Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza has created quite a ruckus by denying a 76-yr old cancer patient a refund after his doctor told him that he was too sick to fly to his appointment in New Jersey.  Jerry Meekins paid $197 for a ticket from his home in Florida to New Jersey where he could receive treatment.  The doctor told him that he was too sick to fly so he ended up driving instead at a cost of about $300.

When CPO Meekins approached Spirit about getting a refund, they only offered him a credit voucher provided that he would pay a change fee.  CPO Meekins replied that he couldn’t use a credit voucher since his doctor forbid him from flying.  Ben Baldanza went on TV to defend Spirit’s handling of the affair only to create a media storm of negative publicity.  Here is his quote:

“Making an exception would be like an insurance company paying to fix a  fire-ravaged home even though the owner didn’t have a policy before the fire.  Had we done that, I think it really would’ve been cheating all the people  who actually bought the insurance,” he said. “And I think that’s fundamentally  unfair.”

OK, Mr. Baldanza, I get that you don’t want to set a precedent and change all of your famously cheapskate airlines rules, but c’mon.  If I was Mr. Baldanza, when I found out about this story, I would have whipped out me personal checkbook and written the retired CPO a check for $197 and ended it right there.  I’ll wager that the CEO probably makes millions every year and should have just done the right thing without making such bad publicity.

Want to know how much that bad publicity is costing Spirit?  A Facebook page calling for a boycott of Spirit has gone viral and their stock price dropped 5% on Thursday after this interview with Baldanza.  Instituting a $100 bag fee for any bag that could not fit into the overhead bin may have also contributed to that drop.  Here is the link to the BoycottSpirit page.

Not that I had any intention of ever flying Spirit, I now will definitely not.  What do you think?

Posted by glenn | 9 Comments

9 responses to “Cancer-Stricken Vet Denied Refund by Spirit Airlines”

  1. Kevbot says:

    Spirit reversed their decision yesterday and issued a refund as well as a $5,000 donation to a charity of Mr. Meekins choice.

  2. Aarash says:

    As much as I like getting my way, and for things to work out in my favor – most of the time I gamble. Gamble with my time and my money (so to speak) each time I dont get travel insurance. As far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong) CPO Meekins knew for a while that he had cancer, so it wasn’t an abrupt thing he couldn’t foresee. My wife has had to miss flights for various reasons (though not because of cancer) and I’ve called the airline and they denied her a refund even when I dropped the Army Vet card. I understand it’s not the same, and I can see if from both perspectives. If he knew he had cancer and there was a possibility that things wouldnt work out for the flight – buy the $20 travel insurance, that’s what it’s for. Then again, I do like your idea of the CEO writing him a $197 check, as it’s chump change to him.
    Honestly, I think things like this happen a lot more than we realize, this just blew up into a media Sh*tstorm because the right people caught wind of it. I haven’t flown Spirit air and have no intention to, but I dont think a boycott is in order, I think a rational conversation between the two parties for an amicable resolution is.

  3. Mike says:

    Actually they caved yesterday and reverse their decision. USAToday had it on their travel section yesterday

  4. glenn says:

    Thanks for the update which I obviously missed. Glad that it worked out OK for him. Too bad it takes this kind of attention to get corporations to do the right thing, but I guess that it is good we live in a place where the power (and sales) derive from the people.

  5. HikerT says:

    Great, now the guy can go on with what’s left of his life without social media enabling to waste any more of his life fighting something he wasn’t entitled to. I would not boycott Spirit over this. If anything I would boycott those in social media who would promote the fallacy of entitlement.

  6. ffI says:

    I think the best thing he should have done was offer the refund as a donation to the charity of the pax choice. Honestly, do not get insurance and then complain?

  7. Tim says:

    So does the 76 year old now think that now Spirit caved, every person that ever was to sick to fly and denied a refund is entitled to a refund now?

    And in the future?

    They just set a precedent.

  8. Mike says:

    This is BS. he doesnt deserve the refund.

  9. Andy says:

    legally the airline does not have to do anything..
    and legally we all can say.. “Screw you Spirit… I choose to fly on your competitor” – which is what the public has done via social media.
    So… the CEO under estimated the public’s reaction.. and come on.. the CEO (and his PR dept) should have known this.
    Whether we like it or not, Social media is here to stay.. it is good that social media exists, because in this case Spirit would have no idea what a firestorm this caused.
    The CEO went on air to “publicly” defend the decision, with out social media, the next time he finds out would be at the end of the qtr when their load drops by 20% and they would have no idea.

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