Ridiculous or not? A fee to print a boarding pass – no, seriously

Here’s the problem with Spirit Airlines’ new $5 fee for printing a boarding pass, according to Dennis Tucker. Not everyone has access to a PC and printer when they’re on the road.

“And if you’re in a hotel somewhere and your flights change, how are you supposed to do that?” he asks.

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Well, there’s a silver lining for printer-less passengers. Until next year, they can use one of Spirit’s airport kiosks to print their paperwork at no extra charge. After June 26, 2012, it’ll cost $1.

But Tucker is essentially right — if you don’t have a PC, you’ll have to pay.

New airline fees raise a lot of questions that tend to go unasked in the heat of the moment, and because stories like these typically get assigned to a summer intern. (I should know, I spent seven memorable summers interning at various news organizations.)

They include: Does it really cost $5 to print a boarding pass? Who benefits from the fee? And can it get any worse (or better, depending on your perspective)?

I’ve been tracking this particular fee since early June, when Spirit sent a poll to some of its passengers, asking if they wouldn’t mind paying an extra $5 to print a boarding pass. Here’s how Spirit asked its passengers to vote.

In our efforts to lower fares, customers have asked us if they can save by checking in online. After consideration, we wanted to ask your preference. Is your preference:

1. I prefer only to use web check-in and lower my fare. This is similar to certain government processing initiatives that allow one channel for submission but retain efficiency.

2. I don’t mind paying higher fares by checking in online while subsidizing others who check in at the airport.

3. I prefer to pay less for checking in online and let customers who check in at the airport pay for the convenience.

4. I would rather just raise the federal debt ceiling and have taxpayers subsidize me for being lazy and not checking in online.

Answer four makes you chuckle, doesn’t it?

I asked I asked Barry Biffle, Spirit’s chief marketing officer, about the survey. He told me the questions were written by Spirit personnel and reviewed by senior management.

“This is a data gathering process that helps shape our opinion of our customers views on this subject,” he says. “We believe the questions are worded in a way that accurately and factually reflect the economics of our business.”

Except for the last one, maybe, about raising the federal debt ceiling. Biffle says the airline included it “for fun.”

And the whole thing, it turns out, was a formality. Spirit’s executives had all but made up their minds about this fee, which, if you couldn’t already tell from the questions, they were touting as a “discount.”


While a select few travelers may be able to take advantage of this so-called “discount” many more will have to pay up.

Does it cost Spirit $5 to print a boarding pass? Of course not. It’s mostly profit.

On balance, it’s clear that Spirit will benefit from the new fee more than its passengers. Just look at Ryanair, with its out-of-control fees and soaring profits, for an idea of how this might help Spirit’s bottom line.

And if you think this is the end, think again. They said that when Spirit began charging for carry-on bags last year. But the fee stuck.

In an effort to protect the profits it collects from fees, Spirit also recently challenged some of the Transportation Department’s new consumer protection rules, which would require airlines to clearly disclose the surcharges. Curiously, it mentioned nothing about its own earnings, instead arguing that more disclosure would “hamper our nation’s economic recovery.”

Seriously. Here’s the press release.

Maybe it isn’t really a question of whether this latest fee is ridiculous. Maybe Spirit’s business model — and others like it — is ridiculous.

127 thoughts on “Ridiculous or not? A fee to print a boarding pass – no, seriously

  1. Oooooooh … ooooh … pick me, teacher! I know the answer to this!

    “And if you’re in a hotel somewhere and your flights change, how are you supposed to do that?” he asks.

    Three fold answer:

    1) Use a free internet fax service – google for it … FaxZero is one company – and fax the boarding pass to your hotel’s front desk. It will arrive in hard copy, aka printed. This can even be done from a smart phone, which if you don’t have a laptop you likely do have.

    2) If you have a moment, drop by a convention center hotel. They almost always have a free kiosk where you can print airline boarding passes. I’ve never had to prove I was a guest at the hotel and I’ve done this a fair amount.

    3) Assuming you have a rental car, go to the local library of wherever you are visiting and print there.


    Like it or not, printing does cost something. My local library  has calculated the cost of black-and-white printing on a laser printer to be $0.07/page. I’m okay with reimbursing the cost of supplies plus a “thanks for saving my butt” fee. I think they call those convenience fees. Given that they use special sized paper, I’m willing to pay more than I would for 8.5″ x 11″ printing. Do I think that should be $5? Enh.

    Do I think that it should continue to be free given that Spirit generously gave me free printing in the past? No. That’s just entitlement.


    When I was flying home from Italy, I showed up at the ticket counter without a pre-printed boarding pass. I asked them to print one for me. This resulted in a lot of people behind me in line having mini-existential crises that it was possible for someone to not actually have access to a printer. Their faces looked like Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow during the, “But why is all the rum gone?” line from the original Pirates of the Caribbean. “What do you mean you don’t have access to a printer?”

    1. “Spirit generously gave me free printing in the past”

      Really?  Giving you the thing that you need to enter the gate area and board their plane is “generous”?  What about a jetway fee?  Why would you expect them to let you use the jetway for free just because they’ve generously given you free passage in the past?

      1. The difference between the jetway fee and boarding pass fee is that the boarding pass free truly is optional. You can avoid it by printing your own boarding pass, which is quite easy and often more convenient, actually.

        1. Until they start charging you to print your own boarding pass. Which, with the way things are going, seems likely to happen before long.

          Charging to print a board pass ANYWHERE is ridiculous.

        2.  It isn’t truly optional when you (a) don’t have a computer, (b) don’t have a printer, (c) don’t have access to a printer…… you get the idea.

          And it’s literally a thing that the airline REQUIRES you to have…it is basically what you are paying for to begin with.  Sure, if it was an optional item to begin with, then charge for it.  But they’re the ones that require you to have it!

          1. Well if you look at it that way, nothing can be truly optional for everyone. People claim to ‘need’ to travel with bags (even if you go and argue that Southwest doesn’t charge for bags, someone might ‘need’ 3 bags) so they don’t view those fees as optional.

            It’s reasonable to assume that a most people travelling now can get access to a printer fairly easily considering how computers are everywhere in our lives. Besides, it only is $1 so you essentially are paying for the convenience if you view it that way. Many would view it as more convenient to print their boarding pass at home anyways.

          2. Although I can get to a printer for my departure, when I am working on the road from a rental car I do not have acess to a printer for my return.

          3. See my first comment. I outlined three ways you actually /do/ have access to a printer. ESPECIALLY if you have a rental car.

            In fact, if you have a rental car, we can add: FedEx Office, Staples Print Center, Local Copy Shops, and much more to the “access to a printer” list.

            I’ve lived the past 7 years without access to a personal printer, so if you need tips or advice, I’ve probably already done the leg work for you.

          4. The airline doesn’t require you to carry a bag to get to your gate or onto the flight.  Can you truly not see the difference?

          5. The airline doesn’t require you to print a boarding pass at the airport either.

            Different people have different needs and for some, certain ‘options’ might not really be options, whether it’s bags, boarding passes, change fees or whatever else. Not really the airline’s problem.

          6. The airline REQUIRES you to have A boarding pass.  It should be included as part of the FARE.  Not a Fee on top of the fare.

        3. I’m sure someday we’ll have the “option” of waiving a fee if we load your own bags into cargo.  Or waiving a fee if we don’t use the toilet.  It’s a money grab, pure and simple. Just because Spirit is talented at finding sneaky ways to turn a profit doesn’t mean I agree with it.

      2. Given that Spirit is its own category of super-low-budget-pay-for-every-little-thing airline, I call it generous that they ever didn’t charge for printing.

        Now, if this was Iceland Air we were talking about, I’d have a different choice of words.

    2. What if you don’t have a smart phone OR a laptop?  I don’t travel with either usually.  I also tend to stay at low budget hotels, locally owned places, or hostels, most of which, while they might have internet, don’t have printers or fax machines.  Internet cafes don’t always have printing either. 

      1. How many times have you flown Spirit Air? 
        Are you aware that you have a choice in airlines and don’t have to fly Spirit Air?
        Fine, suck it up and use a Kiosk and pay $1.  Its only $1, I bet you saved more than that by staying at a budget motel.  If $1 is going to break the bank, I would suggest you cancel your trip altogether.

        1. I’ve flown Spirit a few times and no longer fly them.  I was commenting in response to TheInfamousJ who gave 3 options on how to avoid the fee.I am also well aware that I don’t need to fly Spirit and how to budget thank you very much. 

      2. Then would you be the sort of person who is making last minute changes to their airline reservation? Because that was my understanding of who Chris said needed access to boarding pass printing technology.

    3. And if you are a guest at a hotel, even the cheap budget ones, ask the person at the front desk if they will print your pass for you, most will be happy to and usually don’t charge.

    4. You’re analogies are so off based, I have to assume that you are being sarcastic. 

      So, you are advocating that the gas station, restaurant and hotel charge you 7 cents for printing a receipt? Why not make it a $1 or $5 or $10. There are certain things that are just part of the cost of doing business. 

      Taking your thought process further, why not charge for the oxygen masks, the air filters or recirculated air. Oh, by the way it will cost you $1 to be able to use your reading light (after all, we have to change the light bulbs because they burn out). Using the bathroom? You have to buy a pass for $10. And in the unlikely event of a water landing, we will charge your credit card $5 for the use of your approved flotation device. 

      $1 or $5 isn’t going to break the bank. Far from it. But, its the attitude and arrogance of the management that leaves a bad taste and negative impression. I don’t fly Spirit, don’t intend to. Thank goodness they don’t fly out of my local airport. I understand the need in a bad economy to cut costs, and reduce excess waste, but there is a better way to do it.

  2. This is just cynical justification by Spirit.  Remember that this is the company that charges you EXTRA to buy tickets online.  That’s right; if you drive to the airport and spend time in line to interact with a live employee, driving labor cost, Spirit charges you less money!  If the airline was truly concerned solely about those freeloaders not subsidizing the thriftier among us, they would of course charge extra to use employee resources (like many banks do.)

    Spirit KNOWS that some people can’t print a boarding pass while traveling and therefore realizes it can extract an extra $5 each out of them.

    Baggage fees I have no issue with at a hyper-discount outfit like Spirit, but fees to buy tickets online (and no fee for an in-person purchase) and this boarding pass printing fee are over the line.  These guys are approaching Ticketmaster in cynical customer abuse.

    While they are at it, why not charge you another fee based on how early you arrive at the airport?  (Maybe a $10 “Boarding processing fee” that goes down by $1 for every hour before your flight that you arrive check-in counter.) That would directly convert customer’s time into Sprit’s money.

  3. Spirit Airlines advertises very low fares. By the time that a person gets through paying all of the associated fees, the cost can be more than flying on another airline that has a higher starting price and fewer fees. This might be acceptable if Spirit offered better than average customer service. They don’t. Spirit’s customer service is almost non-existent. Try calling them on the phone and see how long you have to wait to reach a live person. From Tampa, Spirit does not fly any routes that are exclusive. There are always one or more airlines that fly to the same destinations and the other airlines usually offer more flights which results in my being able to choose more convenient departure times. I will not fly on Spirit no matter how low the initial fare might be and I urge others to do the same.

    1. I, however, will fly on Spirit if/because their fares are lower.

      And the thing with pretty much all their fees is that they truly are optional and if I need the service I’m willing to pay for it. I don’t need to check bags, choose a seat, and I can print my boarding pass from home. I am also fine with paying the fee to bring a carry on bag and the fee to book my ticket online. And in the end, this still comes out cheaper than other airlines fairly often.

      Customers have spoken with their wallets, and Spirit is making making money, which is more than can be said for other carriers like American or Virgin America.

  4. We need Congress to establish a set of services that all airlines must provide. Free boarding passes, free onboard access to a toilet (hello, Ryan Air!), free drinks, free carry-ons and 1 free bag should definitely be on that list, and so should higher airline penalties for cancellations and shorter maximum periods for stranding passengers on planes during delays. At that point, there will be two ways for airlines to compete for passengers: better service (2 bags? meals?) or lower prices. And they will do it! Right now, they have the US public convinced that without these little humiliations, ticket prices would soar. I don’t believe it; many European airlines manage to treat their passengers with dignity and still turn a profit. Alienating your entire client base can’t be a good idea.

    1. Congress will NEVER touch the mess that is the airlines (unless we’re bailing their sorry tails out) because our esteemed elected officials don’t ever have to tangle with these greedy giants. None of them ever fly coach, most can breeze through security with a secret handshake, and when was the last time you ever saw a Congressman who gave a damn about his/her constituents? Yeah. 

    2. @0c59167326ad36417e5258eff077af79:disqus 
      Have you ever flown the airline that you now hold up as great? I think you need to do more research.
      I have paid check in fees on most European airlines (except when flying back to the US) when I have to talk to a person.  I have had to pay “hold baggage” fees for bags so small that they would fit under the seat on a US commuter flight but are too big to fit the airlines template. I have had to pay for “excess” weight on luggage that was more than 20 lbs normally at a rate equal to the bag fee per extra pound.
      So no European Airlines don’t do things the “old” way and turn a profit. They charge more fees than US airlines and that is how they turn a profit.

      1. I can’t imagine what European airlines you’ve been flying! I no longer fly the US carriers at all on overseas flights and I’m overseas a lot; I lived in Europe for four months last year. When leaving the US for other countries, I fly only airlines that leave from terminals without the pornoscanners (there’s a website to get updates); you can do this if you fly only non-US airlines out of JFK. I’ve never paid a check-in fee or a hold baggage fee on a European airline and the weight allowance is about the same as for a US carrier. And with the new EU legislation (even if implementation is posing a problem at this early stage), they’re much less likely to cancel flights or leave passengers stranded on a plane. So yes, at least some of the EU airlines do things the “old” way, they’re usually priced at or below the prices of US airlines, and they do indeed turn a profit!

    3. Most European airlines are regulated and subsidized.  The US airlines used to compete on service before they were deregulated; they were also much more expensive to fly.  With de-regulation, suddenly they had to compete on price which meant cutting service.  Discount carrier started popping up offering les services for less money. Sadly, today a US airline is no different than riding a bus, only it’s faster.  If airlines are required to provide all of the service you mention, and pay all of the extra compensation, they would all go belly up in no time.  They are not a profitable business, they are transportation.  Planes are expensive, maintenance is expensive, gas is expensive, and employees are expensive.

  5. If they want to get that way about it, why should I have to print my boarding pass at all? Why can’t I just show them a digital copy on my smartphone? That seems more convenient than anything.

    1. Many airlines now allow you to use your phone and show a bar code for your boarding pass.  Every airport I have flown through in he past year has had the readers for those passes if any airlines there is using them.  Of course Spirit will probably be the last to go to them since they will lose a revenue stream if they do.

  6. They’re a low cost, no service airline. They follow the Ryan Air business model and Ryan Air has done this for years. I have flown Ryan Air a lot. I normally pay 3 to 4 times my ticket cost in fees and now only fly them when there is no other choice.

    If you don’t like the fee, choose a different carrier. Last time I checked, there is more than one.

    There’s no need for regulations or any other silliness. If you vote with your wallet, Spirit’s policy will go away. Either because they do or because they have to change.

    1. And people voting with their wallets have proved that this model won’t go away anytime soon.

      Spirit posted a profit, unlike Virgin America or even American Airlines. This could mean that customers prefer Spirit to those two, or that Spirit’s business model is more sustainable and profitable. Either way, kudos to them.

  7. Sorry, Chris, you worded your question all wrong.  It should read:
    ->What do you think of Spirit Air’s new fee for printing boarding passes at the airport?
    x – Great!  Paying overinflated fees helps to stimulate the economy, especially Spirit’s CEO’s personal economy.
    x – Flyway robbery!
    I’m sure your other readers who are much more creative in the morning can help out.
    I can see a $1 charge to print the boarding passes – cost of paper, ink and servicing the kiosk, rounded up.  $5 is simply a punishment for those who can’t print the boarding pass in advance and who can’t get the kiosk to work.  Punishment as a business model is not a good business model.

    1. Unfortunately, punishment works.  That’s why the big carriers all have outrageous change fees and other draconian rules designed to prevent you from making any changes to your ticket

  8. If you are required to have a boarding pass to enter the airport or get on the plane, then that should be included in the price of the ticket. You paid for the ticket, they should be required to see that you can get on.  I simply don’t understand how someone can sell you something that you would then have to turn around and pay extra to actually use/get!?!?!?!?

    1. Auto dealerships sell you a car and then if you want to drive it, you have to buy a (government required) license plate, which is not included in the price.  There is nothing new here.  And remember, if you choose to print the boarding pass at home or the hotel or a library, you save yourself $5.  Your choice.  The airline is giving YOU the choice.  I think that is a good thing.  Better than “fuel surcharges” which you don’t get a choice to pay or not.

      1. Chip, your analogy is flawed.  A correct analogy would be a dealership selling you a car and then charging you to inflate the tires so you could actually drive it off the lot.

  9. I’m glad I’ll never fly Spirit. Or RyanAir.

    It has long been past enough is enough with the airlines and their silly fee games.

  10. I got that ridiculous “survey.” The fee was described as a fee to *check in at the airport,* not a fee to print a boarding pass. I know the difference is negligible, but I recently flew Spirit for the first time and was able to check in for my flight home using my iPad, but could not print the boarding pass. So even though I did check in online, I guess I’d have gotten dinged for not being able to print my boarding pass if this fee had been in effect then.

    Plus, the kiosks weren’t working. If that’s the case, will they still charge $5? I would bet money that in that situation, I’d hear something like, “I don’t have the authority to waive that fee” from the ticket agent. Rip-off.

    1. I was forced to fly Delta last week (ugh), they “mishandled” my luggage and did not give me a refund on the “baggage fee.” They claimed this was policy. I’m contacting up their chain to find out the truth and get my company’s money back. 

      I’ve really got a problem with paying for a “service” that doesn’t pan out.  I arrived and my luggage did not for another four hours, had to be delivered to my hotel after I had to waste time standing in the baggage office….real classy, Delta. Real classy.

      1. Delta’s (and all other airline) policy on this is “Hey, you got your bag, so what you complaining about?”  They will argue that, just like for your ticket, the only thing they guarantee is that you and your bag will eventually get where you want to be.  And if they really lose your bag the payment they give you covers the bag fee.

          1. Also not entirely.  Alaska Air gives one voucher per passenger worth $20 off a future flight or 2000 miles in their mileage program.  That would cover only 1 bag.  And it’s a voucher with pages of restrictions.  So I don’t consider that a refund.

  11. heck, i don’t even have a printer at home. it’s off to a friend or the library to do my printing. so, yeah, if it’s a flight change or late night or i don’t even have access to a pay-n-print place, the airport it is. how much did spirit make last year, anyway? and these execs, as well?

    1. “I don’t have a printer at home”  Considering that you can get a new printer for as little as $30, that a choice on your part.

      1. So I should carry the printer with me for the trip? They will charge me for carrying or checking on a printer!

        This is the same beef I have with TSA.  They say I should wear slip-on shoes.  But, the airline limits how much luggage I can bring and I am not wearing slip-on shoes for miles of sales calls.

        Half of us are returning from a trip not from our home!

        1. That’s a red herring.  The post was in direct response to Mohoshe who stated that he/she didn’t have a printer at home.  I submtted that that was a disingenious excuse given the extremely low cost of printers.

          But the fact remains, there are innumerable options for free or extremly low cost printing.  You can even stop at Fedex/Kinko’s and print a boarding pass for 50 cents.

          1. Why should anybody have to waste their time going out of their way to print something when there is no good reason that an airline should be charging for it?

            No, the fact remains that Spirit has found yet another area where they can gouge people simply because they feel empowered to do so.

          2. I don’t care if a printer is $5. They sell you the ticket, and the ticket should be able to get you on the flight. If they then turn around and say you need a boarding pass, then it should either be provided for you at no charge, or for convenience let you print your own. There is absolutely NO reason to sharge someone extra to use a ticket you already purcahsed and paid government taxes on.

  12. When I fly I want the cheapest ticket I can find. That being said I realize they need to make money. I take the base fair and add which fees I will be paying for to come up with my total. How hard is that?

    People prefer one price but I like ala carte. I don’t understand why so many people stand in line at the ticket counter but am sure glad I don’t have to!

  13. Another good reason NOT to fly Spirit.   I have 3.1 million air miles and wouldn’t be caught dead on a Spirit flight .   I’m waiting to see their other upcoming fees….bathroom fee (discount for #1 only), Jetway fees, window fee, emergency O2 fee, tray-table fee, exit fee (sliding scale based on where you are in the exit Q), maintenance fee and borrowing from the rental car industry, tire fee, location recap fee, licensing fee, and additional mileage fee

  14. Spirit is just a little early into the game. In a few years, boarding passes will be exclusively on Smart phones. You can do it today on most airlines, but most people still use paper boarding passes. It’s a similar situation to a few years back when most people had paper tickets and only a few used e-tickets. Smart phones are the future, paper boarding passes are the past. Young people already get it, for the elderly, new technology is often freightening.

    1. There’s a difference.  There are still a large number of cellular phones on the market that are not smart phones.  Some people only want/need cell phones for the purpose of making phone calls – many times in lieu of having a landline – and have no use for a phone with which they can check the weather or play Angry Birds.  Phones that require a data plan may be cost prohibitive for some people.  While it’s important for companies to embrace new technologies, potential customers should not be penalized for not having certain devices if services are limited to those devices.

      1. And, just remember, there are many more of us elderly folks now. I, for one, like my antiquated cell phone just fine.

  15. When you add up all the fees and surcharges, Spirit, Ryan Air, Aries and other low-budget, fee-based airlines are still less expensive than the majors. It is simple, if you don’t like it, don’t fly them. Then you can pay the higher fares from the majors (by the way, don’t forget that they have their own collection of “hidden” extras). Deal with it folks, it is now the way of the flying world. There are so many bigger problems with traveling (like TSA) that it is not worth the blood pressure hit getting all worked up over fees. While Southwest is the one stellar holdout, and we all love them for that, I bet they will be joining the fee-crazed airlines at some point in the not too distant future, sad as that day will be when it comes.

    1. Why don’t we all just a tattoo of a bar code when we are born and then we can use it for everything from boarding airplanes to paying for coffee at starbucks . . . you enter a secret code into a keypad and scanner and off you go . . .

  16. One more reason I’m glad I never fly Spirit.  Jeez!  Printing things is a cost of doing business, for God’s sake. 

    1. Many banks (Bank of America for example) now require you to get electronic statements if you want free checking.  They also require me to get my pay direct deposited instead of a paper check. If you want printed statements or checks, you pay. Every business on the planet is looking for ways to cut costs.  Printing costs are just one way to do it.  I think Spirit is no different than my bank. You want us to print, you pay.  If you want to print, its free.

      I think your statement, “printing is a cost of doing business” is dated. Look at how much of what we used to do in printed format is now electronic: paper mail to email. Paper mail advertising to electronic advertising. Paper credit card statements to online credit card statements/payments.  Printing is becoming the exception and not the rule.

      1. Many of the bank policies actually help the customer as well as the bank. 

        Direct deposit gets you your money sooner and saves you a trip to the bank while saving the bank from having to have tellers to handle the deposit transaction and all of the back of the house staff required to process that deposited check and get it routed to the right bank so they get paid and can give you  your money.

        Not mailing you a statement is driven more by the cost of postage than anything else.  But there is a savings by not having to print the statements that goes beyond the simple cost of printing.  You also have to factor in the cost of the machine that puts the printed statement into an envelope and includes all of the proper inserts for you.  In the day when checks were also returned, the bank had to insure that the envelope stuffer didn’t put someone else’s checks in your envelope.  By having all of this electronic, the customer also has instant acces to his account details instead of having to wait for that monthly statement to arrive.

        The fees that airlines charge only benefit the airlines. 

        1. I disagre.  By checking in at home and printing my boarding pass at home I do not have to wait in line to check in at the airport.  Saves me time.  So printing boarding passes at home benefits both and not just the airlines. 

      2. I think you are wrong.  There’s a difference between printing a mulit-page, 8 1/2×11″ statement and a small slip of paper at an airport.  I think the cost savings for Spring is minimal. 

  17. I’ve flown Spirit a few times before and have sworn to never do it again.  I’m someone who likes to get the lowest fare while still having decent flying times.  Spirit tempts you with low fares but then all the fees add up and it’s just not worth it, I’d rather pay a bit more and get a better airline.  Plus once I arrived back in the US on a Spirit flight and there was a MASSIVELY long immigration line (all Spirit flights) and they refused to let a parent take a small child to the bathroom, they told her she had to just wait along with everyone else.  I’m not a parent but even I found that cruel. 

    The fares I’ve found on Spirit aren’t THAT cheap that I’d ever consider it again.

  18. Chris, perhaps your REAL poll question should be:  “Is Spirit Airlines ridiculous?” To paraphrase that old 7-Up commercial:  “Never Flew It, Never Will!”

  19. I’m at the grocery store where the margins are 1-2% and started thinking of all the unbundling they could do.  How would it go over?  Parking fee, shopping cart fee, live check-out fee, bagging fee, paper or plastic fee…

    1. My grocery store offers a discount if you bring your own bags, which is the same as charging you extra for using a bag. They also provide you extra coupons if you scan your own items as you put them into the cart, which is the same as charging you extra for using a cashier.

      1. Agreed,

        We have a store here in California called Food 4 Less.  As part of their business model, they don’t have baggers. You bag your own groceries.  The result is cheaper prices.   Some people like it, others don’t.  It called choices.

    2. Aldi requires a 25 cent deposit to use a cart (you get it back when you return it which means they don’t have to pay someone to clear the lot of carts or replace wayward shopping carts).  They also charge you to use bags.  Ikea charges for bags too.  Many places, as Zeke said, give a discount for using your own shopping bags. 

      1. The cart machines in Europe do give the coin back when you return the cart, but since I never seem to have the right coin with me I can never buy more than I can carry in my arms. You’d think the supermarkets over there would notice that they’re selling, on the average, fewer items per customer, but maybe all their customers are better organized than I am!

    3. @d752323f530e0b71d0a1cdffcf648ccc:disqus 
      Have you ever been to Aldi? That’s exactly what they do! But their prices are ridiculously lower than other grocery stores

    4. PathMark does it too, with the shopping cart payment!
      and the City of Long Beach, CA has instituted a ban on bags at stores, so you must bring your own. or perhaps they charge you extra (i’m not sure…it’s a brand new law).

  20. Boarding passes are a necessity for getting on the plane.  There are many reasons, and being lazy is not one of them, that passengers sometimes cannot print a boarding pass before arriving at the airport.  I have been told when checking in online that my flight requires that I check in at the airport.  Will this situation become common with Spirit flights so that they can generate the extra fees?

    People are lulled into thinking that because an airline has so many fees that the ticket price has to be lower.  I find Spirit’s fares, after adding in all of the fees I have to pay for my trip (not counting those fees I know I will not pay), are not noticeably less than other airlines flying the same routes.  I have never flown Spirit because of this and given all of the customer service issues I have seen reported, I doubt I ever will.

    Fees as income to support profitability are an unfortunate part of every business plan these days.  And it is just not right.  The county where I live made a big deal out of the huge reduction in bounced check fees since most people are now paying with debit cards.  The bounce fees they had collected amounted to such a large dollar amount it actually counted as a significant part of their operating budget!   

    1. The airlines are adding fees to compensate for the price war with the online agencies.  If you want to be the first line in Expedia, you need the lowest base fare.  So, they manipulate the fare by tacking on fees on the end. People really think Spirit is lower when they see their search results when in reality no fee airlines like JetBlue and Southwest are actually the better deal. 

      1. To be fair to my comment….Southwest is the true no fee airline. JetBlue charges for blankets, phone reservation fee and a 2nd bag fee.  And JetBlue has a slightly higher fare to get the bundle, well worth it, leather seats, extra leg room, unlimited snacks and LiveTV.
        My point is that the fees are used to manipulate the fare for the online search engines and is more smoke and mirrors than real price comparisons.

      2. A friend of mine from Vegas recently visited me in Los Angeles.  After taxes, Spirit was $59.00 round trip.  Southwest came in second at $200+.  Even with fees and extras, Spirit was the cheapest.  Accordingly, we didn’t mind paying the extra $70 for bags as it brought the cost to $129, still cheaper than 200+.

  21. As long as Spirit planes fly full they will keep up the silliness.  As long as we book on price alone we ask for it.

  22. ah…probably in the future we all have to have a microchip inserted in our body to identify ourself with serial number to enter in the reservation and they can just scan us when we check in at the airport to board…save them the paper…haha…

  23. Bundling and unbundling of products and services goes on everywhere, and it’s always driven by what the market will bear, whether we’re talking cars, computers or whatever.

    It might have been smarter marketing for Spirit to pitch this as a rebate or discount for printing your ticket yourself, but I’ll bet those executives would swallow hard about handing out a $5 discount for what they know costs much less.

    Several times I have downloaded my boarding pass to my iPhone, but then chickened out also printed one too. The one and only time I decided to try using the electronic version was at Dulles, where the lady scanned my iphone on the reader, then handed me a scrap of paper to give to the TSA people downstream to show them I had a valid boarding pass…!

    Hey – next time I will skip bringing any form of boarding pass with me, and just refer anyone who asks to my airline’s computer records. That should save time and money all around, right?  No printing, no paper, no ink, no extra bits cluttering up the internet, …

  24. Airlines are going to charge fees for two very big reasons.  1. They can.  2. It makes them more profit.
    I am willing to bet that most of the people complaining about this fee have never even flown Spirit, and probably never will.
    I think all of Spirits policies are stupid.  I also know I have my choice in airline.  I choose not to fly them.  The airline is not taking your money; you are choosing to fly the airline and choosing to give them your money.  If you don’t like the fee, don’t say they are ripping you off or being unfair.  Fly someone else.

    1. The unfortunate side effect from this is other airlines tend to follow what airlines like Spirit can get away with.  They all want to fee us for everything they can instead of simply charging what it really costs to get us from point to point.

  25. This is exactly why I no longer have a Spirit credit card. So now they are charging for carry on, printing your boarding pass, water and so on. People say they will soon start charging to use the restroom-don’t laugh it seems as if they are headed that way. There was a time where there was a charge to use public restrooms…..

  26. I work at my local library, and have helped a number of out-of-towners this summer to use the computers to print boarding passes.

  27. Ryan Air’s fee for printing a boarding pass has been ruled illegal by the Spanish court system.  Ryan Air is of course fighting this.  

    By the way, the Ryan Air fee is not insignificant.  I think it’s over 25 euros if you show up without your printed boarding pass – over US$ 30.  

  28. Ans 4 did make me chuckle – here’s a question
    What if someone a senior citizen wants to travel, didn’t grow up with the computer age, never adjusted.  Are they going to have to pay the fee or do they already have concessions for senior citizens?

    1. As funny as this may sound to others, this is exactly what my mother, 85 years old, calls and complains about and ends up not having to pay.  She just got a booklet for her new camera from the camera company sent to her for free that costs if you want it as they now have it online for you to print for free…approx 200 plus pages. 

  29. What happens if your flight is oversold and you print your own boarding pass but it doesn’t have a confirmed seat?  

    Or you ask to change your seat at the gate (say you are assigned seats apart from your family)?

    Or you are standing by (i.e. your boarding pass if for a different flight)?

    Is there a $5 charge in each case?

    1. $5.00? Nah, it’s probably $10 for each instance of you causing them problems.

      And they’ll fine you every time you slam the door.

  30. If this becomes a trend, then airlines are going to have to allow more than 24 hours to check in.  When staying in hotels, not all of them have a business center with which to print them out and libraries and/or internet cafes may not be an option.

  31. I hate fees, but I can’t fault the airlines for using them.  People are simply not willing to pay enough for airfares for the airlines to break even, never mind make a profit.  Let’s think about this, folks….you’re going to be 30,000 feet in the air in an aluminum tube, relying on so many people and components to stay alive, and your sole focus is ‘how cheaply can I get there?’  The (true) story I use to illustrate the ridiculousness of the situation is that of my aunt, who insisted $250 to fly round-trip to Vegas from the east coast was too expensive (a relative ended up paying for her) but happily dropped $115 for a ticket to a 1-hour show.

    1. I do agree with this and I’m someone who is on the hunt for low fares all the time.  It seems pretty insane that last year I flew to Bali from NYC, the other side of the world, for $875 round trip.  It cost the friend I met there $750 to fly to Bali…..from Australia.  I was on the plane for close to a full 24 hours, she for I think 6. 

      I hate the luggage fees and the like but I do understand why they charge them.  I think they just need to be more reasonable.  $1 to print the boarding pass, not $5.  refunds if you pay a luggage fee and your luggage doesn’t arrive.  They can charge for food but they should have food/drinks available for purchase (I was just on an over dinner flight where we were stuck on the tarmac for nearly an hour extending a 3 hours flight to 4 hours and there was NO food for purchase on the plane). 

  32. Chris – I am a little confused. First it says the fee is $5, then it says the fee is going to be $1. What is the correct amount? To me, $1.00 is not out of line for the service; $5.00 is. Also, the last time my husband traveled, the Luxor charged him $5.00 to print his boarding pass. They already charge an $18 per day “resort fee” for internet access, etc, but that does not include printing the boarding pass.

  33. I have never used Sprint, but over the past 10 years have fairly frequently flown Ryanair in Europe.   And the biggest reason … they fly where others do not!   My son and myself flew from Limoges, France to Nottingham, England, in mid-May for 14 Euros each (all fees included) an absurdly low fare.  Why?  seats needed filling (and this was only 15 days before we left), whereas a few days later that same fare was 99 Euros, and all fees including on-line check-in fee applied.   Not a comfortable flight, and not much friendly customer service, but what a price if you did not take more than a cabin bag under 10 kilos, which worked for us for a 5 day visit.

    One thing Ryanair does allow is on-line check-in up to 15 days before your departure;  thus I was able to print the boarding passes for both out and return flights well before we left.  This is a useful practice.

    One final note:  for Ryanair, there is no choice of alternative airline … they fly from smaller towns in Europe to other smaller ones.   We got from Limoges to Nottingham in 75 minutes;  have you any idea how long and how expensive that trip would be on any other form of transportation:  an all day trip, and probably 140 euros instead of 14.   

  34. Spirit’s policy is, in my opinion, totally off base.  For that matter, their whole business model doesn’t meet my criteria for sensibility.  But as long as the customer base is going to collectively act like a bunch of idiots and look only at the initial price, without figuring in add-on fees and quality of what they get in return, I’m afraid it’s here to stay.  I’m just waiting for the airline that finally realizes there are people who are willing to pay something more, if they perceive value in return.

    1. Well said. I have been asking the question for a long time…if Spirit’s revenue generating unbundling approach is so terrible…why do people continue to fly them? Like it or not, this IS what a portion of the flying public apparently want. Their planes are still full, even on routes that compete with other LCCs and legacies.

      I personally know a family who flew them 2-3 times/year to Peru and hated every minute of it! The father flew monthly on business and always went American Airlines since it wasn’t his dime. Since he could save a buck when it was his own money, he went to Spirit. Even with baggage and other fees he came out way ahead cost wise.

    2. I am waiting with you!

      Those who choose Spirit, are doing so strictly on price.  What is of concern is the lemming affect that often takes place with carriers.  Right now you can choose, but when they all fall in line with similar fees, then we are stuck.

      I understand trying to save paper.  However, we couldn’t get two boarding passes on one phone without holding up the line at security so we needed to print one out.  With my bank, I get estatements, but I have to still print them out as they are only in their system for 6 months, plus the checks I need for tax purposes, so there is still a cost and it is now placed on my shoulders. 

      I mentioned earlier today regarding my mother getting her ‘how to operate’ booklet from the camera company for free that the company feels is too expensive to include anymore and has it online.  However, if you need to figure something out while looking at Yosemite Falls, carrying over 200 computer printed pages is not exactly reasonable or easy.

      We were just on vacation in Hawaii.  What a PITA it was going to be to have to take time from the last hours to handle the boarding pass situation.  Sort of takes away from the reason of the getaway!  So I didn’t and just took care of it at the airport 🙂

    3. “I’m just waiting for the airline that finally realizes there are people
      who are willing to pay something more, if they perceive value in return.”

      There is such an airline – it’s called Southwest.  They’re often not the cheapest option anymore (or the most punctual, either, but that’s another story), but people keep going back because of the perceived superior service and value.

  35. So, if yoy cannot print a boarding pass and do not want to pay the printing fee when you get to the airport, will they refund your money when they prevent you from boarding?

    1. A fee is no longer a fee when it is mandatory, it becomes part of the price. It doesn’t matter where it comes from (government or company), it still is an obligatory amount that must be paid.

      The mass of people are easily fooled by “low” prices and do not register the *fees and taxes may apply. Any person trained in mass retailing can tell you that more sales happen for an item priced 5.99 rather than 6.00 (or even 5.90). It is a psychology thing.

      I wish prices would reflect everything — including taxes! — since all of it is required if I actually want to purchase something.

      I will not fly Spirit, partly because they don’t do anything in my area, but also I will not reward deceptive business practices. (I also refrain from shopping at other retailers for the same reason as well — no matter how much money I could “save.”)

  36. So the people who are getting off the cruise ship and heading straight to the airport are just screwed, right?  You PAID for a “ticket” – the boarding pass is their copy you’ve actually exchanged that ticket for your seat on the plane, and can count that you are onboard (in a situation of overbooked space).  The responsibility to issue that is THEIRS.  The convenience of having it ahead of time was the original excuse of having you checkin 24 hours in advance.  Trust me – the airline employees don’t see a dime – I know – used to work for the airlines.  This is just another move to have no onw working that front desk — what’s next – walking your luggage to the holding area as well????

    1. Some cruise lines and hotels charge for the ‘service” of printing a BP. I guess Spirit sees this as a way to get those $’s.

  37. Follow the money. “Currently the government collects a 7.5% excise tax on passenger fares but not on ancillary fees.” — Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2010.

    There’s the real root of the problem with airline fees. They provide a tax-free way for the airlines to raise total fares. That is the reason all of these line-items are being pulled out of the service package and assigned extra fees.

  38. “seven memorable summers interning at various news organizations” – chris how many years were you in high school??!!  🙂

  39. I love how all of Spirit’s poll answers are skewed toward the same answer: “I want to pay more money”, either with higher fares or as an ancillary fee.  It’s so much better than just asking a simple yes or no question.

  40. I’m not surprised considering it is an airline that charges for carry on luggage.

    Let’s introduce some more charges here:

    Agent taking too long to fix something they screwed up in the computer: $30
    Waiting in line more than 10 minutes due to understaffing:  $100/hour
    Not providing timely information at the boarding gate when there are flight delays:  $50

  41. I find this rediculous because you are required to have a boarding pass.  If they gave more options, like printing at an airport kiosk for free then I might be ok with charging a fee to go to a counter and have it printed. 

    Sometimes there really just isn’t a reasonable way to print your ticket when you’re away, and even sometimes at home.

  42. I fly Spirit a few times a year and yes it is no-frills and very a la carte….but my question is ….do you get charged if it actually does not print?  I have used hotel computers for 2 years and I have only found one that actually was able to print the boarding pass!  The program/reader Spirit uses is not very friendly.  When I ask why their computer won’t print, the people ask if it is Spirit Airlines that I am trying to print a boarding pass for.  When I tell them “yes”, they say that there is some reason that they will not print on their computer.  I can print it at home but I’m not always there 24 hours before a flight.
    This new fee makes me very sad.  I’m wondering how many people are going to get charged $5 each time they TRY to print a boarding pass?

  43. Spirit is finally coming to an airport near where I live and their fares look so good on the surface.  But, with all the extra charges for everything, I think I will stick with Southwest.  I love that I am able to carry my bags on for free (I pack very light) and that I can change my flight without fees if my plans change. 

  44. What happens when Spirit Air’s website says “website is unavailable to process your request” when you check in and go to print from home?

    They STILL  charge you $5 PER PERSON.  Had this happen to a party of 4 this weekend headed to a wedding.  The mom printed out a screenshot and took it with her to the counter and they STILL charged per person. 

    Spirit is the worst.  After being mistreated by them more than I should’ve allowed, I’ve made the conscious decision to never fly them again “even if they’re the cheapest fare” and not surprisingly, they’ve never been the cheapest.

    Sorry Spirit, I went from being a frequent casual flyer to an elite level Delta loyalist thanks to a job that requires a lot more travel.  I hope Spirit folds.  Too bad so many infrequent travelers get suckered into the “cheap” fare. 

  45. We flew Spirit Air recently and will not again. We had to drive to the next city, and when we add up what all the extras cost…baggage fees (Flying out of the country you generally need at least 1 bag…), and other fees we did not know about…we could have flown a conventional carrier like Jet Blue or SouthWest from our home airport for little more. Next time we will! I felt like we were being fee’d to death. It just grated on us. We were not aware of some of the fees and our travel agent was not either. Thanks for nothing!

  46. Ryanair charges 40 EUROs (over $50) to print a boarding pass, so by comparison Spirit’s $5 fee is a bargain. Ryanair also charges 40 EUROs if your carry-on bag weighs more than 10 Kg (22 lbs), and they check them with scales just before you get to the boarding gates. 

  47. Am I the only person who’s getting really fed up with companies’ manipulative and entitled attitudes? Taxes going up? “Well you know this IS going to mean there are going to be layoffs and price hikes – if we’re even able to offer popular products at all.” Regulations going into effect: “We’re going to go out of business and then you won’t have access to what we offer.” Stricter employment laws? “Hiring freeze.” And now this set of totally manipulative questions. As a consumer and as a citizen, I take these kinds of statements as a slap in the face.

    These threats rarely materialize and, when they do, are much less dramatic than companies would have us believe. And I’m a small business owner with a finance degree, so don’t tell me I don’t understand business economics.

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