**5/6/2020 UPDATE: Frontier Airlines dropped plans to charge passengers extra to sit next to an empty middle seat after congressional Democrats accused the airline of trying to profit from fear over the new coronavirus. For more, click here**
(CNN) — The middle seat on a plane is already an undesirable spot. Soon passengers on Frontier Airlines flights will be able to pay extra to keep the middle seat of their row empty.
The airline is to offer a “More Room” seating option to guarantee the middle seat stays unoccupied during flights. It allows passengers a modicum of social distance from other people in a situation where it’s not possible to keep six feet apart.
Frontier’s seating option will be offered on flights departing May 8 through August 31, with 18 “More Room” seats available on each flight, though there are anywhere from 26 to 41 rows on the carrier’s aircraft. Tickets start at $39 per passenger.
Frontier joins a crop of other national airlines that offer similar accommodations: Delta Air Lines began blocking off middle seats in April, with no charge to passengers. American Airlines said it will leave 50% of middle seats in the main cabin empty and “will only use those seats when necessary.”
Airlines boost safety measures while fewer people fly
While virus transmission on crowded planes is possible, plane air filtration mostly keeps viruses from spreading, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even so, the number of air passengers has dropped 96% since the pandemic began in March — a 10-year low, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
And though most flights aren’t full, major US airlines have boosted their safety measures for their remaining customers.
For most of the airlines, that means requiring masks. Frontier, Delta, American and JetBlue have all made masks mandatory for passengers while they’re aboard, and they’re recommended at most gates.
Many of those same airlines are cutting their flight capacity in half, too. And on Alaska Airlines flights, passengers can cancel or reschedule their flight if they can’t find a seat that allows them proper social distance.
For more the coronavirus pandemic, click here.