Monday, April 23, 2012

Man losing cancer battle wants airline to change policy - Company says all fights are non-refundable

Jerry Meekins
Photographer: WFTS


CLEARWATER - A Clearwater man with only months to live is not just fighting a terminal illness, he's also in a battle with an airline company. 

 Jerry Meekins booked a flight with Spirit Airlines and says he only has one request that the company rejected.

When the 76-year-old Meekins purchased a ticket last month to fly out of Tampa International in May, it was before he learned his cancer turned terminal.

When he asked Spirit Air for a refund, the company told him no. Now he is fighting -- not about the money, he says, but the principle.

"It isn't about the $197. Believe me. I'd love them to donate it to wounded warriors," the Vietnam vet said.

Meekins currently serves as commander of his American Legion post in St. Petersburg.

But he just learned that role will be cut short.

Doctors just gave him a bad report about the cancer he's battled for 2 months.

"She {the doctor} said ‘there's nothing else we can do. You've got a couple months, go enjoy yourself’," he explained.

Two months earlier, Meekins booked a plane ticket to New Jersey to visit his daughter.

"My daughter is having surgery. She lives alone so she needed someone when she's released form the hospital to take her home and care of her for a few days,” he said.

His doctors told him his immune system isn't strong enough to handle the flight.

So he called Spirit.

"I explained my circumstance to him. He said ‘what we'll do is give you a credit for the future’. I said ‘don't you understand what I'm saying?’"

We contacted a Spirit Airlines spokesman Misty Pinson Sunday who told us all Spirit tickets are non-refundable. She says the company can't make exceptions or it could cause higher air fares for everyone. Pinson says Spirit does, though, offer insurance options at the time of booking to help avoid travel mishaps.

"I'm not going to be here,” Meekins added.

He says he had no idea he'd receive a terminal report before he booked his ticket and says at this point, a future flight won't do him any good.

"My response to that was ‘what are you going to do fly my casket up to Atlantic City?’"

Southwest, American, and Delta are among the airlines that will consider refund requests for non-refundable flights. Jet Blue says customers must pay a $100 fee to cancel non-refundable tickets


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