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.