As the world steadily inches toward reopening after several months of coronavirus-related lockdowns, Frontier Airlines will give people the option to pay extra to leave the middle seat in their row empty, per reports.
The gesture is an attempt to adhere to social distancing measures to ease people back into traveling while the virus is still present. (Plus, the report noted, the middle seat was already an undesirable place to sit regardless of the pandemic.)
The move echoes other airlines’ similar ideas – Delta Airlines began completely blocking off middle seats in April, while American Airlines has said it will nix 50 percent of them and only use the seats if necessary.
Air travel numbers have fallen a staggering 96 percent since the pandemic began in March. And while states have begun planning to reopen public life, often in phases, the question remains as to who will actually be out doing much of anything right now, even if they have the option.
Many people, according to a recent PYMNTS study, have serious concerns about their safety even as governments are lifting restrictions. The average length of time people believe the pandemic will last has risen over time – as of late April, it was sitting at 225 days total. And when asked when they think their own lives and mindsets will return to normal, many estimate it would take most of the rest of the year.
Consumers are likely to be cautious in returning to public spaces, weighing their desire to go out against the risk of the virus and which safety precautions businesses put into place.
Airlines have implemented safety measures, making masks mandatory and offering customers the option to reschedule a flight if the proper social distancing protocol is not available. Many companies are halving the number of people allowed on flights.
The Centers for Disease Control has also that planes' air filtration systems do a good job of preventing viral transmissions, but it remains to be seen whether this will be sufficient reassurance.