Business, Economics and Jobs

Spirit Airlines reverses earlier decision to deny refund to cancer-stricken veteran


A Spirit Airlines Inc. plane on the tarmac at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport.


Joe Raedle

A day after stating that a cancer-stricken Vietnam veteran did not deserve a refund of a Spirit Airlines ticket because he didn’t purchase travel insurance from the company, Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza has changed his position, Fox News reported.

Baldanza said today that he would personally refund the $197 ticket that former Marine Jerry Meekins, 76, of Clearwater, Fla., had purchased for a flight to New Jersey to visit his daughter, Fox News reported. Two weeks after buying the ticket, Meekins’ doctors told him he had terminal esophageal cancer and should not fly, MSNBC reported.

Baldanza said Spirit Airlines would also donate $5,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project.

"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,” Baldanza said in a statement today, according to MSNBC.

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Previously, Baldanza had shown no sympathy for Meekins’ plight, noting that if the vet had bought the $14 trip insurance Spirit Airlines sells, he would have been eligible for a refund on his unrefundable ticket, Fox News reported.

“A lot of our customers buy that insurance and what Mr. Meekins asked us to do was essentially give him the benefit of that insurance when he didn’t purchase the insurance,” Baldanza told Fox News on Thursday. “Had we done that, I think it really would’ve been cheating all the people who actually bought the insurance … and I think that’s fundamentally unfair.”

What’s behind the change of heart? Spirit Airlines endured a week of criticism from veterans and a Facebook page entitled “Boycott Spirit Airlines” swelled beyond 30,000 supporters today, up from 700 earlier this week, Fox News reported.

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