Frontier Airlines Cuts Social Distancing Fee Following Backlash

US-based low-cost carrier Frontier has rescinded its decision to make passengers pay for the privilege of an empty middle seat. The airline had previously offered the ‘More Room’ policy to give passengers peace of mind that they wouldn’t be sitting next to someone else. Following criticism by both passengers and lawmakers, the airline has withdrawn the offer and says it will be blocking middle seats at no cost to its customers.

Frontier Airlines covid-19 coronavirus
Frontier will no longer charge passengers for an empty middle seat. Photo: Getty Images

A U-turn on ‘More Room’

Frontier Airlines has taken a U-turn on its plans to charge customers for the privilege of keeping the middle seat free. It had previously launched a policy called ‘More Room,’ which gave passengers the option to pay $39 to secure an empty middle seat in their row.

However, after complaints from politicians, the airline has withdrawn this offer. Peter DeFazio, chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, called the move “capitalizing on fear,” slamming the policy as “outrageous” and saying the airline was just trying to make a quick buck.

CEO Barry Biffle shared his thoughts in a letter to lawmakers yesterday, as reported in NBC, saying,

“We recognize the concerns raised that we are profiting from safety and this was never our intent … We simply wanted to provide our customers with an option for more space.”

Now, it seems Frontier will commit to keeping the middle seat free on its flights without charging customers for the space.

Middle seats blocked

Biffle claimed that the cost associated with the ‘More Room’ product was not intended to capitalize on fears, saying it was already making “best efforts to ensure as much social distancing as possible throughout the aircraft.”

Charging for an empty middle seat was not a good move. Photo: Tomas Del Coro via Flickr

Now, the middle seat will be blocked across the fleet, with no associated charge for customers. This comes as Biffle says that Frontier’s load factors are exceeding 50% and that they are beginning to trend higher on many flights over the coming weeks.

To date, social distancing on flights has mainly been possible thanks to the incredibly low load factors on most regular services. However, as airlines begin to whittle down schedules, this natural social distancing has become harder to achieve.

Just yesterday, images were shared of an Aer Lingus flight where passengers could be seen packed to capacity. This is the reality now facing airlines, prompting some to block out the middle seat from sale.

Penny fares for today only

In a bid to get more people on its flights, Frontier has launched a flash sale with penny fares to all its domestic routes. That doesn’t include taxes and fees, however, which then take the total fare to $11.

Still, that’s a fair discount on the usual cost of flights. The only catch is you have to book it before the end of the day today. Passengers must be members of the Discount Den to qualify too.

Frontier Airlines covid-19 coronavirus
Frontier has implemented aircraft fogging amongst other measures to keep its passengers safe. Photo: Getty Images

While the airline recognizes most passengers should not be traveling right now, it notes that these fares are to help those with ‘somewhere essential to be.’ The airline has shared on its website the measures it is taking to protect its crew and passengers. It is already mandating mask-wearing on flights and has been forced to maintain the majority of its network in order to access the CARES funding from the state.

Do you feel confident to fly right now? Are the measures airlines like Frontier are taking enough to make you feel safe? Let us know in the comments.