Disabled Travelers and Spirit Airlines New Baggage Policy


By now you’ve probably heard that Spirit airlines will start charging for carry-on baggage. To be honest, I saw it coming. After the airlines started charging for checked baggage, a new breed a travelers emerged — folks that were determined to beat the checked baggage fees by carrying aboard their steamer trunk-sized luggage. And the flight crew did very little to enforce it all — after all they were having a hard enough time getting folks seated and ready for departure. So I guess this new policy is one way to enforce it. But what about disabled travelers? Will they now have to pay to transport their wheelchairs, canes and walkers? In a word no. Those items are exempted from the new carry-on charges.

Also exempted are cameras, coats, reading material, umbrellas, diaper bags, car seats and food for immediate consumption. And of course anything that fits under seat. More specifically bags no larger than 16 X 14 X 12 inches.

But what about medical supplies like catheters and gloves? Although under the law the airlines can’t charge for transport of those items, they don’t have to transport them in the passenger compartment. So my suggestion would be to pack them in a suitcase no larger than 22 X 18 X 10 inches and mark it “medical supplies”. Make sure that you don’t have any personal items such as clothing in the bag. Then, when you check in explain that it is exempt from baggage charges because it only contains medical supplies; and you’d like to carry it on as you’d be hard pressed if it didn’t arrive at your destination.

Will it work? Hard to say. They may insist that it goes in the baggage compartment. But still, you shouldn’t be charged for it. If this becomes an issue at check-in, ask to speak to the CRO. They know and understand all access rules and regulations.

As for your clothing and personal items, well, everyone is subject to the same charges on those. Starting July 1, Spirit will charge you $45 at the gate or $30 in advance for carry-on items that are not exempt. And if you prefer to check your luggage it will cost you $45 at the gate and $25 in advance. And I look for other airlines to follow this example.

Alternatively you could do as Erich Schuttauf, the executive director of the American Association for Nude Recreation, suggests  –think about taking a “nakation”. As he points out, “All you’ll need for the week (sunscreen, cap, sunglasses, shoes and toiletries) can fit in a small carry on that will fit under the seat, avoiding even carry on bag fees.” And he adds, “If more air travelers take a stand and a Nakation in 2010, it could send a message to the airlines using checked and unchecked baggage fees as a way to charge the vacationing masses more money in this tight economy.”

Perhaps it’s the next emerging travel trend? Stranger things have happened.