Last Updated on December 5, 2020
The Spirit Airlines bare fare is often very cheap, but it only allows you to bring one personal item size bag.
The permitted personal item dimensions are 18 x 14 x 8 inches. Your bag should fit under the seat in front of you.
But how strict are Spirit in enforcing these rules? If your personal item is one inch too big will there be any trouble?
Let’s dig a little deeper to find out if Spirit are easy-going or precise with their permitted bag dimensions.
Why Spirit Is Strict With Their Carry On Policy
Spirit doesn’t make a lot of money on their fares. Their pricing policy is to keep ticket prices very low but to make as much profit as possible on the optional added extras.
In fact, almost 50% of Spirit’s revenue comes from these additional charges, and most of their profit is from ancillary revenue or non-ticket revenue.
It stands to reason that since Spirit isn’t profiting much from the flights they will be more strict in enforcing the rules where they can make some money.
Spirit prefers to lure passengers in with a cheap flight then profit from their artificially inflated prices for amenities.
It’s a bit like selling you a hot dog for 25 cents, allowing you half a teaspoon of ketchup, but if you want more ketchup, mustard, onions, or whatever it will cost you an additional $5.
In other words, Spirit are a bit sneaky with their pricing. They are playing a game.
So Spirit is very strict about personal item dimensions. They need to be. This is how they make their money and stay in business.
They even admit themselves that they are “pretty strict”:
In some ways, this is good news. It means if you learn to pack light you can beat the system and fly for cheap!
If you like cheap hot dogs with no toppings you can outsmart Spirit, avoid their pricing traps and pay less to travel.
But if you don’t read the Spirit carry on policy before you fly this can happen:
Every cent of that $65 is pure profit. It costs nothing for Spirit to let you bring larger carry on bag. The more passengers they can catch with oversize bags the more money they make.
Do They Measure Your Personal Item On Spirit Airlines?
They don’t measure everyone’s bag.
To measure every bag would cause delays and they’d need to employ more staff.
Employees pick and choose when to measure a bag and it can feel unfair sometimes:
Arianne says “They have people that actually walk their boarding lines to measure friggin carry on suitcases. Then if people can’t pay immediately they are refused boarding.”
That sounds pretty strict to me!
But “strict” doesn’t automatically mean unfair.
If you measure your bag and it’s within the size limits you won’t have any problems.
But let’s be honest what you really want to know is…
Can I get away with it?
Well maybe… but look at what happened with Kelly:
Kelly flew with Spirit many times and got away with her bag dimensions.
In her view, the bag met the standards but one time she was challenged and in Spirit’s eyes it didn’t meet the standards.
So do you like to gamble or do you like to play it safe?
What happens if your Spirit personal item is one inch too big?
If you are selected for bag measurement you can expect Spirit to be pretty rigid and inflexible.
John got hit with a $65 charge to gate check a bag because his wheels wouldn’t fit in the container.
So if you try to board a Spirit flight with an oversize personal item they will charge you $65. There are no exceptions.
The same happened with Iqra and her baggage:
You need to know the luggage rules when flying Spirit. Wheels do count when measuring!
Spirit flights are cheap to get you in the system. Once you are in the system you can bet your ass they are going to try to squeeze more dollars out of you.
On average Spirit manage to get $55 extra out of every passenger. They’re coming for you too!
So for example, did you realize that you can’t take your personal item and your purse? That’s two bags and you’re only permitted one.
We reviewed the personal item bags for Spirit on this page.
No, don’t risk it with Spirit. They will come after you and take your money. Their gate agents sniff out over-sized bags like pigs rooting for truffles. Dem da rules!
It depends on the size of the backpack. You need to measure it. If it’s under the 18 x 14 x 8 limit then you will be good to go.
You need to pack light if you don’t want to pay extra for a larger carry-on or to bring a checked bag.
There is no maximum weight limit for personal items or carry-on bags. The weight limit for checked bags is 40 lbs. This is 10 lbs less than the industry average.
The Bottom Line
The free bare fare carry on bag is pretty small compared to other airlines carry on bag limits.
Spirit Airlines depends on catching oversize bags to generate profits. I would never take my chances with an oversize bag when flying Spirit.
If you do think your bag is too large then the sooner you book the larger carry-on the cheaper it will be. The cheapest time to book a carry-on or checked bag with Spirit is when you buy the ticket.
Don’t take any risks with Spirit about baggage sizes. You will probably end up regretting it.
But before you go badmouthing Spirit airlines. They’re not the only airline getting strict about luggage sizes for profit.
United Basic Economy has even more strict rules than Spirit!
This is the future. Many airlines are starting to copy Spirit’s pricing model and strict rules. So watch out whoever you are flying with!