Keep your carry-on bags small if you plan to fly on Allegiant Airlines. Starting Wednesday, the low-cost carrier began charging its passengers up to $35 per carry-on bag.
The new policy, expected to rake-in millions in additional revenue, includes luggage too large to fit below the seat in front of you. That means anything bulkier than a purse or small briefcase will no longer fly free.
Based-off of factors such as a trip’s origination, destination and length, travelers who purchase their flight online will pay between $10 and $30 round trip, per carry-on bag. But flier beware, those who wait to pay for their carry-on until arriving at the airport on the day of the flight, will be charged $35 round trip.
Locally, Allegiant flies non-stop to four domestic locations: Las Vegas, Orlando/Sanford, St. Petersburg/Clearwater and Phoenix/Mesa. Initially, Allegiant has set its South Bend carry-on fees at $26 round trip per bag. Allegiant passengers who purchased their tickets prior to Wednesday will not be affected.
Since announcing the additional fee, Allegiant has a lot of heat, primarily because it charges for so much already. For instance, fliers are currently required to pay booking and seat fees. There's even a fee for a glass of water or soda on-board.
"They charge you to board in the beginning, they charge you for every piece of baggage you bring along and they also charge you for drinks! I can't imagine anything else they could charge you for, but I’m sure will think of something,” Allegiant passenger Stephanie Schrepfer said following her Wednesday evening flight from St. Petersburg Fla. to South Bend Regional Airport.
Schrepfer, an Indiana native who now lives in Florida, says she flies Allegiant twice a month to visit her family and boyfriend in Elkhart County.
Despite Allegiant’s nickel and dime tendencies, Schrepfer says it’s the only local carrier which offers direct service to and from Florida. In her case, convenience outweighs the airline’s hidden and oftentimes pesky fees.
“I fly Allegiant for one reason and one reason only; it’s because of the non-stop service. I don’t like having layovers and this takes much less time,” Schrepfer added.
Regardless of the critics, NewsCenter 16 found Allegiant to still be the cheapest local airline to the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg Fla. area. While Delta and United Airlines were each charging $503 for a round trip coach ticket in early July, Allegiant had a fare for $372. In case you’re wondering, that Allegiant ticket does include a $26 carry-on bag surcharge.
"If I can save money and be a little less comfortable on the flight, that's worth it for me because no matter what, you're going to be uncomfortable when you're flying and traveling,” United passenger Rebecca McGurk said following a flight from Newark N.J. to South Bend, which connected via Cleveland, Ohio.
In a media release about the controversial baggage levy, Allegiant Travel Co. President Andrew Levy said:
“This week, Allegiant introduced the newest change to our product menu, providing travelers with options and fees for carry-on bags. Travelers have come to trust Allegiant for affordable and convenient access to their favorite leisure destinations. Our low fares and affordable vacation packages are what often make vacations possible, by lowering fares as much as 50% in many markets.
Our ongoing effort to develop an innovative, new approach to travel is what keeps Allegiant vacations affordable. Every traveler is different, and we want to provide a menu that allows them to meet their needs and their budget. When flying Allegiant, travelers do not pay for something they do not need or want. We are confident that our customers will continue to appreciate our efforts to keep their base fare as low as possible, while offering a completely customized travel experience.”
Allegiant Airlines is now the second U.S. airline to charge its customers for carry-on luggage. In 2010, Spirit Airlines began charging up to $45 for carry-on bags. According to IdeaWorks, a Wisconsin-based consulting agency, Spirit earned an estimated $50 million in 2011 from the fee alone.
“Spirit Airlines has indeed created success from an a la carte fee that every other airline has refused to adopt and even fears to speak of,” IdeaWorks President Jay Sorensen told msnbc.com in December.
Although Allegiant has since followed Sprit’s lead, aviation experts don’t anticipate this to become the airline industry’s latest price-gouging technique.
“Allegiant is leisure in orientation and is unique in its ability to charge a carry-on fee. No business-oriented airline would do this to customers with a laptop and valet bag, they would drive them right off the airplane,” aviation consultant Robert Mann of R.W. Mann & Co. told msnbc.com.
U.S. Airways, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines say they have no plans to charge for carry-on bags. Delta Airlines says company policy prohibits leaders from discussing potential changes to its service fees.