Frontier Airlines has just introduced a feature to guarantee you an empty middle seat on a flight… if you’re willing to pay.
Frontier Airlines’ “More Room” seats
Frontier Airlines has launched “More Room” seats, allowing passengers to assign seats with empty middle seats next to them. These seats can now be selected starting at just $39 per flight. You can select one on Frontier’s website (either during the booking process or anytime before travel) or at check-in.
For now these are only available for flights between May 8 and August 31, 2020, and at a later date the airline will decide whether to extend the program.
There will be a total of up to 18 “More Room” seats per flight, and that includes the first three rows, which also have more legroom.
Frontier Airlines will also require passengers to wear face masks as of May 8, 2020, as was previously announced. Since April the airline has also required passengers to accept a health acknowledgement prior to completing check-in
As Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle describes this move:
“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.”
This is the way to go about airplane “social distancing”
Many airlines are doing a terrible job with the messaging around social distancing on airplanes:
- Some airlines have promoted that they’re “blocking” middle seats, though in reality that just means they won’t assign middle seats in advance, but will at the airport; this doesn’t mean what people think it means
- No matter what, proper social distancing on a plane isn’t possible, given the logistics
- The outrage from people who choose to take flights and then are shocked that other people are also choosing to take flights seems misdirected
- While some airlines can afford to leave middle seats empty for now (while they’re losing billions of dollars), this isn’t sustainable long term; requiring face masks seems like the best practice, and if people want an empty middle seat, make them pay for it
This should become an industry standard option
I hope that this is a long-term practice that most major airlines adopt. Historically it has been possible to book an extra seat for yourself, but the process has been complicated, and the option hasn’t been well marketed. It has almost been a secret.
This is the perfect time for airlines to introduce this on a widespread basis:
- Airlines are going to be struggling for a while
- This could generate incremental revenue and make people feel more comfortable flying
But seriously, airlines should take this to the next level and encourage people to do this:
- Don’t just let people reserve an empty middle seat, but rather let them reserve as many seats as they’d like — why not give people a full row, or even three rows, if they want to pay for it?
- Incentivize people to do this — given the situation, why not award full elite and redeemable miles for all seats booked, especially as airlines are going to want to be filling seats?
- This should be a straightforward process that’s encouraged during booking, where you can check a box, rather than the previous process that confused so many people
Frontier Airlines will now sell passengers empty middle seats. You do have to pay for it, but at least the middle seat being empty is guaranteed, which is more than other airlines have done.
I commend Frontier for this move, and encourage other airlines to offer — and even incentivize — this going forward. The reality is that social distancing is never possible on a commercial plane, and it’s also not financially viable for airlines to block middle seats long term without raising fares by ~50%.
Mandatory face masks are good for now, but if people feel an extra layer of comfort by having an empty seat next to them, give them that option at a cost.
What do you think — would you like to see more airlines selling a blocked middle seat (or even a blocked row)?