Frontier just introduced a very Frontier approach to onboard distancing
UPDATE: Frontier backtracks on physical distance fee following congressional uproar (May 7, 2020)
ORIGINAL POST: Southwest Airlines is capping ticket sales to help keep middle seats open — Frontier Airlines is asking you to pay for the privilege. Following a new requirement for passengers to wear masks, beginning May 8, to help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus, the carrier is giving customers the opportunity to sit next to an open seat — for an additional fee.
Billed as "More Room," Frontier's new product guarantees an empty middle seat, "for extra peace of mind or simply additional comfort," according to the airline. "Flights departing May 8 through August 31, 2020 will have 18 More Room seats available for passengers to select, including Stretch seats in the first three rows of the aircraft, which also provide extra legroom and recline as compared to standard seats. Frontier will announce at a later date whether the More Room program will be extended beyond August 31."
The new seating option joins Frontier's existing initiative, which currently includes blocking alternating rows for pre-selection — agents will do their best to stagger remaining seats at the gate, but passengers may ultimately end up flying in these rows on busier flights. Frontier also appears to be pricing middle seats higher than windows and aisles in some rows, to further encourage distancing.
"More Room" seats are available starting at $39, and I did find that rate available on several of Frontier's longer hauls, including Philadelphia (PHL) to Las Vegas (LAS) and Orlando (MCO) to Denver (DEN). Stretch seats, which also include blocked middles, are available starting at $79 on short-hauls, or $89 for longer flights.
In theory, Frontier's More Room option could make sense with an exceptionally low base fare, but keep in mind that the carrier's fares don't include any bags — anything larger than a purse or laptop bag requires a $39 fee, just to bring onboard the plane.
Ultimately, if an empty middle seat is what you're after, depending on the route and fare, it could make sense to book travel on Alaska, Delta or Southwest — as outlined in my detailed onboard coronavirus measures guide, all three are blocking passengers from purchasing middle seats (or their equivalent), guaranteeing personal space onboard without the extra fee.