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Steeper Fees On Spirit Airlines

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The price of being a Spirit Airlines passenger has nearly doubled.

A surcharge tacked onto every ticket dubbed the “passenger usage fee” is now $16.99 on domestic flights — up from $8.99 prior to Nov. 8. The fees, which are not included in the advertised fares do not include the $10 the discount carrier charges for booking a seat by phone. (A Spirit spokeswoman confirmed the change via email, but declined to comment on why it was made. “We don’t discuss our pricing strategy,” she says.)

Such fees are common among European airlines, but Spirit and Allegiant are the only two domestic carriers that employ them, says George Hobica, the founder of AirfareWatchdog.com. Travelers should keep the extra padding in mind when comparing fares, but the extra $34 round-trip doesn’t make much of a difference with fare sales and promo codes that offer starting rates as low as $9. “People love to complain about Spirit, but it’s better than taking the bus, marginally,” he says. ‘The fares are so much lower than other airlines’, even with the fees.”

Spirit is known for being a fore-runner in new fees. It was one of the first to experiment with a checked-bag fee, and this fall, became the first domestic carrier to charge for bringing a carry-on bag. Passengers now pay up to $45 for doing so, depending on how they book and when they pay.

International fliers, on the other hand, get a slight break under the new fee system. They also pay $16.99 each way, down from the previous charge of $18.

The carrier now discloses all such fees, per Department of Transportation regulations, via an “our optional fees” link on its homepage. “I don’t see how the passenger usage fee is optional,” says Hobica. “If you’re flying Spirit, you’re paying it.”

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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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