When I discussed the steps airlines were willing to take when dealing with the pandemic, I asked one simple question. Would they make the conditions more palatable? The initial answer seemed to be a resounding no. The airlines were going implement rules requiring everyone to wear masks and submit health checks, but not much else.

But as it turns out, there’s one airline that actually will offer you some extra space in the name of social distancing. Sort of. For a price. Frontier Airlines is about to begin offering a “More Room” seating option assuring you that the seat next to you will be empty. Of course, you’re going to have to pay more for that peace of mind. (CBS Denver)

Now that the federal government’s social distancing guidelines have expired, Frontier Airlines is offering a new option for people who want a little more personal space. For an extra $39, the airline will make sure the seat next to you is empty.
“Frontier Airlines passengers can now reserve a ‘More Room’ seat assignment – with a confirmed empty middle seat next to them,” airline officials announced Monday.

Frontier officials say its an option for travelers who want “an empty seat next to them for extra peace of mind or simply additional comfort.”

Flights departing May 8 through Aug. 31 will have 18 “More Room” seats available for passengers to choose from.

They are so concerned about your health and well being that they’re going to offer to charge you even more money to not have anyone sitting next to you. Your actual seat won’t be any larger or have any more legroom, but at least you won’t be rubbing elbows with another passenger. How thoughtful of them.

Of course, what they’re offering isn’t really much of anything. The social distancing rules call for six feet between people. The width of one airline seat is far less than that. And if there is someone in the row in front of you or behind you, they’re just as close to you as they’ve always been. This is a psychological comfort at most, not offering any real protection.

Also, assuming we’re talking about a three-seat row (one of the most common arrangements) and I’m in the window seat, what about the person in the aisle seat? If they didn’t bother to pay the extra fee, they’re getting their own “More Room” seat while I pay the bill for it.

What this sounds like to me is an excuse for the airline to charge yet another extra fee using the pandemic as cover. And they get to falsely advertise it as some sort of precaution against the novel coronavirus so they can get in some virtue signaling while they’re at it. If Frontier was actually interested in doing what so many other companies have done and put some of their own skin in the game to help people during this crisis, they would figure out how to keep six feet of distance between all passengers and not charge them any extra money for it. That would actually impress me (and a lot of people, I’m guessing) enough to build up some brand loyalty for them.

But that’s not what they’re doing here at all. Airline service has been horrible for a very long time now and many of the factors that make it so were put in place intentionally by the airlines. The tiny, cramped seats are not only a device to be able to sell more tickets per flight. They’re an “incentive” to get you to pay for first-class or “economy plus” seating just to give yourself some breathing room. If these airlines expect us to be thanking them for this I hope they’re not holding their breath.