Some Airlines Are Giving Up the Middle Seat. Not Frontier

Budget airline has another solution if a passenger wants an empty seat next to them

frontier airplanes
Frontier Airlines has its own solution to social distancing in the sky. Getty Images
Headshot of Ryan Barwick

Most major U.S. airlines, including Delta, Alaska and American, are giving passengers the option to practice social distancing 30,000 feet in the air by making the decision to no longer sell the middle seat on their flights.

Budget carrier Frontier Airlines, however, is taking a different approach: If customers don’t want anyone in the middle seat next to them, they’ll have to purchase their row’s middle seat.

The budget airline, which is based out of Denver, announced today that for as low as $39 per passenger, travelers could block out the middle seat in each row. Called the More Room seat, the extra charge will be available on flights between May 8 and Aug. 31, with each flight holding 18 More Room seats.

“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 in a statement.

Frontier’s proposition is bold, to say the least, as even fellow budget airline Spirit has already barred passengers from booking the middle seat. Though Frontier is asking for a lower fee than it would cost to buy two fares, the announcement still stands in contrast to what other airlines are doing. Southwest’s CEO said during the airline’s earnings call that he was considering making seats unavailable for purchase, but no such move has been made yet.

However, budget airlines fly on narrower margins, and considering that air travel has fallen 95% since the Covid-19 outbreak, it seems that Frontier isn’t in a place to turn down a potential moneymaking opportunity. Indeed, it’s the sort of move that’s come to be expected in an industry famous for its nickel-and-diming and added fees.

Last week, Frontier joined the rest of the airline industry in requiring its customers and flight attendants to wear face coverings following Jetblue’s first-to-market announcement on Monday.

@RyanBarwick Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.