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Frontier Halts Plans To Charge Passengers Controversial Open-Seat Fee

Frontier Halts Plans To Charge Passengers Controversial Open-Seat Fee
Jackie Reddy

Frontier Airlines has scrapped a controversial plan to charge passengers for an adjacent open middle seat, the Associated Press reports. Barry Biffle, the CEO of the Denver-based carrier, had announced earlier this week that it would be guaranteeing passengers an empty middle seat for an added fee as part of its ‘More Room’ offer.

Accusations Of Profiteering Amid A Pandemic

As the news agency reported on Wednesday, this added fee ranged from between $39 and $89. Amid concerns that the airline was profiteering from the pandemic, Biffle said, “Sure, there are people saying, ‘You’re charging for social distancing?’ No, no, no. We are offering the option, and it is guaranteed. We don’t believe you need it — if everybody is wearing a facial covering – to be safe.”

However, Frontier’s plans were criticized by Democrats in Congress, with Oregon’s Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, describing them as “outrageous”. He added that Frontier was seizing upon the need for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic “as an opportunity to make a buck … capitalizing on fear and passengers’ well-founded concerns for their health and safety.”

Adding her comments during a hearing on the impact of the virus on the airline industry on Wednesday, fellow Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for some passengers who can’t afford to pay an additional charge for a seat to be less safe than other travelers.”

What Else Is Frontier Doing To Protect Passengers?

However, Frontier’s idea does not appear to be widely emulated throughout the domestic airline industry and Biffle has since confirmed that his carrier would be dropping the fee.

On its website, the airline has outlined what it is doing to protect its passengers during the course of the pandemic.

At Frontier, during these unprecedented times, the well being of our passengers and employees is of utmost importance. We have taken proactive steps to help our customers have a healthy experience during their flight. On our aircraft are hospital-grade HEPA filters, state-of-the-art filtration technology, increased disinfection procedures and added anti-bacterial hand soaps. In addition, we have implemented a health acknowledgement you will see when you check-in via our website or mobile app,” it states.

In addition to self-assessing for coronavirus symptoms and undergoing temperature checks, Frontier has also advised that, as of May 8th, passengers will be required to wear face masks while traveling. Explaining this latest requirement, Frontier has stated that, “This effort is yet another action we are taking to help you feel more comfortable when flying with Frontier and follows the guidance of the CDC and local authorities. Frontier airport employees and flight crews are already required to wear face coverings at work.”

View Comments (6)


  1. mvoight

    May 10, 2020 at 10:55 am

    I see no problem with the fee, as the airline should not lose money for the spacing

  2. Gizzabreak

    May 11, 2020 at 12:40 pm

    Why would any airline feel it necessary to deny that (under the current circumstances) charging extra for increased spacing between passengers was a fee for “social distancing”? IT IS EXACTLY THAT. Airlines require a minimum amount of remuneration per square foot of floor space (or kg/lb of freight) in order to operate. If passengers are going to be required to be provided with more floor space they will have to pay proportionally more, or find some other mode of cheaper travel, or stay at home. Simple.

  3. Athena53

    May 13, 2020 at 6:20 am

    I agree- extra space is not going to be free. It costs $X to get the plane from Point A to Point B and X doesn’t change much if you’re flying with 1/3 of the seats empty.

    I’d be curious to know whether they’d planned to charge people that amount on either side of the empty seat, or if the person on the other side of the empty seat just gest it out of sheer luck.

  4. dragonlady13

    May 13, 2020 at 8:20 am

    Don’t know about others, but I would be happy to be able to guarantee an empty middle seat for $39 just for the additional comfort.

  5. mc4bbs


    May 13, 2020 at 9:58 am

    If they need to charge more per ticket to ensure social distancing for everyone on-board, so be it!

    Discount airfare is killing out planet, as can be clearly seen as the skys clear up during the lock-down.

    If we try to go back to the “old ways”, we’re certain to perish, if not from this coronavirus, from the next or the next or the next!

    Mother nature is fighting back and we’ll lose.

  6. jrpallante

    May 13, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    Every airline is charging for social distancing; they are simply being more surreptitious about it. Early in the pandemic, airfares plummeted to absurdly low levels. Now, I am seeing fares on my regular routes that are nearly double what I was paying a few months ago. Whether directly or indirectly, you are paying to have an empty seat next to you.

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