Skip to comments.Spirit Airlines' boss calls complaints 'irrelevant,' says dying veteran should've bought insurance
Posted on 05/03/2012 1:42:07 PM PDT by servo1969
The boss of Spirit Airlines isn't about to cave in to a dying former Marine, and he doesn't lose sleep knowing his company leads the industry when it comes to customer complaints, he told FoxNews.com.
Thats an irrelevant statistic, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza said when told his airline generates gripes at two-and-a-half times the rate of the next most complained about carrier.
Spirit racked up 8.27 complaints per 100,000 passengers in January, while United finished a distant second-worst, registering 3.5 complaints per 100,000 fliers, according to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics. By comparison, Southwest notched just 0.2 complaints per 100,000 fliers.
Spirit is generating complaints at a much faster clip on Facebook, where a "Boycott Spirit Airlines" page has seen its number of "likes" soar to more than 21,000 from about 700 since the carrier denied a $197 refund to Jerry Meekins. The 76-year-old Vietnam veteran and former Marine tried to get his $197 back after learning his esophageal cancer is terminal and being told by his doctor not to fly from Florida to Atlantic City. Airline officials told him to forget it, and Baldanza reaffirmed the company's hardline in an exclusive FoxNews.com interview.
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 didnt purchase the insurance, Baldanza said. Had we done that, I think it really wouldve been cheating all the people who actually bought the insurance
and I think thats fundamentally unfair.
(Excerpt) Read more at foxnews.com ...
I bet he gets up tomorrow morning looking in the mirror to shave and says DUMBASS!
I was flying back to Iraq after leave and Delta move me into first class. I was in my BDU’s There is a difference in airlines so I fly Delta if there a choice.
Amen. $197 by orders of magnitude is what he's going to have to pay some PR firm to haul his sorry behind out of the debacle he's mouthed himself into. Sometimes "the principle of the thing" is not the same as "doing the right thing."
This publicity makes me aware of Spirit for the first time. It makes me realize that they have low fares, and don’t bow to every pressure tactic for certain sympathetic people. Good for them. Just because you’re old, or dying doesn’t mean you can pick the pocket of a company I might wish to patronize.
The $197 dollar refund, plus, throw in a free trip anywhere that Spirit flies, and they would have gotten a MILLION dollars plus of FAVORABLE warm fuzzy publicity. Powerful positive branding.
Spirit has every right to withhold the fare
And I and thousands of others have the right to seek out other carriers.
bye bye now spirit airlines.
I presume they generate millions in profits on the insurance premiums (also known as higher refundable fares).
If they publicly give in, lots of people will decide not to pay the premium, on the assumption that they can wine loudly enough for a freebie.
Doesn’t EVERYBODY know about non-refundable fares?
When our Customers have complaints, we will respond with the required information in a professional, courteous manner that reflects the high value we place on each Customer.
You may contact Spirit with your complaints (or questions) in the following ways:
1. Via e-mail
2. In Writing
Spirit Customer Relations
2800 Executive Way
Miramar, FL 33025
You will receive an initial acknowledgement of your communications within 30 days and a substantive reply within 60 days.
First of all, I think the refusal is a public relations nightmare. They could have gotten some goodwill by backing down and in hindsight, probably will wish they would have.
But OTOH, if this is their policy and the policy is known and in writing that the person acknowledges it when the person purchases the ticket and it is further known that there will be no refunds or exchanges under any circumstances what so ever unless the additional $14 flight insurance is purchased, and they treat everybody exactly the same, i.e. not refusing to make an exception in Mr. Meekins case where they have made similar exceptions for others; then Im having a bit of a hard time seeing why this is so outrageous.
Yes, Mr. Meekins is surely a sympathetic character; a former cop, a Vietnam veteran, a cancer patient. So are a lot of other people too; a lot probably just as deserving, and some perhaps not so much. If Spirit publically makes an exception for him, how many others will want their exceptions too?
But then there is also something about this story that doesnt quite make sense to me, doesnt pass the ole smell test.
So after Mr. Meekins, who has been battling his cancer for many years BTW, purchased his ticket and supposedly already knowing how sick he was, refused to buy for a mere $14 more, the insurance that would have allowed him to exchange or get a refund for his ticket for unforeseen circumstances, and two weeks later his doctor supposedly told him he couldnt fly because of his cancer, his compromised immune system, that he was too sick to fly. Yet he was able to drive himself from his home in Florida to visit with his sick daughter in New Jersey before her surgery and was also able to make the trip into NYC to make a personal appearance on Fox and Friends.
Im sorry, but I really have to question just how sick he really is and what sort of doctor would tell him that its not OK for him to fly; to take a +/- two hour flight, yet was perfectly OK with him making a 10 to 12 + hour drive on his own, by himself to visit his sick daughter and then drive into NYC and meet and shake hands with the TV hosts? Really?
We might want to paint the Spirit Airlines CEO as a mean spirited SOB, but here is what he said:
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 didnt purchase the insurance, Baldanza told FoxNews.com by phone. Had we done that, I think it really wouldve been cheating all the people who actually bought the insurance and I think thats fundamentally unfair.
Baldanza said the $14 insurance covers a wide range of unexpected events and would have enabled Meekins to recoup his money.
Ben Baldanza acknowledged the tragic situation of Jerry Meekins, 76, of Clearwater, Fla., who has terminal esophageal cancer, but stood his ground on nixing the Vietnam vet's request. 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, he said.
The Florida-based budget carrier offered Meekins a credit voucher that would have enabled him to change the flight for a fee, Baldanza said, but the former police officer solely wanted a cash refund.
So in other words, Spirit Airlines is willing to let him change the flight - Im guessing that also means changing the name on the ticket to be used by someone else, something he (Meekins) said he wanted the airline to do, for a fee of $14, the cost of the insurance after the fact, that if he had purchased when he initially bought the ticket, would have enabled him to do that in the first place. So for a lousy $14 that the buyer could have purchased, we beating the band for this business to go out of business?
And Im pretty sure that driving from FL to NJ and then into NYC cost a lot more than $197. So for Mr. Meekins its not about him needing the $ and this all seems to be about principle and thats what Spirit Airlines is claiming as well.
Im rather inclined to side with the company on this one.
All the dam fool had to do was to refund the money after the man signed a non-disclosure agreement. What an idiot.
You don't have to admit you love your mother on the day you bury her either.
My point: "Service is light. Follow it."
You know, at first glance it would appear exactly as you describe. But think about it for a moment and perhaps you can agree with his philosophy and actions. First, he is, as you mentioned, on firm legal grounds - the Marine did not purchase insurance and so has no legal claim. Second, paying the Marine does indeed cheat those people who DID buy insurance.
But the larger narrative in this is that perhaps our fellow Americans are getting tired of the 'Customer is always right' mantra. Because if you roll over for ALL customers, most of them suffer for the orneriness of the few. It really grates on me, and I don't think I am alone in this, when I see airline personnel attempting to satisfy the unreasonable demands of an ignorant or thoughtless passenger when I am next in line. The fact that the Marine has a compelling story is incidental except for women and man-boys. I applaud this CEO for standing up for the rule of law and not the tyranny of the minority, believe it is good business decision, and would be surprised if this did not enhance the bottom line of his airline.
What you said!
I used to work full time in retail many years ago and in recent years, part time on a seasonal basis for the extra $$.
When a retail store has a policy that clearly states, no returns without a receipt and no returns after 90s days or you will only get store credit for returns without receipts and then only for the most recent or mark down price or you cannot return video games or movies that have been opened, the seal having been broken, unless the game or movie is defective it really means what it says and for good reason.
There are sometimes compelling reasons why a store manager might make an occasional exception but then I saw customers trying to return items without a receipt for a cash refund that were items our store didnt even sell. When I worked at We Be Babies I had customers try to return items with the Target or Wal-Mart tags still on them. I had a customer try to return a 50 pack box of diapers that only had 5 diapers left and tried to claim other ones were all defective and then after we explained why they couldnt be returned, claimed they should be able to return them because they were the wrong size and was irate when we wouldnt give him a refund. Similarly, one time a customer tried to return baby sleepers that had stains on them and had obviously been laundered and tried to claim they were a gift and were the wrong size.
One time I dealt with a very hostile and nasty customer who ordered custom finished baby furniture and after taking delivery, assembling it and using for several months, tried to return it because their mother in law decided to buy her a nicer set. In fact it wasnt usual for new moms to bring in several bags of items they got at their baby shower, none of them with the original tags, didnt have receipts or gift receipts or even items on their baby registry, presuming they even had one and then had us go through each item and determine if it was even an item we sold and then bitch at us because the item was currently on a clearance markdown or discontinued or out of season and they thought, often even demanded that they should get the original retail value.
In my experience most customers are reasonable and understanding when the policy is explained and most companies will make some attempt to accommodate a reasonable request (something I think Spirit did by offering to let him exchange or transfer his ticket for a small fee presumably the $14 dollars for the insurance that he could have and should have purchased in the first place). But let there be no mistake. When a retailer takes back an item they dont sell and cant resell or send back to the manufacturer, takes back a used item that is not defective but now otherwise rendered unsellable, gives a customer the original retail price on a returned item without a receipt and purchased who knows how long ago that now cannot be resold at that price, all just to make the customer happy, the company loses money and guess who pays for it? We all do.