Spirit Airlines CEO 'empathetic,' but says no refund | News
St. Petersburg, Florida - It's a story that has infuriated many people: a Clearwater man is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and then denied a refund for a plane ticket.
His doctors say he cannot fly, but Spirit Airlines says it's company policy not to give him a refund.
Previous Story: Dying man protests airline over refund policy
Ben Baldanza spoke with 10 News reporter Allison Kropff. He says while they are empathetic for Jerry Meekins' situation, it's company policy not to offer refunds, no matter the situation. He says the airline receives call every day from people faced with challenging situations.
Baldanza adds the company treats each customer respectfully and equally.
76-year old Jerry Meekins says he'll be picketing the airline and the policy at Tampa International Airport as long as he's able to. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and doctors say he has only about two months to live.
His daughter is having surgery next month, so he booked a flight on Spirit Airlines to be with her, only to learn he couldn't fly because his immune system is compromised.
Spirit Airlines refused to give Meekins his money back, citing the company's non-refundable ticket policy.
"It's kind of hard to draw the line to say one person's story is empathetic enough or detailed enough we should go ahead and violate the policy really at the expense of everyone else," says Baldanza.
Baldanza says one of the best ways the company saves customers money is by allowing them to choose the services that best fits their needs. One of those choices is travel insurance. It costs $14 and Baldanza says it would cover an unexpected circumstance like Meekins'.
We spoke with Meekins on Friday afternoon. His reaction to Baldanza's interview?
"Shame on him."
Meekins is now driving to Atlantic City to be with his daughter during her surgery.
Baldanza says this siutation will not make them consider changing the policy. He says the non-refundable fares are what help keep the airlines fees so cheap.
Here is a statement from Spirit Airlines:
Spirit Airlines Cares About All of Our Customers Equally
We care about all of our customers and all are equally important to us. We work hard each and every day to get our customers where they want to go, we save them money with our low fares, and we treat each one with respect. Each customer matters - and no one customer matters more than another.
We are proud to offer our valued customers very low fares and we have given millions the opportunity to travel who wouldn't have otherwise been able to afford to fly before Spirit entered the market. One of the best ways we save customers money is by giving them the power to choose the services that best fit their needs - and they only pay for those they choose. One of these options - that many of our customers choose - is travel insurance, which covers a variety of those unexpected circumstances that may arise.
Unfortunately, unexpected curves are a part of life for everyone. We receive calls every day from our customers faced with a variety of challenging situations. Spirit truly does sympathize with each and every one of these customers. If we provided refunds to customers whose situations change, the cost of the refunds would be shared by every other Spirit customer. The biggest cost increase happens because once that seat is sold, we can't sell it to someone else. If the customer doesn't fly and gets a refund, our costs and fares for every other customer go up. Every other customer would pay higher fares caused by people who received a refund and chose not to buy travel insurance. We don't think that's respectful or fair to all the other customers who would pay for the increased costs due to those refunds and not get anything in return.
At Spirit, we treat all of our customers equally and with respect. That means our non-refundable fares are non-refundable - for everyone. We are proud to save our customers money with the ultra low fares they love and give them the opportunity to choose the services they want and use. And we're proud to treat all of our customers respectfully and equally as we do so.
We are very saddened to hear about Mr. Meekins' diagnosis and sincerely hope his health improves and that we have the opportunity to serve him again on his current ticket and many more flights. We are committed to treating him and every customer with respect by letting each customer choose what they pay for. It's a key part of how we keep our fares low for every customer, every flight, every day.