Frontier Airlines Ditches ‘Covid Recovery’ Surcharge After Just One Day Of Publicity

It took just one day but Frontier Airlines is dropping its ‘Covid Recovery’ surcharge. It had explained the extra fee tacked on to tickets as covering the cost of cleaning (as though their planes aren’t expected to be clean otherwise) and personal protective equipment for employees (as though airline safety wasn’t the airline’s responsibility).

John Ryan who commented on this blog yesterday is the one who first noticed the fee. He shared it, and coverage took off quickly – first across blogs and then in mainstream media. Well John Ryan gets results because Frontier has already backed off the fee and it’s already gone from the airline’s website.

Don’t expect ticket prices to drop a buck and a half. This was a marketing fail more than a pricing fail. Surely Frontier has someone inside the company they should be listening to who looks at an idea and is allowed to tell the bosses that it’s stupid?

Frontier Airlines is charging customers an add-on surcharge for ‘Covid recovery’. They say they are charging you money on top of your fare to cover cleaning. And they say they charge the fee because they’re buying personal protective equipment for employees, because that’s your reponsibility and not theirs as the employer.

Covid Recovery Charge: The Covid Recovery Charge offsets added costs to Frontier due to implementing Covid-19 related measures, such as increased sanitation and cleaning onboard the aircraft and in the airport, shields at the ticket counters and gate areas, and personal protective equipment for employees.

In charging extra for on board cleaning, they’re telling us that clean planes aren’t part of their basic product. And didn’t we all already pay the coronavirus surcharge when taxpayers had their pockets picked for $79 billion in subsidies for U.S. airlines over the past 15 months?

This is a surcharge, not a fee. A fee, by law, has to be optional so there’s a way to avoid it. That’s why Frontier and some others sell tickets for less at the airport, so they can legally impose an ‘online booking fee’. Surcharges are quoted as part of full price, so they’re not likely actually charging more money for tickets.

Early in the pandemic Frontier charged a social distancing fee, selling customers a blocked middle seat next to them at a discount. This was actually a good deal, and they got blasted for it, even though United Airlines for instance never offered blocked middle seats (unless you knew to buy an extra ticket yourself at full price). Normally when Frontier is sticking it to the customer they say they’re really doing it for the environment.

At the end of the day the Covid charge is included in the price you’re quoted for a ticket, which is different than when you’re comparison shopping hotels and a property has a surcharge. So from a consumer standpoint surcharges only really matter when they’re being tacked onto award tickets, or used to skirt discount offers (since those usually apply to fares only and not add-ons). However the notion of a Covid surcharge anathema, and when a service isn’t optional then that’s just something that needs to be included in the price.

(HT: Miles To Memories)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Speaking of paying the taxpayers back for their $79 billion – looking to go from SFO to JFK around three weeks out looking at $700+ round-trip. Leaving two weeks from now the fares are $800+.

    Worse than Thanksgiving weekend.

    I’d rather pay a cleaning fee.

  2. Just another slimy American business.
    I local car repair placed did the same last year and the locals boycotted them and hopefully soon under new ownership.
    I guess they don’t teach business ethics anymore in B school.

  3. No, no, no they have to be more creative. How about a surcharge for cabin air? Cushions on the seats? Running water in the lavatories? I’m sure they can find others too.

  4. Thanks for the review! I was the one that shared this with Miles to Memories but thanks for sharing it!

  5. The Frontier Airlines C-level management has poop for brains. I expect they will soon add a mandatory toilet paper surcharge.

  6. According to US OSHA, …”With few exceptions, OSHA REQUIRES EMPLOYERS to pay for personal protective equipment when it is used to comply with OSHA standards. These typically include: hard hats, gloves, goggles, safety shoes, safety glasses, welding helmets and goggles, face shields, chemical protective equipment and fall protection equipment.

  7. This is a bit more blatant than most but all this amounts to is finding another way to screw the customer, like AA killing off award charts. It’s the ULCC mentality that Spirit, Frontier, American, and United all share as well as Delta when it comes to loyalty.

  8. Frontier can go ahead and charge at much as they want under whatever B.S. pretense. At the end of the day, basic supply and demand will dictate if passengers will accept the Frontier price and product vs. what their competitors offer.

  9. Whatever you do, don’t make them think they have to treat us well or be polite to us during the trip, or else they will impose a mandatory Sircharge.

  10. This is somewhat off topic, but are fees being optional by law only for airlines, or does that also count towards resort/destination fees at hotels?

  11. Given the extent of greed imbued in the frontal lobe of airline CEOs, the correct action by the public should be to take it to Congress and DOT for allowing such blatant scamming of the taxpayer.

    Just as I have learned to never trust and purchase tickets from any third party nor to ever fly a discount airline (Southwest no longer in that class), whatever excuse offered by airline C suites is usually to cover-up their miscreant, self-serving actions. Such arrogance only begs for re-regulation, on top of spitting in the wind with the receipt of such excessive taxpayer bailout.

    Indeed, if Congress was sincere about its concerns for equity and justice, it would require amending labor relations/contracts to ensure FAs are on the time clock from moment of checking in at the airport; not when the passenger door is closed and locked. No different than how Amtrak treats its engine crew like pilots by providing transportation to their train in the yard; yet, the on-board crew required to pay for the taxi to their train in the yard.

  12. Free publicity for Frontier! Which was the intent from the start, I believe.

  13. If you look at who is running that airline, it explains this. The head of the company was one of the C-suite that was at Spirit (when they were sleazy and would get off ‘getting’ the customer).

  14. This Airline has always found ways to add on charges but, provide the worst flight experience. I will never fly with this airline again.

  15. My husband and I traveled to Las Vegas this month. When I purchased our tickets about a month ago, I noticed the Covid Recovery Charge for our trip. I wonder how long this been going on.

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