Frontier Airlines has abandoned yet another plan to increase revenues by charging flyers extra fees under the guise of the pandemic.
Travelers who had booked flights with the carrier from May until June 23 have been paying an extra fee, called the "Covid recovery charge," as first reported by ABC News. Embedded in the total fare was an extra $1.59 surcharge levied to each passenger and each flight segment in a new booking.
"The charge, which was included in the airline's total promoted fare versus an add-on fee, was meant to provide transparency and delineate what portion of the fare was going toward Covid-related business recovery, including repayment of a CARES Act loan from the U.S. Government," Frontier said in a statement to Insider.
Ultra-low-cost carriers like Frontier rely on additional fees for services, known as ancillary fees, that are non-taxable by the government. It's unclear whether the surcharge would have been tax-free and Frontier did not confirm to Insider whether or not the fee was taxable.
But travelers looking to make new bookings will notice that fares are slightly lower now that the surcharge has been discontinued. "Frontier Airlines has made the decision to rescind its Covid Recovery Charge of $1.59 per passenger per segment that was implemented in May," a Frontier spokesperson confirmed to Insider.
Frontier tried a similar move to raise revenue around this time in 2020 when flyers were just returning to the skies after a crippling March and April. Flyers could pay extra to book seats in rows that had a guaranteed empty middle while the rest of the aircraft could be filled.
Airlines were divided between those filling planes and those blocking middle seats and Frontier Chief Executive Barry Biffle publicly spoke in favor of filling planes, even while offering the buy up for the rows with an empty middle seat.
"We don't believe this is what you need to be safe but it's one more thing that we can do to put people's minds at ease," Biffle told CNBC at the time, citing the effectiveness of aircraft filtration systems, mask mandates, and Frontier's expanded cleaning practices.
The product was quickly abandoned by Frontier after backlash from federal lawmakers. Other carriers like Alaska Airlines debuted similar products that offered guaranteed empty middle seats, but those also offered extra amenities like complimentary alcohol and extra legroom.
"I find it outrageous that an airline sees the imperative for social distancing as an opportunity to make a buck," Rep. Peter DeFazio, chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said in a statement at the time, as Insider reported. "Frontier's decision to charge passengers to keep middle seats empty is capitalizing on fear and passengers' well-founded concerns for their health and safety."
Frontier, alternatively, was an early adopter of a mask mandate for all passengers and crew and it was the only US airline to require temperature checks before boarding, which ended earlier in June.