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UPDATE - Frontier Rescinds 'COVID Recovery Charge'

Date: June 23, 2021

By Dawn Gilbertson, USA Today

UPDATED ARTICLE:

Frontier Airlines has rescinded its new COVID recovery fee, a day after it was widely publicized.

The Denver-based budget airline started charging passengers $1.59 per person per one-way flight in May to cover COVID-19 safety costs, a fee that was hard to find when booking tickets.

Spokesman Zach Kramer said Wednesday that the charge, which it never considered a fee, has been eliminated.

"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,'' Kramer said. "However, to avoid misinterpretation, the airline will discontinue the practice of breaking out this category within its overall promoted fares.''

The airline's website had said the charge offsets costs such as increased sanitation and cleaning on its planes and at the airport, shields at the ticket counters and in gate areas and personal protective equipment for employees. 

What the website didn't mention: Frontier last week ended passenger temperature checks, a COVID-19 safety protocol it put in place a year ago. When it was introduced, the airline's CEO touted it as "another layer of protection for everyone onboard.”

“This new step during the boarding process, coupled with face coverings and elevated disinfection procedures, will serve to provide Frontier customers an assurance that their well-being is our foremost priority and we are taking every measure to help them travel comfortably and safely," Barry Biffle said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said later that temperature checks had limited effect on stemming the spread of COVID-19.

The airline ended the practice June 14, Kramer told USA TODAY. Frontier was the only U.S. airline to take passengers' temperatures.

"Given the easing of CDC guidelines with respect to COVID-19, as well as falling infection rates among the U.S. population, we made the decision to discontinue customer and crew temperature screenings prior to boarding,'' he said via e-mail.

The COVID-19 recovery fee was first reported by travel blog Miles to Memories. 

New airline fees weren't prevalent during the first year of the pandemic, when travel was decimated and airlines were happy just to have travelers click buy on dirt-cheap tickets. Early in the pandemic, Frontier tried adding a fee to block the middle seat on flights but rescinded it after public outcry that it was profiteering.

One major airline fee even went away during the pandemic. Most airlines eliminated hefty ticket-change fees – for good, they said – on all but their cheapest tickets. (Frontier and some other budget airlines resumed charging fees to change tickets as pandemic travel waivers ended.)

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

Budget airline Frontier started passing along some COVID-19 safety costs to passengers, even as the airline quietly stopped taking passenger temperatures before each flight.

The Denver-based airline, known for bargain tickets and a pile of extra fees, added a $1.59 "COVID recovery charge" in May, spokesman Zach Kramer said.

The airline's website says the charge offsets costs such as increased sanitation and cleaning on its planes and at the airport, shields at the ticket counters and in gate areas and personal protective equipment for employees. The charge is per passenger, per one-way flight and is not easy to find when booking a flight on Frontier's website.

What the website doesn't mention: Frontier last week ended passenger temperature checks, a COVID-19 safety protocol it put in place a year ago. When it was introduced, the airline's CEO touted it as "another layer of protection for everyone onboard.”

“This new step during the boarding process, coupled with face coverings and elevated disinfection procedures, will serve to provide Frontier customers an assurance that their well-being is our foremost priority and we are taking every measure to help them travel comfortably and safely," Barry Biffle said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said later that temperature checks had limited effect on stemming the spread of COVID-19.

The airline ended the practice June 14, Kramer told USA TODAY. Frontier was the only U.S. airline to take passengers' temperatures.

"Given the easing of CDC guidelines with respect to COVID-19, as well as falling infection rates among the U.S. population, we made the decision to discontinue customer and crew temperature screenings prior to boarding,'' he said via e-mail.

New airline fees weren't prevalent during the first year of the pandemic, when travel was decimated and airlines were happy just to have travelers click buy on dirt-cheap tickets. Early in the pandemic, Frontier tried adding a fee to block the middle seat on flights but rescinded it after public outcry that it was profiteering.

One major airline fee even went away during the pandemic. Most airlines eliminated hefty ticket-change fees – for good, they said – on all but their cheapest tickets. (Frontier and some other budget airlines resumed charging fees to change tickets as pandemic travel waivers ended.)

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