Frontier Airlines Adds, Then Rescinds a New COVID-19 Service Fee

It's just another sign that air travel in the U.S. is returning.

UPDATE (June 23, 2021): Frontier Airlines has decided to rescind its "COVID recovery charge" of $1.59 per person per segment, according to a spokesperson at the airline. The spokesperson added, "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. However, to avoid misinterpretation, the airline will discontinue the practice of breaking out this category within its overall promoted fares."

Here's one more sign domestic air travel is back in the U.S.: the emergence of a new flight fee.

Frontier Airlines, a low-cost airline based in Denver, has added what it calls a "COVID recovery charge" to help pay for enhanced cleaning and other measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus as Americans return to the skies.

The $1.59 fee per flight segment may not seem like much on its own, but it comes on top of airfare, taxes, and, as you might expect, other charges. Frontier already requires a fee for flights booked through its call center and website. That fee alone can equal 30% or more of the airfare and can only be avoided by purchasing tickets at an airport.

Frontier Airlines imposes additional fees on flights that go through what it describes as "high-cost airports." Flights through O'Hare International Airport in Chicago and LaGuardia International Airport in New York, for example, cost an extra $10.

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 takes off from Los Angeles international Airport
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Early in the pandemic, Frontier temporarily instituted a fee for passengers seeking space for social distancing on board. It was forced to eliminate that charge within days, as a result of consumer backlash and criticism by U.S. lawmakers.

Frontier Airlines quietly added its COVID surcharge in May, timing One Mile at a Time blogger Ben Schlappig questions. He wonders why the fee wasn't added a year ago when airlines were incurring additional expenses for enhanced cleaning and things like personal protective equipment for staff. "This fee applies even for travel well into next year, when these precautions may no longer be necessary," he notes.

A Frontier Airlines spokesman told Travel + Leisure that the fee is meant to offset added costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic and noted that it's already included in fare deals being promoted by the airline. In a statement shared with T+L, Frontier said, "It is not an unexpected charge later in the booking process."

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets and walking on beaches. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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