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Frontier Airlines Will Charge Passengers Who Want To Maintain Social Distancing On Flights

The world is changing rapidly, there’s no getting around that. The travel industry, especially air travel, has been shaken to its foundation (and that foundation has been proven unstable). Entire fleets have been grounded, airports are shuttering, international borders are still closed, and people are rightfully skittish about what travel will look like going forward. Airlines are racing to keep up with the new “norms” — like social distancing and face masks.

One U.S. budget airline, Frontier Airlines (which we’ve often quoted as having the cheapest one-way flights in the U.S.), is tackling the issue of social distancing on their planes by passing the buck. Literally, to you.

Frontier Airlines is planning to set aside 18 “More Room” seat assignments wherein the middle seat in those rows would be guaranteed to be unoccupied. If you want to sit in one of those seats, you’re going to have to pay anywhere from $39 to $89 extra (depending on how long the flight is).

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This comes in contrast to other U.S. airlines like United, Southwest, Delta, and American which have said they’ve simply limited or stopped sales on middle seats to comply with social distancing guidelines. However, those airlines have also stated that they will seat passengers in those unsold middle seats if they need to. So… it’s a bit of a wash.

For now, this isn’t a permanent thing. Frontier only plans to charge passengers for the right to maintain social distancing on flights until August 31st. After that, they plan to go back to their standard seat selling procedure — which, like Spirit Airlines, features a base-fare and a series of incremental costs.

In the meantime, the company has implemented a face mask policy for passengers on all flights, along with other health protections. Frontier’s “healthy travel tips” presented online include passengers complying with the following before boarding a plane: A temperature check before going to the airport, “attest” that they or no one in their household has been in contact with someone with COVID-19-like symptoms in the last 14 days, and washing hands and using hand sanitizer before boarding. While these precautions are likely to become common in some form, they all pass the onus and costs onto the customer — an approach that is already receiving blowback online.