Spirit Airlines made national news last year when it began charging customers for carry-on luggage. Critics saw the move as an attempt to gouge customers, but Brent Hopkins saw it as an opportunity.
Hopkins, who graduated from Western Michigan University last year, is president of CarryOn Free, a Rochester Hills-based online retailer that sells luggage specifically designed to help Spirit customers avoid baggage fees.
"I'm a pretty avid Spirit Airlines flier," Hopkins told MLive.com. "When they introduced the fee there was public outrage. But one day I was flying and I noticed you could still bring a free carry-on, it just had to be a smaller size."
When his flight landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Hopkins confirmed that Spirit Airlines does, in fact, still allow passengers to carry on bags for free so long as they fit in a 16" x 14" x 12" under-seat space.
"It's a really odd dimension," Hopkins said. "I realized that nobody was selling bags at that size, so I figured I'd start."
While Spirit is a relatively small company known for it's low-priced fares, it's the second-busiest carrier in Detroit. The airline charges between $30 and $45 dollars for each carry-on, and several competitors have followed suit and charge similar fees for larger bags.
"Delta's dimensions aren't much bigger," Hopkins said. "But since Spirit is the smallest, the bags can be used for every other airline that has a similar policy."
One year after implementing its carry-on policy, Spirit claims the fee has helped decrease boarding and deplaning times by more than 6 minutes per flight, as fewer customers struggle to fit large bags in small spaces.
"The carry-on policy was a bold move to address a real and costly boarding time delay concern and has proven to be a true win for consumers," President and CEO Ben Baldanza said last month.
Hopkins, meanwhile, is hoping his luggage line is a "true win" for the cost-conscious consumers who often fly Spirit.