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Frontier drops planned fees for social distancing on flights after criticism

Frontier drops planned fees for social distancing on flights after criticism
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Frontier Airlines is dropping its proposed $39 to $89 fee to allow customers to purchase the middle seat on flights to socially distance on Wednesday after the airline received a flood of criticism.

CEO Barry Biffle announced the airline was ditching its “More Room” proposal on Wednesday night in a letter to congressional members that was obtained by The Hill. Critics had condemned the program as a way for the airline to profit over anxieties in the coronavirus age. 

“We recognize the concerns raised that we are profiting from safety and this was never our intent. We simply wanted to provide our customers with an option for more space,” Biffle wrote in the letter. 

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The CEO was responding to a letter sent by the congressmen earlier Wednesday, slamming the plan as “outrageous.” Biffle’s letter addressed Reps. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenTwo ethics groups call on House to begin impeachment inquiry against Barr Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen wins Democratic primary MORE (D-Tenn.), and Jesús García (D-Ill.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyTech CEOs clash with lawmakers in contentious hearing OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump strips protections for Tongass forest, opening it to logging | Interior 'propaganda' video and tweets may violate ethics laws, experts say | Democrats see Green New Deal yielding gains despite GOP attacks Democrats see Green New Deal yielding gains despite GOP attacks MORE (D-Mass.), who had all signed the earlier letter. 

“The flying public should not be charged to stay healthy on flights,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. 

The “More Room” initiative was scheduled to begin on Friday and run through Aug. 31 at least, according to a release. Tickets had begun selling since the program was announced Monday, and Biffle said those who already purchased tickets to blocked seats will have the request granted. 

Biffle told The Denver Post before the program was dropped that Frontier Airline is already permitting flyers to spread out on flights for free when space is available and cleaning the planes with disinfectant. In two weeks, the airline plans to check the temperatures of all passengers who board its planes.

The airline will begin mandating all passengers to wear face coverings starting on Friday. Frontier was approved to receive $200 million in federal payroll support and has already received half of it, according to The Denver Post.

Air travel has deteriorated as the pandemic spread around the world and people practice social distancing. The coronavirus has infected at least 3.7 million people worldwide, killing at least 264,437, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

--Updated at 11:06 a.m.