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Spirit Airlines Dodges PR Nightmare By Refunding Dying Man’s Airfare

Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Spirit Airlines has relented and refunded an unhappy customer’s airfare, despite claiming that it would not bow to the media pressure and return the $197.

The complainant is cancer-stricken, which caused a swirl of criticism around the airline for its position. In what amounts to a move that helps the carrier avoid looking like the big, bad corporation and to live up to its “most consumer-friendly” airline tag, the powers that be handed over the cash and then some.

The customer suffers from esophageal cancer and booked a flight to New Jersey to see his daughter, who was hospitalized after an operation. His doctor then advised him against flying, since he is too ill. He explained his circumstance to Spirit, which offered non-transferable credit only. While that’s normally amenable to most travelers, a man with a terminal illness and limited time doesn’t see much value in that policy.

CEO Ben Baldanza issued a statement admitting Spirit’s folly in dealing with this issue. It read as follows:

“Every day we seek to balance customer service with customers’ demands for the lowest airfare possible. But sometimes we make mistakes. 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.”

Returning Meekins’ airfare was not the only act of good measure that Spirit made.

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.”

Looks like Spirit may have avoid a public relations nightmare for $5,197. It’s the latest PR snafu for the airline, which last week announced new $100 carry-on baggage fees.

[The Consumerist]

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