Published on May 4th, 2012 | by Kim LaCapria0
Spirit Airlines Boycott Results in Refund For Dying Former Marine After Social Media Outrage
Spirit Airlines learned an expensive lesson this week, after a social media-organized boycott brought the carrier intense negative media attention and may have adversely impacted ticket sales.
It all began when a former Marine with a terminal illness was told by a doctor that he was too sick to fly on a planned journey, forcing him to drive up to New Jersey from Florida instead and incurring additional costs. When the man, 76-year-old Jerry Meekins, was repeatedly refused a refund after his doctor’s orders prevented him from boarding, he took his frustration public.
After the Spirit Airlines boycott took off on Facebook, the airline surprisingly dug in its heels, saying that if it refunded Meekins’ $176, it would be unfair to passengers who had been soaked in the past on flight insurance fees. Not surprisingly, users did not warm to the admonishment, and on Friday, CEO Ben Baldanza finally relented and apologized for the company’s previous hardline stance:
“In my statements regarding Mr. Meekins’ request for a refund, I failed to explain why our policy on refunds makes Spirit Airlines the only affordable choice for so many travelers, and I did not demonstrate the respect or the compassion that I should have, given his medical condition and his service to our country.”
As a conciliatory gesture, Baldanza added:
“Therefore I have decided to personally refund Mr. Meekins’ airfare, and Spirit Airlines will make a $5,000 contribution, in his name, to the charity of his choice, Wounded Warriors.”
The news coincided with another PR hit to Spirit, when it was revealed passengers in the near future may be charged up to $100 for carry-on baggage.