How Passengers Sneak Luggage Onto Spirit Airlines Flights For Free

It’s been more than a decade since Spirit Airlines has charged customers extra to bring a carry on bag on their flight, and not just a personal item. United Airlines learned this trick from Spirit, and is the only carrier whose basic economy fares do not allow a carry on bag at all.

United doesn’t even let customers buying basic economy fares to check in online if they aren’t checking bags, because they want to visually inspect before the passenger makes it to the gate.

But in the game of airline versus passenger, there’s years of experience at ‘beating the system’. Spirit Airlines, for instance, banned a passenger last fall for teaching others online how to alter their boarding pass to look like they’ve paid for bags. (The passenger says he didn’t actually use this trick on his own trip.)

Here’s a new one someone tried – disguising their carry on bag by putting it inside a shopping bag of sorts and carrying it onto a Spirit flight.

Here’s the thing. It may be possible to fool a gate agent, because they aren’t thinking about a full sized bag when they see a shopping bag, but this isn’t something I would expect to work most of the time because a carry on bag isn’t defined by whether it is a suitcase. The difference between a personal item and a carry on bag is its size. By definition the bag used to carry the carry on has to be larger than the carry on.

Spirit’s rules are clear that a personal item can be no larger than 18″ x 14″ x 8″.

Look, you’re flying Spirit – the way to save is by strictly following the rules. If this doesn’t work and you get caught (and don’t get banned!) you’re looking at gate-checking the bag and that’s even more expensive. You’re probably saving money flying in the first place, so splurge and pay for the bag – along with the Big Front Seat which even comes with group 2 boarding.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. With all the passenger fights onboard at Spirit Airlines and in the Miami airport, I think Spirit Airlines “flight attendants” should be called “fight attendants.”

  2. I just wear multiple layers of clothing, enough for a week. Yes I look like the Michelan man but I just saved $35!

  3. Insensitive post. Most don’t see it as a “game”, they do it cause they have little money and are trying to do whatever they can in order to get from Point A to B. And for the one commenter to say if you can’t pay, don’t fly, is absurd. Shame on you for your insensitivity and understanding.

  4. The world needs more of @ Steve!

    “If you can’t pay don’t fly”?

    How about rather, “if you are a heartless bastard, don’t comment on view from the wing”!

  5. I apologise for offending some people. That is my opinion.

    I can’t buy a ticket for a cruise and bring my own alcohol on board. Same thing with disguising “luggage” on a plane.

  6. I flew Spirit in the Big Front Seat, AUS-ORD, a couple of years ago and it was OK.

  7. I have no dog in this fight but what we are discussing here is the rules of society. If they have a rule against “whatever”, then if you can get away with breaking said rules and not get caught it is OK?

  8. If a son or daughter has no money but their parent is dying across the country, they do not care about someone’s “rules”, they simply want to get there… individuals in our society are the casualty of simplistic generalizations perpetuated by those “participating” on the internet.

  9. So according to Steve poverty/ inability to pay is a reason to break the rules and we should all fall in line with this way of thinking. Steve we do not “yet” live in a socialist society where everyone is of the same economic socioeconomic standing. There are many things / experiences that I and my family cannot partake in as we are not rich. Yet we don’t break the rules all in the name of not being able to afford something. Sorry but You’re slippery slope reasoning is full of holes.

  10. I tried them once and it was appalling. I felt sorry for the pilots and cabin crew.

  11. @Stephen Morrissey: You were doing just fine until you started apologizing for your opinions.

    Now, back to running my nationwide business from Admirals’ clubs using AU cards.

  12. Holey sh#t. I am a stupid Canadian. Okay? Eh?

    Apparently, I can’t make a comment, or apologise to snow flakes who go apeshit over my comment.

    Big sigh….

  13. I fly spirit at least every other month for a short flight and for that it’s fine.. round trip $64? You bet! It’s all relative. If I were flying to NYC I would fly a different color airline so CE it would be a long flight bottom line you know going in what to expect. Any seasoned traveler who is “shocked” by spirit”s policies is simply being a high maintenance cry baby

  14. Don’t sweat it Stephen! It’s impossible not to offend whiney, self-appointed, self-righteous Internet cops who think it’s their job to police “sensitivity”. Why care?

    Now, to the real topic . . . I’ve got the means to fly on a “traditional” airline but I often use Spirit because I love the value I get. For SEA-LAS trips, I can usually get a flight time I like plus a Big Front Seat (close enough to an AS F seat for me) for less than Alaska’s coach fare. Whenever that’s the case I’ll do that every time rather than hope I get a upgrade to F (I’m only a lowly MVP.)

  15. @Stephen Morrissey
    I think I might speak for Stephen and paraphrase:
    If you can’t play by the rules, don’t play.
    And to other commenters … I doubt that one in 10,000 passengers is a destitute child flying home to see a dying relative for the last time. What a stretch !

  16. @ Alan — I only fly up front, but a Spirit Big Seat occasionally does the trick. If I do not need to carry anything more than a small bag, the flight is short, and the price is way lower than AA, DL, UA or AS, I’ll take Spirit. Granted, I have flown then on a whopping 2 sevmebrs, ATL-MCO and MCO-ATL. It was tolerable.

  17. I did not know up until last week that Spirit even charges to print boarding pass in kiosk or from the counter. Also find out that they do not serve any snacks or drinks. They just sells.
    So I think, Spirit is good only for those who makes short flight and have nothing to carry or have light stuffs to carry.
    My return flight was canceled for next day. But never provide hotel, meal and transportation for layover.
    My last week’s travel with Spirit will be the last one. Will never fly again.
    The publish value seems cheap, but if you pay for seat, luggage, snacks on the board, boarding card, you will be end paying more than you thought.

  18. So many Americans now break all sorts of rules, that it’s only natural that some passengers try to thwart Spirit’s luggage policy.

    We used to be a different nation: the federal government could be trusted — on most issues, physicians spent more the 15 or so minutes with their patients, our children were taught by teachers who didn’t impose a socio-political philosophy that raised the hackles of many parents, we believed that our elections were fair and honest — and corruption was thought to be limited to Chicago, Philadelphia, and certain areas in the South, etc.

    I don’t say that life was easier, just different.

  19. @Cmorgan

    Just such a society is what Democrats like Chesa Boudin, son of Marxist terrorists, are trying to create. It is enacting white supremacy to enforce laws when BIPOCs violate them, so they won’t enforce them at all. Never mind that Black folx commit over half of all murders in America and the overwhelming majority of the victims are their fellow Black brothers and sisters. But it’s the racist cops who are massacring our Black citizenry on the streets with impunity, amirite?

  20. This thread is a good example of what is wrong with our society. The people who have money lack empathy or even a basic understanding of those who do not. It’s actually pretty sad and truly wish that some day they will be forced to see life through a different perspective. Perhaps in our society we should start making it mandatory to live lower middle class for a year of your life so you can start seeing things from another perspective. Empathy may not be something some people are capable of but perhaps at least some sort of common sense when coupled with perspective is something even sociopaths can achieve. Shaking my head. Now proceed to call me names below. I’m used to it. Narcissistic individuals are predictable. Have at it.

  21. I will NEVER fly Spirit again. I was in so much pain after my short flight from the seat with no padding. I suffer from chronic pain since 2002 and I bring a seat cushion which helps but there was no padding on the back of the seat and it took me days to recover. The employee’s were great even with the fact we had to bring my son’s ashes on the flight.

  22. Your socioeconomic status has zero to do with whether or not you “follow the rules” of a business. Cheating is stealing in this case, against the Law and the 10 Commandments.
    BTW, Frontier Airlines also does not allow “free” carry on bags with basic Economy fare, and, although we could afford UA First class, I will never ever fly a major again unless under dire circumstances, I hate United, Delta, American but LOVE Frontier and we fly all over the country very very frequently for what a really nice lunch might cost.

  23. The great thing about America is that if you could only afford Spirit to fly, with hard work and a skill, you’ll soon be able to fly any airline you want.

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