The CEO of Spirit Airlines has reversed course and said he will refund a dying Vietnam veteran's nonrefundable ticket after a barrage of negative attention for the low-cost carrier.
Jerry Meekins, a 76-year-old veteran with terminal esophageal cancer, had booked an airline ticket from Florida to New Jersey for his daughter's surgery. With his condition worsening, Meekin's doctor told him he couldn't fly, so he tried to get Spirit to refund his $197 fare to no avail. Veterans groups and Facebook users heaped criticism on the airline, but Spirit stood by their nonrefundable ticket policy, saying it's a way to keep costs down for all passengers.
"Every day we seek to balance customer service with customers' demands for the lowest airfare possible. But sometimes we make mistakes," Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza said in a statement. "I did not demonstrate the respect or the compassion that I should have, given his medical condition and his service to our country."
In addition to personally refunding Meekins' fare, Baldanza said Spirit "will make a $5,000 contribution, in his name, to the charity of his choice, Wounded Warriors.
Meekins' girlfriend, Carol Gray, told WTSP-TV he is thrilled with the airline's change of course and that he was touched by all the attention his story received.