Frontier, Spirit Airlines raise bag fees for holidays

Hugo Martin
Los Angeles Times

If you fly Frontier or Spirit Airlines, the two ultra-low-fare carriers have a holiday surprise for you: higher bag fees.

Denver-based Frontier is following the lead of Spirit by hiking bag fees for the holiday period, from Nov. 19 through Jan. 5.

At Frontier, the fee of $25 to $30 for the first checked bag will increase by $5 to $10, depending on how early you pay and whether you pay online or at the check-in counter. The hike extends to the second and third checked bags.

Spirit began raising fees for the holiday last year, saying it wanted to encourage fliers to pack lighter during the crowded travel season. This year, the bag fees at Spirit are going up $2, starting Dec. 16 through Jan. 4.

(Spirit Airlines’ website discloses how much fliers must pay in bag fees only after they type in their travel itinerary.)

Frontier is expanding the fee hike to other popular travel periods.

According to Frontier’s website, the $5-to-$10 bag fee boost will also make an appearance from Feb. 11 through April 4, about the time most colleges let students out for spring break. The airline will also increase bag fees for the summer travel season, from June 9 through Aug. 16.

In a statement, Frontier Airlines said travelers can avoid the fees by buying a package deal that includes free bag check, roomier seats and priority boarding, among other extras.

The hike by Frontier should be no surprise. Frontier is in the process of converting to an ultra-low-fare model, following the example of Florida-based Spirit Airlines, which offers bare-bones fares but charges fees for many services or products, including $3 for water.

In fact, the same investors, Indigo Partners, who helped finance Spirit Airlines when it converted to the ultra-low-fare model, bought Frontier in 2013 with a plan to do the same with it.

The model seems to be working. When ranked by operating profit margins, ultra-low-fare airlines such as Allegiant (24 percent margin), Spirit (21 percent), Frontier (17 percent) and Ryanair in Europe (20 percent) surpassed the biggest U.S. carriers, including American (15 percent), Delta (14 percent) and United (11 percent), over a 12-month period ended in June, according to a study by the trade publication Airline Weekly.