It's enough to make even a seasoned budget traveller wince. Passengers on super-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines, who already forgo both large hand luggage and hold bags for its bargain-basement "Bare Fares", are having the size of their tiny "personal item" allowance cut by a quarter.

Until April 4, travellers opting for the lowest price tariff can only bring a modestly-sized handbag on board: up to 42,000cm³ (40 x 35 x 30 cm). But after that date, those "personal items" will have to be 25 per cent smaller - no more than 31,500cm³ (45 x 35 x 20 cm).

To put that in perspective, Ryanair's hand baggage allowance is 44,000cm³ (55 x 40 x 20 cm), plus a personal item such as a handbag sized 14,000cm³ (35 x 20 x 20 cm). It's positively princely in comparison.

With "Less money, more go" as its slogan, the Florida-based carrier — which serves cities all over North America, Latin America and the Caribbean — offers few perks in exchange for its low fares.


"A ticket with us gets you and a personal item from A to B," says its website — no luggage, in-flight entertainment, complimentary refreshments or seat reservations."

It charges up to US$10 to print out boarding passes, and admits to "cozier" cabins for more cost-effective flying: "We add more seats to our planes because when we fly with more people, the cost per person goes down. Our seats are simple: they don't recline, so you don't wind up with someone's head in your lap."

Spirit Airlines is the only carrier in the world to enforce such rigid and all-encompassing low-fare restrictions. "We call it Frill Control," says Spirit's website. "We believe in paying only for what you use, not what you don't."

Last month, American Airlines launched "basic economy" fares, joining another full-service airline, United, in offering super-low-cost tickets. The trend has yet to reach Europe, although WizzAir charges €10-€18 for a large piece of hand luggage (up to 56 x 45 x 25 cm). Smaller pieces (42 x 32 x 25 cm) can be carried free of charge.

American Airlines hasn't revealed how much its basic economy airfares will cost, but said that basic economy tickets will have the "lowest available" prices, while regular fares will be "a little more".