertion:

    that’s what the problem here. Not that it didn’t fit or not fit under the seat, but rather Spirit doesn’t give duffel bag to be a personal item,

  • bodega3

    Dimensions matter, and in this case, the OP even states that he has:a carry-on bag with clothes.
    A carry on that exceeded the personal item size gets charged regardless if it is 1/2 empty.

  • emanon256

    I’m still confused on the wheels in/wheels out issue and I fly a lot. My bag actually seems to fit better wheels in, though I have seen bags not fit an then fit when turned wheels out. I guess I have never had one of those bags.

    On a recent flight I saw a woman drop her bag in the aisle, tell the flight attendant to store it for her, and she started walking away. he told her that she needs to store the bag herself, she looked shocked and said, “no, that’s his job honey”, and she walked away. Some guy jumped up and put it in the over head bin for her, but I was secretly hoping the bag would get gate checked. BTW, she was in F.

  • Michael__K

    “I packed only a few things, along with my laptop, in a small duffel bag.”

  • MarkKelling

    I do agree that anything you carry onto a plane that fits into the personal item sizer is therefore a personal item no matter what other term can be used to describe that item.

  • omgstfualready

    Thanks for the correction! That’s great news for me (yes, I made this about me).

  • Mark Carrara

    Didn’t I just read this morning that Spirt has the highest number of complaints and the highest profit margin of all US airlines? it seems the business model is don’t worry about the customer, there is a sucker born every minute.

  • omgstfualready

    WOW. The ‘honey’ just makes it 1000 times worse.

    Mine fits better wheels out and it seems when people kinda alternate there is more room to be had. I LOVE (not) the folks that put their stuff in sideways.

  • MarkKelling

    There is also no indication if the small bag he was told would be “free” is one he had with him on the first part of the trip or another different bag he used. In other words, was he told “A small bag (meeting Spirit’s definition of personal item)” would be free or “The specific bag you have with you now” would be free on the return flight.

  • Helio

    Please show where is in the text that the OP got the “verbal assurances” that his bag would be free on the return flight.

    I only found:

    Patel believes that since the airline didn’t inform him of the fees before his flight, he shouldn’t have been charged. And he was determined not to make the same mistake again, so on his return flight, he packed light.

    For your assumption to be true, it may be missing in the end:
    “he packed light, according to the gate agent instructions, guidelines or what ever.”

  • Helio

    They don’t hire in my country.

  • emanon256

    The sideways bag people make me so mad, I seriously get an urge to slap them in the head. Some people get road rage, I get bag rage.

  • MarkKelling

    Similar thing happened on a UA flight last night. Lady in F dragged on two rolling suitcases and threw one into the overhead then sat in her seat. Flight attendant said “what about the other bag” to which the lady replied “put it up for me.” FA said, sorry no, so a guy seated near her jumper up to put the bag up. He could not lift it! It took two men to pick it up at which point the FA said “No way this is going into the bin, it weighs too much and has to be checked.” The lady got extremely excited and started yelling at the FA about there being no way she would be separated from that bag because it was a legal carry on size and she was in 1st and she paid for her ticket with real money. At which point the captain told her to drag her butt and her suitcases off the plane. Still wondering what was in that bag, gold bars?

  • IGoEverywhere

    Please!!!!!!!!!!! This is Spirit, rated the #1 most complaints airline. (undesearvably) You need to read the rules on everything. Mr. Patel needed to read the fine point. No court in the land will back him, nor should you. Customer service is always bad when you lose, and great when they give into the customer.

  • Helio

    In Brazil, the carry on must weight up to 5kg (11pounds).
    Fortunately (or not…), the airlines don’t enforce this rule very often.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Are they making a movie?

  • omgstfualready

    This is exactly my peeve. As a woman I know I will generally have less upper body strength to lift my bag. But I’m also going to pack accordingly and not assume some kind man (or men) will help me. If I saw anyone acting like that I’d likely be unable to keep quiet. .

    Though on a flight between cities in Europe I did have a man (gasp) ask me to hold something for him as he was putting his stuff in the overhead. Then he sat down and buckled up and I had to poke him to hand his things back to him. He was clearly annoyed with me and made a big display out of putting his things under his seat. I made my own point to keep my feet out like a man (men tend to use my foot space since I’m short and don’t naturally splay out).

    I’m going to win the passive aggressive game hands down!

  • y_p_w

    But what’s the size? Here’s AA’s current policy:

    You can bring one small carry-on bag plus one personal item per passenger as long as the carry-on bag fits comfortably in the sizer without being forced and does not exceed overall dimensions of 45 inches (length + width + height).

    The maximum dimensions cannot exceed any of the following measurements: 22″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ tall or 115cm (56 x 36 x 23 cm). All carry-on items should be stowed in an overhead bin.

    And the dimensions of a common “carry on size” spinner available at Costco – the Ricardo Beverly Hills 20″ Dual Wheel Spinner:

    Dimensions:

    Case Dimension: 20″H x 15″W x 9.5″D

    Outer Dimension: 22.5″H x 15.7″W x 9.5″D

  • Michael__K

    You agree with me that “size determines if it is a personal item or a carryon”… but you don’t want anyone to respond to comments which assert otherwise?

    In fact you even LIKE some of the comments that argue that size is irrelevant.

    “The size doesn’t matter in this case. Spirit apparently doesn’t consider a duffel a personal item”

    “Understanding the TYPE of an object that qualifies for a free personal item is the key.”

  • emanon256

    What is that with men? I mean, I am male, and I don’t get it either. So often other men will spread their legs and put their foot in my foot well. Of course when I extend my leg by brushing it up against theirs they usually remove their leg. But I still don’t get why they do it in the first place. I have never put my leg in another persons foot well, it’s their space.

  • http://gspirits.com/ Zod

    I’m a firm believer in personal responsibility. If you don’t know the rules of the game, you shouldn’t play! That being said…I’m *SO* glad that Spirit doesn’t fly out of my local airport!

  • Helio

    Once I was in the second row, and the lady in front of me put her boots under her seat. When I asked her to remove her boots to put my bag inside the seat, she complain that she had rights to use that space because it is under “her” seat…

  • Michael__K

    gpo(dot)gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-111hr2870ih/html/BILLS-111hr2870ih.htm

    gpo(dot)gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2012-title14-vol3/pdf/CFR-2012-title14-vol3-sec121-589.pdf

    packinglight(dot)net/important_tsa_update.aspx

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    My way of saying that the avatar is so good looking that it must be one of the Hollywood A-listers. :)

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    You are too kind!

  • Michael__K

    But others will see this the way I do: Patel is being punished for wanting a good deal on an airline ticket and he was deceived, first by Kayak’s inadequate disclosure, and then by Spirit’s confirmation and subsequent verbal assurances that a single carry-on would fly “free.”

    Let me guess — you’re going to claim that he misunderstood the verbal assurances. And let me say in advance, that’s entirely possible.

    I just think it’s ironic that many of the same people who are itching to bash the OP are repeatedly missing stuff in Chris’ article — even after it’s pointed out.

  • Helio

    I’m not denying his right to fly with one carry for free, since it meets the Spirit’s requirements.

    We don’t know if his bag meets or not these requirements!!!

  • Vec14

    I too would love it if more carriers would enforce the size/weight restrictions (or even get a little stricter like some of the European and Asian airlines). I will admit at one point when I was much younger (ie college) that I would haul a large, heavy carry-on bag on and hope for help. Now I’m at the point I can pack for 4-5 days in a carry-on that will fit under the seat. I’m a petite female – I don’t expect help with my bags, but if you offer, I will say thank you – my biggest issue isn’t their weight, but sometimes getting them up into the overhead bin because of the height.

    Oh, and I don’t mind men holding the door open/opening doors for me – as long as their hands aren’t full (and in that case, I’ll get the door for you).

  • Helio

    The OP didn’t need a verbal assurance to allow him to fly with one carry on for free. It is on the rules.

    What it seems to me that the OP was needing a ruler to measure his bag.

  • Michael__K

    So you actually agree with me, but for some reason, you keep responding to me while you LIKE comments which disagree with both of us and which posit that dimensions are irrelevant for duffel bags…

  • Helio

    First link:

    SEC. 2. CARRY-ON BAGGAGE.

    (a) TSA Regulations.–
    (1) In general.–Not later than 60 days after the date of
    enactment of this Act, and except as provided in subsection
    (c), the Secretary of Homeland Security, acting through the
    Assistant Secretary, Transportation Security Administration,
    shall issue regulations to establish a limit on the size of
    baggage and personal items allowed to be carried by a passenger
    on board an aircraft.
    (2) Carry-on baggage restrictions.–Such regulations shall
    require that each passenger may bring only one carry-on bag and
    one personal item, the dimensions of each, when loaded, shall
    not exceed 56 centimeters in length by 45 centimeters in height
    by 25 centimeters in width (rounded to 22 inches by 18 inches
    (17.75) by 10 inches (9.85)).
    (b) FAA Regulations.–Not later than 60 days after the date of
    enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation
    Administration shall modify section 121.589 of title 14, Code of
    Federal Regulations, to require that the carry-on baggage program of
    each air carrier limits each passenger boarding an aircraft to not more
    than one piece of carry-on baggage and one personal item described in
    subsection (a). An air carrier may establish smaller size limits for
    carry-on baggage and a personal item than the limits set forth in this
    section.

    The bill allows Spirit to set smaller dimensions. In fact, if some airline decides to limit the carry on to a sugar cube size, it will be OK under the law.

    But, without knowing the real duffel size, we don’t know who was wrong – the OP or the 2nd. gate agent.

  • Michael__K

    Methinks you are happy to embrace any excuse to bash the OP.

    Earlier, you were eager to suggest that a laptop inside a duffel bag doesn’t qualify regardless of size, and you thought the OP should have called the airline in advance to ask about this…

  • Michael__K

    Who are you replying to?

    My responses are all in reply to this assertion:

    The dimensions don’t help the OP. If it’s not considered a personal item (admittedly a warm and fuzz term), then it doesn’t matter. To my attorney ears, that’s what the problem here. Not that it didn’t fit or not fit under the seat, but rather Spirit doesn’t give duffel bag to be a personal item

    And:

    I doubt the size was an issue.

  • Helio

    Please quote me. I don’t recall writing it.

    And yes, I believe the OP is wrong in this case.

  • Helio

    It is Carver’s comment, not mine.

  • Sylvia Mason

    I am sick and tired of all of the various airlines, Canadian, American, or Foreign who charge such an exorbitant amount for carry on luggage or overweight luggage. It’s bad enough that they now charge you for 1 bag that is stored, and if that the case, the weight shouldn’t be an issue, as I’m paying to have this piece of luggage stowed, I don’t disagree about carry on baggage, as I remember so many times boarding a flight where people had so many things that they wanted stored in the overhead bins, that then I couldn’t even find a space to stow my overcoat. Yet, the airlines allowed this to happen. I believe that an airline should allow 1 piece of luggage up to a certain size (weight really shouldn’t matter as long as it is under 60 pounds. As well, you should be allowed “free of charge” a bag that will hold medication, which should never be stored in the undercarriage, along with a change of clothing, in case the airline loses or misplaces your checked luggage. That way, there would be room to store our coats and perhaps 1 or 2 bottles of “duty free” liquor! The airlines are being unfair in regards to luggage, have made travel so uncomfortable that it’s surprising that people still want to “fly”!!!! I remember back in the early 60s, 70s, and even 80s, when travelling either domestic or foreign was comfortable – there was room to breath and to at least move your feet around and be able to put your tray down and still have room when the person ahead of you, put their seat into recline mode!!!! We all (with the exception of those individuals who can afford to fly First, or Business Class) want a bargain to get to our final destination, but today, the normal tourist needs to find inexpensive flights in order to be able to have a holiday.

    I’d just like to see the airlines be fair with everyone. The old adage that if you’ve got money you can get whatever you want – while those who work hard everyday and want to be able to take a nice holiday, need to make sure that the airline that is flying them to their destination doesn’t charge them for everything that they bring onto the plane.

    Tired and had enough of these “extras” that the airlines are charging to their passengers.

  • Lindabator

    And the reason for the high charge, was because he did it at the gate instead of ahead of time. (Didn’t learn from his first time, did he?) :)

  • Helio

    May I point you that in the 60’s and 70’s the normal tourists didn’t fly?

    I recently had a discussion some friends that if we are or not in a better situation than our folks. One friend believes yes, because he was able to travel abroad with his wife and kids a couple of times, but when he as a kid his father wasn’t able to do the same, because it was very expensive.

    He just forgot his parents lived in a 5000sq.ft. apartment in a upscale neighbor and they drove luxury cars, while he lives in a 1500sq.ft. apartment and he drives economy cars…

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Sorry, the first cite does NOT define what a personal item is.

    The second cite is a private cite, i.e. someone’s option. That is not authoritative.

    Still waiting for an authoritative statement of what a personal item is

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    like it or not, the Spirits/Ryanairs of this world are the future. GET USED TO IT !!!

  • Michael__K

    It’s not capitalized (as in “Personal Items”). It appears that only capitalized terms are formally defined in a “Definitions” section.

    The FAA states the following with respect to Carry-On Baggage Programs:

    All passenger items brought on the aircraft are to be considered carry-on items regardless of which defined category they fall under (carry-on bag, personal, or exempt items) and are subject to the requirements of 14 CFR part 121.589.

    and:

    When applicable, the operators’ No-Carry-On Baggage programs therefore, must contain information, instructions, and definitions regarding “personal items” and any requirements outside of 14 CFR part 121.589 in their No Carry-On Baggage Programs

    fsims(dot)faa(dot)gov/wdocs/atos%20safety%20attribute%20inspection%20(sai)/3.0%20flight%20operations/3.1%20air%20carrier%20programs%20and%20procedures/sai_3_1_5_o.htm

    I already quoted the requirements of 14 CFR part 12.1.589. If Spirit has additional requirements they need to be affirmatively spelled out and disclosed somewhere.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Aren’t you tired of continually proving my point.

    regardless of which defined category they fall under (carry-on bag, personal, or exempt items)

    There are at least three separate categories: carry-on bag, personal, oandexempt items

    The duffel must fall under personal or exempt in order to be free. Spirit already told us what personal is. Tony posted it. You just disagree believing that a small backpack and duffel are the same. Apparently Spirit (except Ian) disagrees.

  • delivron

    My problem is there site says more at the airport but no price. I often don’t buy until I get to the airport because I some times have products or display materials I take to a trade show. Shame on Spirit I will remember to put them to the bottom of my preferred carriers. But the way I see it at the ticket counter the factor is about 4 times the club price. Also I did not see anything about printing cost for a ticket at the gate in the booking process.

  • Helio

    To Spirit, Personal Item is:

    Personal item: (e.g. purse, small backpack, etc.) dimensions must not exceed 16 x 14 x 12 inches (40 x 35 x 30 cm) including handles and wheels.

    For me, the “etc.” means that anything remotely resembling a bag, and meeting the size criteria, must be considered Personal Item.

  • omgstfualready

    Their homepage states bag prices across the top. Once clicked there is a very clear table of the prices based upon when/where to you buy the service.

  • Michael__K

    “Small backpacks, etc.” is hardly “information, instructions, and definitions” to establish requirements outside of TSA’s or of 14 CFR part 121.589 to restrict properly sized duffel bags.

    TonyA posted a picture of a strap-less bag which looks awfully similar to a duffel bag…

    You and Tony are entitled to disagree.

    I think it’s ironic that you think the OP should have called the airline, and yet it matters not to you what the airline’s representatives tell customers, or that the OP received “verbal assurances” from Spirit regarding a “free” carry-on for his return flight. You don’t need to take my word (or the OP’s) for anything… feel free to contact Spirit independently.

    I also think it’s interesting that Tony’s TA colleague corroborates Ian (“Size determines if it is a personal item or a carryon”) and also scoffs and offers sarcastic Harvard jokes at the notion that Spirit’s rules demonstrating this are anything but “very clear.”

  • teddybeargraham

    after he was screwed the first time, wouldn’t he have gotten onto the web or something to check about this?

    don’t fly spirit is the lesson.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    In order

    1. Spirit did not restrict or otherwise preventing them; they are charging. Huge difference.

    2. Of course it matters what the airlines tell reps. However, as i was not privy to your conversation, I have declined to comment further.

    3. As an attorney, I don’t take anyone’s word for anything. The website is clear that a free carry-on is limited to a personal item. I have had more than one client, most recently last week, who’s memory or understanding of a conversation with an opposing side was proven to be inaccurate.

    4. As far as Tony and his TA colleague, you need to take up any scoffing and/or sarcastic jokes with them.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Just because I have nothing better to do right this moment, I decided to Google Mr. Patel. The absolute #1 result on Google for “Vash Patel Boston” was on “Boston’s Drinking Nerds – Meetup dot com”, where he says this about himself:

    What would you say makes you nerdy? I literally know everything.

    You know, it’s statements like that that make one want to scoff. ;-)

  • Helio

    I don’t know if you are aware that some seats has a kind of foot step or foot support to help people reaching the bins ;-)

  • TonyA_says

    My sister had an inside Japan connection – a JAL codeshare on jetstar – they actually weighed her hand carry, 10kg max.
    They told her to either wear the extra clothes inside or move the rest to her suitcase since they allow 2 x 50 lbs luggage.

    Hong Kong is also very strict. There is a policewoman with a sizer as you walk in the secured area. This forced us to buy smaller hand-carries. The acceptable US sized are really too big for the rest of the world.

  • The_One_Eyed_Jack

    I can understand the displeasure with Spirit’s rather brazen admission that they make money by duping customers, but this particular case does not strike me as an effective one to use to take that issue on. By the return flight, the OP should have known that Spirit has some rather unforgiving baggage fee policies.

    As I see it, the only potential basis for you getting involved is if Spirit failed to follow its own policy. If the OP’s bag on the return flight was within the dimensions for a “personal item”, but they charged him because it was a duffel bag as opposed to a purse or backpack, then Spirit is wrong and they owe him a refund.

    The argument that the style of the bag is somehow relevant, advanced by a couple of others in this thread, is absurd. I see no basis for that in logic or the text of the policy itself. There are 3 classes of bags: personal items, carry-on bags, and checked bags, which are defined by size. A couple of examples are given for illustrative purposes, but there is no indication that this adds a ‘bag type’ requirement or that ‘personal items’ are only limited to backpacks and purses. If a bag is less than 16 x 14 x 12, it matters not whether it’s a purse, handbag, laptop bag, gym bag, duffel bag, or reusable cloth grocery bag. Nor should it. If it really is Spirit’s position that it does, they need to state what types of bags can qualify as ‘personal items’ and which cannot much more explicitly than “(e.g. purse, small backpack, etc.)”

    Even if it is true that the OP did not fully educate himself on Spirit’s policies, Spirit is still bound to follow them.

    However, if it was larger in size than a personal item as defined in Spirit’s policy, then they were well within their rights to charge him, regardless of whether it would fit under the seat or not.

  • Helio

    One good thing of living here is that all airlines are obligated to allow for all int’l flights starting here 2 bags of up to 32kg (70pounds), plus a carry on and a personal item – in economy! :-)

  • Bill___A

    I think you should take cases where people are unfairly treated – for example, if one person is not afforded the same rules as another.

    I don’t agree with how Spirit Airlines does their baggage fees and I wont’ fly them. But to take a case on behalf of someone who is treated the same as anyone else is….what are they going to do?
    A. Say no.
    B. Give him money and then every other passenger will ask for a refund.

    I don’t see this going anywhere.

  • y_p_w

    I flew Spirit last Nov. I carefully measured out my single checked in piece and it weighed 37 lbs on our outbound leg. On the way back we picked up some stuff and shifted around items. I thought we’d be close and it was at over 41 lbs (with their rather low 40 lbs overweight limit). I was prepared to remove one piece of clothing but didn’t have to. The counter agent actually told me it was no problem and let it slide.

  • Cybrsk8r

    “Patel wrote a brief, polite email to Spirit after his flight, requesting a refund, but you can probably guess what it did. That’s right, it sent him a form denial”.

    That’s the most amazing part of this story. That he got a response at all.

  • Michael__K

    1) Sure they did. Personal items are free on Spirit. If they charged for it then they must have restricted it from the personal items category. Yet there is no “information, instructions, and definitions” to document any such restrictions.

    Spirit’s parenthetical list of examples:
    “(e.g. purse, small backpack, etc.)”

    is not “information, instructions, and definitions.” And to boot, the photo they include alongside the examples is of neither a purse nor a backpack.

    All the other airlines use virtually the same language as Spirit and cite similar examples as Spirit. I could find no airline which references “duffels” specifically, and yet I can speak from hundreds of cases of firsthand experience that they accept any bag which fits the size criteria, including cylindrical and oblong bags (which is how “duffel bag” is defined) as personal items.

    Jet Blue:

    Each customer may bring onboard one personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop, etc.) plus one carry-on bag.

    US Airways:

    Personal items include a purse, briefcase or laptop bag.

    American:

    Personal item – includes: purse, briefcase, laptop bag OR a similar item such as a tote that does not exceed 36 inches( length+width+height) and must fit under the seat in front of you

    United:

    The maximum dimensions for your personal item, such as a shoulder bag, backpack, laptop bag or other small item…

    Delta:

    1 purse, briefcase, camera bag or diaper bag or 1 laptop computer (computers cannot be checked) or 1 item of a similar or smaller size to those listed above

    Southwest:

    Personal-type items include purses, briefcases, cameras, food containers, or laptops (case included).

    Alaska:

    one personal item, such as a purse, briefcase or laptop computer.

    2/3: There’s absolutely no need to take anyone’s word. My experiment is repeatable.

    And, of course, now I have every reason to believe from firsthand experience that if the OP called to ask — exactly like you said he should have — and you don’t know that he didn’t do exactly that — then he would have been told exactly what I was told — that only the size of the duffel matters.

    4: I just think it’s interesting that professionals are so certain of their incompatible positions, and yet each sees fit to mock the OP or anyone else who didn’t see things their way.

  • y_p_w

    Actually – a checked bag is defined by whether or not it’s checked in. In the case of Spirit, there’s actually a slightly lower charge for a checked in bag than for a carry on. I think that’s part of their model – to encourage people to check in luggage rather than block the aisles or argue about overhead space.

  • y_p_w

    I’ve flown recently, and most airlines were actually quite proactive that anything that fits under the seat should go there.

    As for checked in luggage, it gets weighed. Spirit has a weight well below the US carrier’s typical 50 lbs – 40 lbs. When I flew international, it was typically around 23 kg.

  • Dutchess

    Your assumption that it was small enough to be under the size requirement is equally speculative. AND yes if he isn’t smart enough to read up on a carrier’s baggage fees then YES he deserves to be charged.
    When I had to take a bunch of flights in Argentina I read up on the LAN and Aerolinea Argentina’s baggage fees because I didn’t want to be caught off guard. I do that for EVERY new airline I go on.

  • Michael__K

    I assumed no such thing.

    I pointed out that you (and others) unconditionally bashed the OP and declared (your words) that he “didn’t even BOTHER going to Spirit’s website to see the baggage charges”. In spite of the fact that the OP sought to bring his bag aboard as a personal item, which should have been free if his bag qualified.

    No one had even referenced the size requirements as of when I replied to you to point them out and to ask you if you had read the page that you linked.

  • pauletteb

    A lot of unnecessary “I’m a smarter traveler than thou” snarkiness here.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You use of language is incorrect. The term restrict requires a correct relational basis, i.e. what is being restricted. Let’s do this in order

    1. Congress requires that passengers be permitted one carry-on and one personal item.
    2. Congress has not defined what a personal item is.
    2. Congress does not mandate that these items must be permitted free of charge.
    3. There is no documentary evidence that Spirit uses a definition for personal item that is different that any other airline.

    Therefore Spirit has not restricted (i.e. reduced) the number of items that qualify as personal items. Perhaps they charge for them in certain cases, perhaps not. But the category remains the same.

    If you are mathematically inclined you will understand the following: domain is unchanged.

    Ultimately, this comes down to your belief that a duffel equates to a small backpack. At the end of the day, that remains both an assumption and assertion by you as your copious amounts of sleuthing have yet to produce one documentary example where that is explicitly stated. All we have is “Ian” stating something about free carry-on, which is itself incorrect as carry-ons are not necessarily free on Spirit.

    And respectfully, your experiences, as are mine, are irrelevant. Neither of us have flown a statistically significant number of time for it to be anything more than anecdotal.

    Regarding professionals mocking, for the second time, I insist that you keep me out of that. I invite you to directly confront the offending party(ies) instead of using our conversation to take pot shots at them.

  • Michael__K

    Perhaps they charge for them in certain cases, perhaps not. But the category remains the same.

    We know they don’t charge for them. Spirit says unequivocally:

    We allow one free personal item per passenger on every flight

    and elsewhere:

    Pack light and save, especially if you only bring one free personal item on board. This means you can bring a small backpack, purse or briefcase with you and won’t need to pay a thing! No hidden bag charges with us;

    Spirit provides no documentation anywhere to support any fee on any sub-category of personal items.

    PS- My point about the professionals was simply that if they can’t even agree, then what chance do ordinary people of good faith (like perhaps the OP) have?

  • Michael__K

    amazon(dot)com/Everest-16-Inch-Round-Duffel/dp/B00JJL1X8O/

    amazon(dot)com/Netpack-16-Weekender-Duffel-Black/dp/B0029AUM84/

    cheapestdestinationsblog(dot)com/2010/04/07/how-to-get-around-spirit-airs-baggage-extortion/

    “How to Get Around Spirit Air’s Baggage Extortion”

    2) Pack one change of clothes in a tiny bag with your laptop. If you pack well, a small laptop/netbook, a change of clothes, a pair of flat shoes, and some toiletries should fit under the seat.I would suggest good travel apparel from the likes of ExOfficio so you can sink wash one set at night and it’ll be dry by morning.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Not going to play today, sorry.

  • y_p_w

    I don’t think so. It’s more like – how can anyone be so naive as to assume that every airline has the same baggage policies. That’s essentially what Mr. Patel did.

    It’s just that anyone traveling these days will have access to the internet and an airline’s baggage policies. What’s so hard about looking things up? Airlines change their policies all the time, so even relying on past experiences is hardly helpful given the pace of change.

  • Raven_Altosk

    If you’re dumb enough to fly Spirit, you get what you deserve.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I was wondering where you were!

  • Dutchess

    There’s no need to reference it since it’s VERY CLEARLY outlined in their baggage policy which can be accessed from the page I linked to. Or do you assume we didn’t read it just like the OP? If he had bothered to read the policy he would have known his bag was over size.

    Furthermore, if Mr Patel had actually read the baggage policy and his bag was indeed within their size limit he would have made mention of that to the flight crew when they tried to charge him because sure has heck if I was charged a surprise fee I would have educated myself on their baggage policy the next time I flew. Something Mr Patel obviously couldn’t bother to do.

    Once again Easily able to fit under the seat DOES NOT Equal meets their baggage requirement. He said he packed clothes AND…that’s a BIG AND a laptop in a laptop case all in a duffle bag I seriously SERIOUSLY doubt it meets the 16 x 14 x 12 inches size requirement for your personal item.

  • Peter

    There sure seem to be some, put politely, “outhouse attorneys” posting here in defense of Spirit. It seems there is a new legal specialization in carry-on bags that I was unfamiliar with. Yes, the OP got screwed once on the flight there, so he should have been super careful about bag size on the return flight.

    But I have little patience for people who are apologists for bad and deceptive business practices. If Spirit had a policy that they would punch you in the face before boarding, would that be ok? If it was posted on their website? If they didn’t hit you that hard?

    A business that succeeds by tricking the unsuspecting, the inexperienced, the naive, or whomever, is still a business that needs to fail. The basis of our society is not just raw capitalism, caveat emptor, but capitalism that is supervised and prevented from taking unfair advantage of customers.

    If you want to take laissez faire capitalism to the extreme in air travel, then why have airline safety standards, or government supervision? The airlines that suffer from crashes will have their costs go up and eventually fail. The problem is, that’s a little tough on the customers and their families. I would suggest that some of the posters think about how they feel whenever a company places “gotcha games” with them.

    Those that feel that “rules are rules” ought to become familiar with a theory in contract law. It’s called the theory of unconscionability, and it means that when a legal contract is so one-sided because of bargaining power, that no reasonable or informed person would otherwise agree to it. Such contracts are normally judged to be null and void. No reasonable person would expect to be charged $100 for a small duffel.

  • bodega3

    A reasonable, especially Harvard educated, person would have clicked on the baggage link and check out what sizes were considered a personal item and what were considered a carry on. Spirit is well known for their added fees and it is very clear what they are.

  • Lindabator

    It takes you to Priceline if you do not pick Spirit directly – and if you do, it CLEARLY states that they charge for carryon baggage.

  • Lindabator

    still good for shopping

  • Lindabator

    He put his personal IN the carryon – so yes, he had to pay – AGAIN

  • Lindabator

    And he clearly stated he had the laptop go free, and had to pay for the duffel on outbound — then put the laptop IN a bag on the return, and assumed he would not be charged????? (You know what they say when you assume)

  • Lindabator

    Excellent point – and an FYI, you need to do it BEFORE you checkin for the flight, at which time the $100 hand slap takes place for those who blew thru that page.

  • Lindabator

    Yes – but since when do we take responsibility for our actions/decisions! haha

  • Michael__K

    Actually, Kayak takes you to a Kayak-dot-com hosted booking page which is backed by Priceline. And this is what is what they show for Spirit’s baggage fees (underlining mine):

    Carry-On (if it does not fit under seat): $35 at booking, $45 at online check-in, $50 at kiosk/desk, $100 at boarding

  • Michael__K

    Tell us what you really think about your professional colleague who contradicted your statement that “Size determines if it is a personal item or a carryon”.

    I happen to agree with your statement.

    But the irony is that you are both adamant that the policy is “very clear” — and you both mock anyone who suggests otherwise — yet you don’t even agree on what the policy is…

  • Michael__K

    You really don’t believe in assuming?

    Then why would you assume that his carry-on bag on the outbound flight was the small duffel bag when the article says no such thing?

    When I was a student, I came home and returned to school with different bags all the time.

    And why would you assume that he assumed anything other than that the verbal assurances from Spirit and the disclosures on Kayak were accurate?

  • bodega3

    The policy is very clear. He screwed up.

  • Millenya Rose

    A “personal item” is just that. It can be a briefcase, a backpack a purse, a duffle, etc. Why is the “shape/description” of the personal item matter if it fits what the size requirements are, if they truly follow that? This is a general question for any traveler with a carry-on…

  • Millenya Rose

    Hear your points and not trying to be contradictory. My 13″ laptop in a case would fit in a bag w/a change of clothes within those dimensions. A bit odd that he didn’t call HOWEVER if the bag did match the allowable size, why would he need to?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    There are two separate issues which must not be confused: whether Spirit is operating lawfully, i.e. within the bounds of contract law and whether its business practices are morally and ethically sound.

    This discussion relates solely to the first. Did the $100 charge violate the contract. Theoretical discussions of laissez-faire capitalism and other economic theories is outside of the scope of that discussion.

    Having successfully litigated unconscionability claims, I am very comfortable stating that Spirit’s $100 charge does not come close to meeting the legal standard, at least in California. Specifically, reasonable and informed people routinely agree to Spirit’s terms which, per the article, are well disclosed.

    And by the way, thank you for an ad hominem in your first sentence or your first post. It really advanced the discussion.

  • Mel65

    I didn’t question his need to pay. I questioned the inconsistency of paying a different amount and not being offered the same rate both ways: “If I pay x dollars on the way out, I would assume I’d pay x dollars on the way back”

  • Peter

    For someone who has shown great evidence of having a logical mind, you seem to make a lot of assumptions. How did I ever attack you? Did I ever mention you? Do you self-identify as an “outhouse lawyer”?.

    You assume that I have attacked you. You assume that you have the right to determine legal standards. And you assume you have the right to define the terms of discussion on this board. All of these are incorrect assumptions on your part.

    I am aware that you are an attorney. You have made mention of it before. Typically the term I used above refers to people who have no legal background who claim legal knowledge. An objective walk through this board and this discussion would reveal a fair amount of that. And believe that I am intelligent enough not to call a real attorney a fake one. As the saying goes, “don’t understand me too quickly”. Although it would be true that I often don’t agree with many of your postings, I don’t consider you a fake lawyer.

    Perhaps some day when you are a judge, you will be able to make a ruling about the legal standards relating to this discussion, but right now you’re just offering an opinion on a board. I would argue that if an attorney made a case against Spirit, looking at the totality of their business practices, they would have a pretty good shot. You may disagree, as is your right. But you don’t get to decide which argument would win, unless it is presented before you in your court. That’s why we have courts, plaintiffs and defendants, to decide what is right based on the arguments presented.

    Also, while it is true that this is one of my first postings, I don’t think it is your position to define the terms of discussion on this board, no matter how many postings you may make, or how much of your legal time and thought you may be willing to share with us.

    You are free to offer your opinions, as you do frequently, but realize that they do not emanate from Mount Olympus.

  • Michael__K

    So very clear that you and your professional colleagues don’t agree what the policy is.

    The OP could have “screwed up” just like I did on one of the flights I took with my family of 4 last year.

    A gate agent challenged us and asserted we had to too many bags. We needed to check something, she demanded.

    I pointed to our 4 boarding passes, our 3 carry-on bags (1 less than we were entitled to), our 4 personal items (including tiny “Thomas-the-train” backpacks our sons were carrying which we could have transferred inside one of our carry-on bags if necessary), and I pointed out our exempt items (an umbrella stroller and car seats which had already been tagged for gate check; food for immediate consumption, and coats, scarves, etc.)

    Someone wasn’t so clear about the “very clear” rules.

    I didn’t get an apology but the gate agent moved on to the next passenger.

  • bodega3

    And you were correct. The OP wasn’t. End of story.

  • Michael__K

    Your professional colleague thinks I “screwed up”. At least one of our personal items was a small cylindrical bag which most people would probably refer to as a “small duffel.”

  • Helio

    No reasonable person would expect to be charged $100 for a small duffel.

    And a reasonable person will do all in his power to avoid it, mainly if this person already had problem in his 1st. flight – like checking the website, carefully measuring his bag, paying the fee earlier…

  • Helio

    And the size of yours small duffel bag was…???????

  • Helio

    Carver was referring to your first post in this case.
    He wasn’t referring to the fact that so far you have 3 posts at all Disqus threads.

  • Michael__K

    According to his professional colleague:

    There are two criteria

    1. Type
    2. Size

    “Understanding the TYPE of an object that qualifies for a free personal item is the key.”

  • Helio

    I’m sure that according to some professional colleague, you are running away from my question…

    Anyway, I believe we passed this point long time ago. As I posted before, the “etc.” at Spirit’s definition of what is a personal item covers about everything that match its size requirements.

  • Michael__K

    the “etc.” at Spirit’s definition of what is a personal item covers about everything that match its size requirements.

    Who are you arguing with? You seem to agree with me now; yet earlier you “Liked” comments which posit that “small duffel” can’t qualify, (“etc.” or not) — and you even authored at least one such comment yourself (I know, you forgot what you wrote).

    And for some reason you repeatedly object anytime I reply to someone who disagrees with us or even if I merely point out that those someones exist and that one of them is a TA.

  • Peter

    I believe that I said that the OP should have been “super careful about bag size on the return flight”. That said, my broader point was that people have lives, not everyone has the time to research every possible “gotcha” legalism in a brief trip, especially if they’re young and have other things on their mind.

    What I have trouble understanding are the defenders of Spirit, which has traditionally been the lowest rated or one of the lowest rated airlines for years, precisely because of this customer experience. And their fares frankly aren’t all that great compared to other players like Southwest, when you add in all the deception, hidden fees, and inconvenience.

    This website is about helping consumers, not defending the most disreputable airlines. It seems that a near super-majority of readers agree with me, that Chris should take the case. Presumably they voted so because they agree that such treatment is unfair.

    I continue to be surprised by the minority that feels that “rules are rules” trumps every consideration. How big is a duffel? In my experience they vary in size, and when not fully filled, can be compressed to smaller sizes quite easily. How would you feel if you felt you were complying with their rules, and they demanded $100 or the loss of your ticket at the time of boarding. Would you say, rules are rules, that’s fine? Or would you feel that you have been taken advantage of with no recourse?

    Of course I have serious doubts that even the often miracle-working Chris will be able to extract an ounce of humanity from Spirit.

  • Mel65

    My only problem with that is that once he had an issue with his baggage on his outbound flight, he probably didn’t feel the need to go to the website and look up policies that he felt he now knew, having been told by the gate agent what the fees were. I’m sure he *thought* he had taken care of it by leaving some things behind and logically expected to be given the same fee option on the way back; at least that’s the thinking that makes sense to me. Looking up policy before a flight is common sense, but if you’ve been TOLD the policy by a gate agent, you expect that same policy to apply on the next flight, as well. Who looks up fees AFTER they’ve already taken one half of the flight?

  • Name

    Well, of course it’s the OP’s fault but I believe that we need to keep the pressure on all business to stop being so difficult to get along with, to stop cheating us. In olden days, we dealt with people … now we deal with computers and this seems to be a license for companies to cheat their customers. This quote describes my feelings exactly: “Companies should not be allowed to build their business around fooling their customers.”

  • sf

    We just travelled to Dom.Rep with Spirit. We read their baggage poilicy and bought a carry on, thoroghly measuring, that would be allowed free. But at the airport we were asked to pay $100, we argued and argued stood at the counter for a while and then another lady who was more understanding alowed us to take it free only when we told them to keep the carry on. It is a very deceptive airline and their should be some laws to protect consumers from exploiting them by these airlines.

  • sf

    What does ETC mean and also it talks about INCLUDING HANDLES AND WHEELS same as carry-on. Purposely done to confuse consumers who tend to trust these airlines. This is something like taking an exam with trick qs. Its a decepetive airline, try to call their telephone and one may spend whole day and may be night before some one will answer.