Budget Airlines Are a Sham

Low cost' just means 'hidden fees,' and lots of them

July 24, 2017 9:00 am

Someone at IdeaWorksCompany, a consumer research agency, sat down and did the math — on over 100 airlines worldwide — to figure out which ones charge the most in ancillary fees. What are they? Basically everything but the ticket price: the super-lucratives costs for checked bags, seat assignments, meals on board, and more. 

The worst of the worst? If you’ve flown them, you won’t be surprised: Spirit Airlines

The ultra-low-cost carrier, based in Miramar, Florida, has built its brand on rock-bottom ticket prices and non-existent amenities. That means the tickets can look super attractive — until you realize that you can’t carry on the bag you want. According to IdeaWorks, those fees at Spirit add up to around $100 per passenger for a round-trip fare. That’s a lot

Our rule of thumb: It’s totally possibly that a low-cost carrier like Spirit (or one of the Big Three, offering the new Basic Economy, a.k.a. “seat-only,” fares) could be your cheapest option — if you’re walking on with a small backpack and a packable lunch. Otherwise, bite the bullet and consider an airline with a more moderate approach — like Southwest, which provides two free checked bags. Or choose your top airline and sign up for their credit card, which likely comes with a comped baggage allowance. 


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