Spirit baggage fees and how to avoid paying them

Jun 4, 2022

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People turn to Spirit Airlines because its fares are cheap. Spirit flights can be a great way to get to your destination without putting a serious dent in your wallet.

However, Spirit has a (deserved) reputation for charging additional fees. The airline that sensationalized charging customers to print their boarding passes at the airport also charges customers for carry-on and checked baggage. The Spirit Airlines baggage policy is one of the most restrictive you’ll find.

There are a few ways to avoid some of the worst Spirit baggage fees. But you should be prepared to pay if you want to bring most types of luggage with you when you fly. This guide will cover all the information you need to know about the Spirit Airlines baggage policy.

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In This Post

Spirit carry-on guidelines

Spirit plane
(Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy)

The Spirit carry-on guidelines are some of the most restrictive that you’ll find. The restrictions that Spirit and other discount airlines enforce are the basis for the basic economy product airlines such as American, Delta and United rolled out to compete with low fares.

One of the only areas where you’ll find a bit of generosity is Spirit’s definition of a personal item. All Spirit customers are permitted one free personal item on each flight. Spirit states the dimensions of a personal item must not exceed 18 inches by 14 inches by 8 inches, including handles and wheels. That’s bigger than some other airlines, notably United.

Related: How to pack only in a Spirit Airlines personal item

As should be expected with a discount carrier, you’ll generally pay to bring a full-sized carry-on with you on a Spirit flight. You’ll also find the weight restrictions in the Spirit carry-on guidelines more onerous than other airlines.

Specifically, the airline uses a dynamic pricing model for carry-on and checked bags. So, flights at different times on the same day between the same city pairs will sometimes have different bag pricing. Here’s an example showing two flights on the same day traveling from New Orleans to Las Vegas:

Spirit baggage fees
(Screenshot from spirit.com)
Spirit baggage fees
(Screenshot from spirit.com)

As you can see from the above charts, it will generally cost you more to carry on a bag than to check one on a Spirit flight. My searches showed a range of $41 to $55 for a carry-on bag. Remember, that’s the price for a one-way flight.

Unfortunately, the price goes up if you don’t purchase your carry-on bag while booking your ticket. Generally speaking, you’ll pay an extra $5 if you pre-purchase a carry-on bag before online check-in and an additional $5 if you wait until checking in online. If you decide to wait until you get to the gate to board your flight, the price will be even higher.

The only saving grace in the Spirit carry-on baggage guidelines is the size of bag you’re allowed. Spirit says the bag can be up to 22 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches, which is a bit bigger than what United allows.

The best way to figure out how much a carry-on bag will cost on your Spirit flight is to use the “Spirit Bag-O-Tron.”

Related: I canceled my first class ticket home for a Spirit Airlines flight with $3 Wi-Fi — and loved it

Spirit Airlines baggage policy

As mentioned above, the Spirit checked bag fees are less than the cost of a carry-on bag. And, just like with carry-on bags, the best way to figure out exactly how much your checked bag will cost is to use the “Spirit Bag-O-Tron.”

Calculate Spirit baggage fees
(Screenshot from spirit.com)

It’s also worth noting another area where you can get tripped up. The Spirit baggage weight limit is 40 pounds per checked bag, not 50 pounds like many other airlines. You’ll pay a $50 surcharge for that 41st pound, and the fees go up from there.

Overweight and oversized baggage fees

Spirit Airlines charges both an overweight and oversize fee. So, the fees can add up quickly. The Spirit baggage weight and oversize fees are as follows:

  • Overweight fee: $50 per bag if 41 to 50 pounds, an additional $75 per bag if 50 to 70 pounds and an additional $75 per bag if 71 to 100 pounds.
  • Oversized fee: Starting at $100 per bag if 63 to 80 inches, including wheels and handles.

Excess baggage fees

There’s an interesting wrinkle to the Spirit Airlines baggage policy if you need to bring excess baggage. While the airline guarantees you’ll be able to bring one checked bag on international flights, any additional bags are on a first-come, first-served basis. So you’ll want to purchase your extra baggage allowance ahead of time to guarantee you can bring more than one checked bag.

Sporting equipment

Spirit maintains a smaller list of allowed sporting equipment than other airlines. Golf clubs, ski equipment and snowboard equipment are the only items that follow the standard checked baggage rates. You can check out the requirements and fees for checking various types of sports equipment on Spirit’s website.

Related: How to change or cancel a Spirit Airlines flight

How to avoid or reduce Spirit baggage fees

As you’ll see in this section, there are several ways to avoid or reduce Spirit baggage fees.

Elite status allowances

Yes, Spirit does have an elite program, though it’s maybe not as “elite” as some other airlines. That being said, Free Spirit Gold status does offer a free first checked bag for all flights. The benefit extends only to the person who holds the elite status and not to anyone else traveling with them. And, as TPG’s Summer Hull found out, trying the benefit can be quite painful.

Related: How to avoid checked baggage fees on major domestic airlines

Purchase a bundle

While there aren’t many ways to make Spirit baggage fees disappear, you can reduce the amount you pay to check or carry on a bag. Spirit sells the “Boost It’ and “Bundle It” packages on most of its flights. The pricing for these packages is dynamic but can save you a lot of money on baggage, especially if you plan to exceed 40 pounds for your checked bag or want to bring both a checked bag and a carry-on.

Spirit packages can help you save on Spirit baggage fees
(Screenshot from spirit.com)

Spirit $avers Club

The other way to save money on Spirit carry-on and checked bag fees is with the Spirit $avers Club. The club costs $69.95 for a 12-month membership and offers savings on some fares, baggage fees, seat selections and add-ons. If you plan to fly Spirit regularly, it wouldn’t be hard to save the price of membership over a year.

Use card travel credits to cover fees

Several travel rewards cards come with annual statement credits toward travel purchases. Some cards offer a credit that you can use for various travel purchases, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and its $300 annual travel credit.

On the other hand, some American Express cards offer annual airline fee credits specifically for non-ticket airline incidentals. If you have an eligible card, you may want to enroll in this benefit, select Spirit as your airline of choice and then use your card to pay your baggage fees. Enrollment is required.

Related: Earn easy miles with the Free Spirit Dining program

Bottom line

Unlike other major airlines, the Spirit Airlines baggage policy doesn’t give you many options to reduce or eliminate fees. Holding the Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard® won’t even get you a free checked bag. And Spirit named the Big Front Seat well since the upgrade to a larger seat won’t get you a free or discounted bag either.

The Spirit baggage weight limit on checked baggage (40 pounds) is lower than most other airlines. So you’ll want to take into account how much Spirit’s baggage fees will add to the total price of your cheap airline ticket. But at least you can use the Spirit Bag-O-Tron to determine how much cash you’ll be parting with to check or carry on a bag.

Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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