Frontier Will Sell You An Extra Middle Seat For $39

Ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines is selling some peace of mind to anxious passengers. From 8 May, prospective passengers can buy the middle seat next to them, ensuring some pandemic free friendly space around them. Prices for that middle seat start at USD$39. Frontier Airlines is calling the initiative ‘More Room Seats.’ It is part of a range of measures designed to maximize passenger health and wellbeing.

Frontier Airlines is soon to let passengers buy the empty middle seat next to them. Photo: Frontier Airlines.

“While we believe the best measure to keep everyone healthy is to require face coverings, for those who want an empty seat next to them for extra peace of mind or simply additional comfort, we are now offering ‘More Room,’” said Frontier CEO Barry Biffle.

Pandemic peace of mind, for a fee

According to Frontier, 18 more room seats will be available on every flight between 8 May and 31 August. The more room seats will be available in Frontier’s stretch seats – the first three rows that allow for added recline and legroom. The remainder of the more room seats are scattered throughout the aircraft on a first-come, best-dressed basis.

Frontier Airlines had slashed capacity nationwide by 90% throughout April and into May.

“I have never seen anything like this in the industry or industry in general,”  Bill Franke, airline investor and co-founder of Frontier Airlines has said.

Mr Franke doesn’t expect a rapid rebound once isolation requirements loosen in the United States. He thinks it will take a year or two to get back on track, and passengers will need to be reassured that its safe to fly.

Managing and monetizing passenger expectations

The more room seats are one way Frontier is tackling this issue. It’s also a rather neat way to monetize health concerns. The U.S. airlines are managing their aircraft cabins per CDC guidelines. While there is no official edict that middle row seats be left free, some passengers have come to expect it.

Would you pay an add-on to guarantee the seat next to you remains empty? Photo: Frontier Airlines.

That works fine when the aircraft is lightly loaded and passengers can be spread out. But as Simply Flying has previously reported, U.S. domestic passenger numbers appear to be on the upswing as people tentatively take to the skies once again. Mix that trend with drastically scaled back aircraft capacity, and there is the potential for some full aircraft and unhappy passengers.

An empty middle seat next to you isn’t a right or a legal requirement. You take your chances. Cleverly, Frontier Airlines will guarantee you an empty middle seat if you snag one of those more room seats. It will cost you, but if you are that worried about getting sick and still flying, what’re a few dollars between friends?

This tactic part of a suite of health and wellbeing measures

In tandem with the more seats initiative, Frontier Airlines is introducing a range of measures designed to help with passenger health and wellbeing. Besides an enhanced cabin cleaning protocol, the airline is now requiring all passengers and crew to wear a face cover while in-flight.

Passengers will also have to certify online before flying that they’ve washed/sanitized their hands before boarding, that their temperature has been checked before leaving home, and that no-one in their household has exhibited symptoms typical of the pandemic illness in the last 14 days.

Charging for an empty middle seat could be the next big thing in the low-cost carrier industry. Photo: Tomas Del Caro via Flickr.

A big new trend – you heard it here first!

While some might criticize Frontier Airlines for monetizing passenger concerns, there’s an alternative argument. Frontier Airlines is operating their flights according to the rules. If prospective passengers want to go the extra mile, they can pay for it. It’s a classic low-cost carrier strategy. As we move forward, buying middle seats might turn out to be the biggest ancillary revenue money raiser for airlines since some bright spark came up with the idea of charging to check-in a bag.

We might be seeing the very start of a significant new trend here. Depending on your point of view, you can either blame or credit Frontier Airlines for that.

What do you think? Is charging for an empty middle seat the next big thing in the low-cost carrier airline industry? Post a comment and let us know.