Spirit Airlines Raises Online Booking Fee

11/14/2011 04:49 pm ET

NEW YORK -- Passengers on Spirit Airlines Inc. now face nearly $34 in fees just to buy their tickets on the web. The only way most customers can avoid the fee is to head to the airport and wait on line to see a ticket agent there.

The no-frills airline advertises base fares as low as $9 but then charges passengers for everything from placing a carry-on bag in the overhead bin to having a glass of water onboard. In January, it plans to start charging $5 for each boarding pass a ticket agent prints.

On Nov. 8, the Miramar-Fla. company increased its domestic "passenger usage fee" from $8.99 each way to $16.99 last week, according to spokeswoman Misty Pinson. The international fee fell $2 each way to $16.99.

The passenger usage fee is charged to anybody buying tickets online, the bulk of Spirit's sales. Anybody who treks to the airport to buy a ticket can avoid the fee. It is also not charged on flights departing from Colombia or Panama.

The booking fee could be 40 percent or higher of an overall ticket price. For instance, a $14 each way fare each way between Detroit and New York included $21.40 in federal taxes and security fees and the $33.98 usage fee.