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Frontier Airlines Charging for Social distancing - Never mind

Frontier will now begin charging extra for rows with the empty middle seats for those wanting social distancing. They also claim that they have 3 times the number of passengers this week than last week and expect even more with the lessening of stay at home rules.

https://www.travelandleisure.com/syndication/frontier-airlines-offering-seats-with-blocked-middles?did=520680-20200505&utm_campaign=just-in_newsletter&utm_source=travelandleisure.com&utm_medium=email&utm_content=050520&cid=520680&mid=33344353457

As noted below, the plan has been cancelled due to complaints from Congress.

Posted by
1412 posts

Lol. One more reason to not fly the worst airline in America.

Posted by
11028 posts

I think it's a great idea. Providing products to meet the desires of the clients. I bet in the short run it gets them business.

Posted by
524 posts

No one 'wants' social distancing. Social distancing is done to protect both yourself and to protect others. So, if I decide not to social distance, take the added risk, get the virus and then ,while asymptomatic, give it to others, I have harmed other people.

This is not an option- Frontier needs to accept the removal of middle seats as a safety measure

Posted by
6069 posts

Removing middle seats on a plane will not give you the minimum 6' of social distance needed for safety. The only thing it will do is keep people from physically touching, which isn't needed for virus transmission. It's folly to think that will protect you from any airborne viruses. If people need it to 'feel' safer then they should be willing to pay for it. Don't throw me to the wolves, it's just my lowly opinion.

Posted by
496 posts

Even with missing middle seats you do not have 6 ft of distance but you have a heck of a lot more then the 6-8 inches provided by the cramped seating in coach. Masks go a long way in reducing the distance particles can travel. Reducing that distance by feet. But at 6-8 in, nope, very little protection.

Posted by
11028 posts

The government should force the airlines to use their excessive profits to make every seat a first class seat and allow every passenger to enter the flight first ... at economy ticket prices.

Posted by
2070 posts

How does "every passenger enter the flight first"? Late Wobegon does not have an airport.

Posted by
6223 posts

It's a gimmick (and Frontier is built upon oddball gimmicks and business models), but even the middle-seat-empty rule is a gimmick because particles travel well beyond just a few feet. Passengers cross the aisle to go to into their seats and to the bathroom and they all touch multiple parts as they go, including brushing across aisle seats and grabbing the tops of chairs to position themselves. The bathroom knob itself is constantly touched. Are Flight Attendants going to become cleaning staff in real time, scrubbing everything down every time a passenger touches something in the common space or bathroom?

Honestly, if it wasn't for Frontier, I would have probably not visited Memphis....so I'm thankful I was able to make a nice long weekend of it. Yes, it was tight, but I am not picky (especially for short flights that cost $39 round trip). Frontier was actually very high up in the rankings for on-time performance, better than the legacy carriers. I have nothing to complain about re: budget airlines...it's a trade-off and it does the trick most of the time.

Posted by
1633 posts

And I thought the virus was the lethal agent. Had no idea that it was paranoia.

Posted by
1534 posts

So now it's going to be interesting...

People are claiming this is what they want, they want space , they want that middle seat empty...

Will they pay or is this like all the other 'WE want better service and more space" complaints... when the choice is getting what you want by paying a little more or getting the lowest price my bet is the American public will go "well we will just book the cheap seat" L(+

Posted by
11028 posts

Other may find some comfort in the distancing that an empty middle seat provides and they will pay for it. As long as Frontier makes money off the concept (if it ever does) I imagine it will continue. But I am with Carol. Might last a while, but not long. I just want the cheap seat.

I am going to travel with a hazmat suit and a bike helmet from here on out.

I heard on the radio this morning that Delta will be limiting First Class to 50% occupancy and Economy to 60% occupancy. Sounds like every other First Class seat and no center seats in Economy. There is absolutely no social justice in that. Lets see how it pans out.

Posted by
2017 posts

Frontier will now begin charging extra for rows with the empty middle
seats for those wanting social distancing.

I'm betting that 90% of Frontier customers want the cheap, non-social-distancing airfare, proving once again that a substantial portion of the flying public values price over any other amenity.

Posted by
2017 posts

I heard on the radio this morning that Delta will be limiting First
Class to 50% occupancy and Economy to 60% occupancy.

I heard that, too, and it may actually lure me on a plane to visit my parents in June or July, depending on how things are looking (first class ticket for each month purchased at a deep discount before the current Coronavirus mess). Can I borrow the hazmat suit and bike helmet?

Posted by
6223 posts

Every airline is going to have to come up with their own pricing strategy. Frontier Airlines is no different, except that budget airlines are more explicit about breaking out every marginal cost of a subset of bundled choices and letting passengers decide what they value and at what price. There's nothing magical about the middle seat - whether it's sufficient or insufficient in making a difference. There's no data out there about how much added safety it will give someone so they can evaluate whether the added cost is worthwhile (feeling safer is not the same as actually being safer). Every airline will muddle through and do their best to try to convince people to fly again (I don't blame them at all, they are fighting to survive).

The budget airlines are in a tougher position because their models depend on cramming as many people in as possible, and their bundled fares make them perfect targets for the kind of faux outrage articles like this one because the framing of their choices makes them look like greedy devils (meanwhile, the Deltas will just muck around with their prices quietly to maximize some seat revenue over others with no attention drawn). Ultimately, social distancing with challenge many business models severely...it's a tough situation.

I personally don't believe that the middle seat will be some great panacea on its own just like all the security theater that resulted from 9/11 (securing the cockpit was a good needed change, but the nonsense with the shoes and other things doesn't actually make people safer, just a feeling of being safer). It seems like a good idea to start with, but who knows if it's enough or it's just window dressing. Probably a layered approach is needed with several items working in unison.

Posted by
17690 posts

Their planes are half empty anyway. When the planes were full you would have had to pay for the seat next to you (at least) to social distance. Now that over half the seats are empty anyway, they're charging you extra to sit next to an empty one.

I'll bet if you don't pay for the social distancing, they'll deliberately put you in a full row (and leave a whole row empty somewhere else in the plane). Right now if you book together, but don't pay a fee to select your seat, they will deliberately, punitively separate you.

Posted by
11028 posts

Why should individuals with wealth earned off the backs of the common man have the opportunity to buy safety and health that the rest of cant have? It needs to be uniformly applied; or better yet, subsidized for those of who provide the greatest social contribution.

naaaaaaaaaaaa

Posted by
6223 posts

I'll bet if you don't pay for the social distancing, they'll
deliberately put you in a full row (and leave a whole row empty
somewhere else in the plane).

That's a real (cynical) hypothetical...but they have weight distribution issues across the whole plane to consider too. I don't know what they would gain from not spreading people out if there are fully empty rows (it's a sunk cost by that point)...they are banking on being as full as possible, not for people to be constantly trying to game the system. I'm sure they'll adjust their seating assignment algorithms as they learn how people respond to different choices over time. This is an (untested) experiment, after all, and requires tweaking as you get more data.

Right now if you book together, but don't pay a fee to select your
seat, they will deliberately, punitively separate you.

If every row will have at most two people in it (in whatever configuration, including using the middle seat for the second person), what would be the point in separating two people and causing needless ire for 0 gain? Whatever the case, if you know that you are never guaranteed to have adjacent seats if you choose the free option, then you've accepted that possibility. And you should be prepared for a third person (who elects not to pay the social distancing premium) to fill the empty seat if you both elected the same option.

Posted by
17690 posts

The last time (previously), and probably the last time (ever), that I flew Frontier, I didn't pay for seat selection. Although we booked together, they placed us 10 rows apart in the airplane. When we went to board (my partner is mobility challenged and gets early boarding), they found that she needed help boarding and, miraculously, found that the seat next to her was unoccupied, so they put me in it so I could help her board and a flight assistant wouldn't have to.

what would be the point in separating two people and causing needless ire for 0 gain?

Ask Frontier, 'cause that's what they did. I'm sure their "algorithm" did that deliberately so that the next time I would pay the extra to sit together. But there probably won't be a "next time" with Frontier.

If, for weight distribution, they spread the empty seats out evenly, almost everyone on the plane today would have an empty seat next to them, without having to pay for one. I'm never going to fly Frontier again (unless it is the only option), but I wish someone would try this experiment. Book Frontier without paying the social distancing fee and see if you are one of the only people on the half empty plane sitting next to a stranger.

Posted by
3436 posts

Went to book a seat of Frontier. Not actually flying, just wanted to see how it works.

  1. There are no "free" seats if you want to select one before check in. You have to pay a seat selection fee no mater where you sit unless you wait for the airline to put you in their choice when you check in. The fee starts at $10 and goes up to $84 on the flights I chose (DEN - IAH, mid June, Airbus 321 plane). Strange thing is if you actually want a middle seat, those cost more than aisle or window in the same row.

  2. Even numbered rows are not selectable for the entire plane and will remain empty.

  3. All rows up to the wing have the middle seats blocked and not selectable. These also have the higher seat reservation charges.

And it appears they are flying a reduced schedule on this route as flights were only available every other day until July.

Does this mean I will actually get stuck next to another person if I buy the $10 seat instead of the more expensive one with the empty next to me? Guess we will never know because I will not be flying them. And how long will the empty rows last? Probably only until they have enough passengers that they need them.

Posted by
6223 posts

There are no "free" seats. You have to pay a seat selection fee no
mater where you sit.

That's not correct. You just have to bypass the seating chart (with assigned $ values) and not select an option - this is true of other airlines as well. Many people think they need to select a seat from the chart, but they don't. You will see a hyperlink in the form of a question below in small print "what if I don't select a seat?" or similar. The answer is: "If you do not select a seat now, you will randomly be assigned a seat from the remaining selection at check-in. We'll try to keep your party together, but the only way to ensure that you'll sit together is to select a seat now!"

So, yes, every airline prods you into selecting a seat but there is always an opt-out option where one will be selected for you at check-in.

Frontier has always had a more limited schedule (you cannot count on a flight every day of the week) for some itineraries; that's not new.

Posted by
3436 posts

Updated my earlier posting to reflect the seat charge. Apologies for not correctly stating that. However, it was not apparent that the seat selection could be skipped (Frontier can be sneaky that way). Other airlines, at least the ones I fly on, always have seats you can select at ticket purchase time with no additional fee charged.

I used to fly the Frontier flights Denver to Houston and back every week. They did have flights every day to Houston, up to 3 daily, as recently as last Christmas which was the last time I looked.

Posted by
767 posts

Riffing off of the "cheap/fast/well done" triumvirate, it would appear we can choose any 2 of the following, but not all 3, when it comes to airline seats/travel...

  1. A proper 6 feet of social distancing
  2. Ticket prices comparable to pre-Covid prices
  3. Airlines that are still in business

Personally, I don't see any economically feasible way to do proper social distancing on a plane. I expect that if we want to fly, the mandatory masks that many airlines have already implemented will be with us until/if a vaccine is readily available.

Posted by
11028 posts

And until there is a cure for disease the government should subsidize airfare so we can all fly first class.

Posted by
11028 posts

So people who would feel more comfortable have lost that option? Terrible.

Posted by
767 posts

So people who would feel more comfortable have lost that option?

Not really. I'm not a Frontier flyer, but I'm assuming that like with other airlines one can always purchase an extra seat next to the one you're actually flying in.

Posted by
3436 posts

So they will just add the fee into the ticket price and not call it a fee. Same level of income as the end result.