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Monkey see, monkey do.

The biggest airlines have now instituted new, bare-bones "basic economy" fares that strip passengers of the automatic right to checked bags or seat assignments unless they pay extra charges. Now Sun Country Airlines, a long-running Minneapolis-based airline that covers the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean, has jumped on board.

Its pricing structure is even more complicated, though—what you're quoted depends on the route, length of the flight, the time of year, and whether you want an aisle, a middle, or a window seat. And people who only want to carry on luggage will be punished the most.

Basically, customers of Sun Country will now choose from one of three "bundles" when they purchase a ticket, depending on whether they intend to use only a carry-on, check luggage, or bring no bags at all (who does that last one, and isn't it a security red flag?).

The highest-priced ticket, "Store & Go," adds $30–$35 to your base fare, depending how far you're going. It allows customers to bring one carry-on bag into the cabin, plus one personal item. Essentially, this is what most airlines current allow you without charging you extra for it. But wait—if you don't buy it until you reach the airport, the price rises to $40.

If you want to check your bag in the hold, that's called "Check & Go," and it's another $20–$25. So right away, because this bundle is cheaper, you can see the pricing structure is aimed at keeping luggage out of the passenger cabin.

The third option, "Grab & Go," allows only a personal item like a purse or a very small backpack, but nothing you could call luggage. If you can travel this way, congratulations, and we hope you wash your clothes daily.

Naturally, because it's wildly impractical for vacationers, this last option is the cheapest, and it will be the price that shows up highest on airfare search engines. It will trick many people into thinking that Sun Country is always the cheapest airline available, when in reality, if a passenger wants to have all the privileges they have considered to be normal on an airline, they now have to pay a whole lot of fees after that initial lead-in price is levied.

Even after all that, there are more fees to come: Seat selection will span $2–$35 depending on the type of seat it is (window/aisle/middle), the time of year, and the flight's length.

The new pricing structure is thanks to a new Sun Country chief executive, who perfected the technique when he worked at Allegiant Air.

As usual, airline executives said the changes were a way to give customers more control over what they pay for.

Do Basic Economy tickets actually save you money, as airline executives imply? We answer that question in another post; click here for that.

Tags: Sun Country Airlines, basic economy, no frills, budget airline, budget travel, fees, extra charges

Categories: Airfare & Airports, Money and Currency, Packing Tips