Spirit Airlines Shrinks Their Free Carry-On Allowance Even Further

Filed Under: Other Airlines

There’s not a U.S. airline more known for their fees than Spirit Airlines. However, they’re very transparent about their fees, and don’t pretend that they’re somehow a premium or full service airline. Instead they have ridiculously low fares, and then charge you for everything, from seat assignments to carry-on bags to printing your boarding pass printed at the airport.


So I respect their level of transparency, especially as their low fares and high fees are what make them unique as an airline.

We’re in the process of seeing American and United introduce basic economy fares, where we’ll see them charge for carry-ons for passengers who choose to purchase this fare option. Up until now the big three U.S. legacy carriers have offered free full size carry-ons, so this is a pretty drastic move on their part.

Well, you know it’s a sad day when Spirit Airlines makes their policy worse so they’re not being more generous than the legacy carriers, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.


As I said above, Spirit Airlines doesn’t let you bring on a free carry-on, but rather just a free personal item. Up until now, the carry-on couldn’t exceed 16x14x12 inches, which is 2,688 cubic inches.

Starting April 4, 2017, Spirit Airlines will limit personal items to 18x14x8 inches, which is 2,016 cubic inches. This represents roughly a 25% reduction in the free carry-on allowance.


The sad part is that it looks like they made this change so they weren’t being more generous than the U.S. legacy carriers. As American and United institute basic economy, they’ll have the following limitations on personal items:

  • American: 18x14x8 inches, which 2,016 cubic inches
  • United: 9x10x17 inches, which is 1,530 cubic inches

Bottom line

The day has finally come where America’s most shamelessly low cost carrier had to change their policy so that they weren’t being more generous than America’s, ahem, “full service” airlines.

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

  1. Usually a fan of ULCC (!!), but this is an annoying change that is only the latest in what is becoming a race to the bottom. It’s not as if the seats are getting shorter. The personal item allowance is possibly the only redeeming aspect of ULCC, as after baggage fees and their horrible loyalty programs, they aren’t even low-cost.

  2. How many backpacks conform to the published dimensions? Very few, if the bestselling backpacks on eBags are listed with the correct dimensions. Will Spirit allow backpacks to squish to fit?

  3. If you are traveling just overnight or returning the same day, the bag size might work as long as you don’t bring extra shoes or toiletries. By the time I add the extra fees for a carry-on, check a bag, choose a seat, and all the other items, it comes to more than I would pay for a regular non-refundable economy fare on AA, Delta, or United. My favorite airline for two or three hour flights is Southwest. I buy tickets when they have their special fares and pay $25 for priority (Group A) boarding. You can check two bags and bring a full size carry-on and a personal item at no additional cost.

  4. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a bit of a contradiction to be opposed to the recently-announced new basic economy fares on the basis that they’ll be harder to spot on flight searches, but at the same time respect Spirit Airlines for its “transparent” fees, which also don’t show up on flight searches.

    I get your point, but the problem and the outcome are the same.

  5. Meh. People love being treated like cattle. Hence the rise of shitty stores like Walmart. Spirit caters to those with the same shitty mentality.

  6. From what I heard so far, Spirit airline is the worst airline when it comes to carry on personal item. Their dimensions are OK but if it is 1/8 inch longer than their specifications, it is ridiculous to get charged. I have never been on Spirit but am speaking from what others are writing about this airline.
    I would rather pay a $100 more per fare and fly a decent and reasonable airline.
    I think this airline likely to go bankrupt due to their own practices.

  7. Why are you all whining and complaining? I love Spirit Airlines, and Frontier Airlines for that matter. I get to take vacations I otherwise would not have been able to do. I’ve also learned not to overpack and bring only essentials. Someone here complaining they got charged for baggage at the airport? Well, that’s not the airline’s fault! If you want champagne on a beer budget, you’re going to be disappointed. Feel free to pay the $ for Delta and get out of the way!

  8. Anybody who cares about climate change should be thrilled with these strict policies. Weight costs fuel. The less that people carry on, the less fuel the plane uses. It’s a lot straighter shot to saving on fossil fuels than that low-flush toilet I detest. But aside from that, it seems everybody wants 1960s PanAm-type service while only paying Greyhound bus fees. My parents never dreamed of being able to fly around the country like everybody expects to now. They certainly couldn’t afford a quick get-away to Cabo. People with a lot less education and considerably lower down the professional ladder do that all the time nowadays, thanks to low-price airfare. Denise F Kotz called it right. This disparaging of Spirit and the cost-cutting trends of the other airlines is a lot of whining. Perspective, people!

  9. I don’t understand what the whining is all about..I choose to fly Spirit because it’s cheaper than the other airlines…I have never had a problem, I get to visit my family and friends, and oftentimes I spend less money on my flight then on a mani-pedi. Life is too short to waste sitting around complaining. Grab the great deals and go somewhere❕☺

  10. If you’re booking well ahead, to friends and/or family, mail or ship your items to the destination a few days in advance. Still well less expensive than egregious carry-on/checked baggage fees.

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