CheapOair became the first online travel agency to offer travelers the option of paying to check bags or stow carry-ons in overhead bins on Spirit Airlines, the ultra low-cost carrier that delights in making its fares as cheap as possible.
Spirit and its baggage fees are in all GDSs and are available to all travel agencies — traditional and online. However, Spirit said that other online agencies have not “stepped up to the plate” the way CheapOair has.
“We look forward to the day that they do the same and offer their customers the convenience of buying online before they get to the airport,” said Paul Berry, director of public and media relations for Spirit.
CheapOair has developed a proprietary ancillary platform that enables it to present ancillaries on the website, according to Patriek Karayil, CheapOair’s chief marketing officer.
CheapOair is a hybrid agency which sells online, through its 24/7 call center, via mobile apps or using live chat.
CheapOair is now selling ancillaries for three U.S. carriers: American Airlines, US Airways and Spirit. It is also selling Air Canada ancillaries at CheapOair.ca.
The online agency is getting its ancillary content from Spirit via the GDSs, using special services request (SSR) messaging, long used for querying airlines to request special meals, wheelchairs and other services.
CheapOair uses GDSs for most of its ancillary content. It will adopt other technologies as airlines want to use them, according to its executives.
Chris Cuddy, chief commercial officer for Fareportal, which owns CheapOair and was No. 10 on the Travel Weekly 2014 Power List, said in an interview with Travel Weekly in June, “We are trying to lead the industry and be responsive to our partners’ request for innovation.”
Travel agents can also book Spirit tickets and all of its ancillaries on the airline's travel agent portal. The portal includes a Name Your Own Commission program that enables agents to add a service charge to the price of a ticket before payment.
Spirit pricing varies by distribution channel, so bags are cheapest when booked through its website — whether on the consumer part or the agent part.
They are most expensive when booked at the gate. Baggage fees are the same when booked via the GDS or the Spirit call center. Fees range from $21 for the first checked bag booked online to a high of $100 at the gate. Bags booked through a GDS, the res center or at the airport, start at $45 for putting a bag in an overhead bin.
Karayil said that CheapOair is in “active” discussions with Spirit and other carriers to add more ancillaries.
Spirit has unbundled its fares to such a degree that it even charges for water on its flights. It was the first U.S. carrier to charge for access to overhead bins.