Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza defends carry-on fee nonsense

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Christopher Elliott, National Geographic Traveler’s ombudsman, has followed up his interview of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood with one of Spirit Airlines Chief Executive Ben Baldanza.

LaHood called Spirit Airlines’ decision to start charging passengers for carry-on bags “outrageous” and “ridiculous,” adding: “I don’t think they care about their customers.”

Baldanza said the fee was an attempt to eliminate delays, after the airline “identified excessive carry-on baggage as the No. 1 controllable reason that our planes were being delayed at the gate.”

It’s not about bringing in more money, given that the airline lowered base fares by the amount of the fee or more, he said. “No one pays more, some pay less, and those with carry-on bags get to board first.”

Baldanza said the airline clearly discloses its fees and reiterated that passengers pay for airline services, one way or the other, saying: “I spent many years in the legacy airline business thinking of ways to charge customers more for their ticket. At Spirit, we spend all of our time trying to make travel affordable for everyone and to put the pricing power in consumers’ hands. … Gouging you on your fare but then giving you a ‘free’ cola doesn’t seem quite as nice to me.”