Passengers on Spirit Airlines Inc. now face nearly $34 in fees just to buy their tickets online. The only way most customers can avoid the fee is to head to the airport and wait on line to see a ticket agent there.
The no-frills airline advertises base fares as low as $9 but then charges passengers for everything from placing a carry-on bag in the overhead bin to having a glass of water onboard. In January it plans to start charging $5 for each boarding pass a ticket agent prints.
"It's one of the sneakiest fees in the industry," said George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog. He notes that Spirit lists the generic-sounding "passenger usage fee" along with the government-imposed taxes and fees. "It's very disingenuous. It does look like some unavoidable fee."
On Nov. 8 the Miramar-Fla. company increased the online fee for domestic passengers from $8.99 each way to $16.99, according to spokeswoman Misty Pinson. The international fee fell $2 each way to $16.99.
The passenger usage fee is charged to anyone buying tickets online, which is the bulk of Spirit's sales. The fee can be avoided by buying a ticket at the airport. It is also not charged on flights departing from Colombia or Panama.
The only other U.S. airline to charge such a fee is Allegiant Travel Company. Passengers there face a fee of $17 roundtrip to book a ticket online.
Spirit's booking fee could be 40 percent or more of a ticket's total price. For instance a $14 fare each way between Detroit and New York included $21.40 in federal taxes and security fees and the $33.98 usage fee.
Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott