How Spirit Airlines Could Recover From Recent Negative PR, Media and Social Media

By Rebecca Murtagh | Brand Marketing

May 02

Spirit Airlines Demonstrates How One Customer Can Damage A Brand, And A Recommended Remedy

Chances are you’ve probably heard the story about Jerry Meekins the veteran, father and customer. What has transpired between this individual and this company demonstrates to all brands exactly how powerful one customer truly can be.

Jerry the dad purchased an airline ticket on Spirit Airlines to fly from Florida to New Jersey to assist his daughter after surgery. Two weeks later, Jerry received the news that his cancer was terminal and advised by his doctors not to fly.

Jerry the customer contacted Spirit Airlines to request a refund. Having not purchased the insurance, the airline has remained firm in their answer to Jerry’s request: NO. The request to transfer the ticket to his daughter to visit him at a later date was also denied. Although Jerry reported today that Spirit Airlines offered him a credit to fly at a later date in the future. Jerry reports that asked them, “what part of the future don’t you understand?” Jerry’s plight has been featured on television, blogs, social media and across the internet.

Jerry a veteran of the United States Marines, is one of countless millions who have put on a uniform, willing to fight for America. He has called for a boycott from his fellow veterans. Media coverage of his plight and request for boycott has resulted in the rally of countless active and retired veterans behind him willing to boycott the Spirit Airlines.

This morning, when offered the $200 cash from Steve Ducey on the morning TV show Fox and Friends, Jerry emotionally accepted the money, stating he would donate it to Wounded Warriors, a not for profit dedicated to supporting wounded soldiers and their families.

How Could Spirit Airlines Recover From This PR Debacle?

The bad press received around this one customer will be difficult to recover from. However, I have a very powerful suggestion for Spirit Airlines. If you agree, please join me in making the following suggestion…

Join me in Asking Spirit Airlines to Donate $197 to the Wounded Warrier Project in Name of Veteran Jerry Meekins

I would venture to say that at very least, this gesture would show that Spirit Airlines has respect for Veterans and although they will not deviate from policy to issue a refund, they are willing to donate the funds generated from a ticket he will never use to the Wounded Warrior Project in his name. (and gain a tax deduction in the process since Wounded Warrior Project is a is a tax-exempt 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization).

Wounded Warrior Project


A small gesture that could have meaningful impact, and actually do some good…and generate a little good will between all parties.

What do you think?

About the Author

Rebecca Murtagh is a Human AI Evangelist, Futurist, Keynote Speaker, Author of CROWD SUCCESS® , Innovation coach, consultant and trainer. Rebecca leverages decades of experience working with Fortune 500, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Mains Street, global brands and startup entrepreneurs to help executives, their teams, and entrepreneurs leverage Human AI to innovate faster and achieve sustainable success. Rebecca also helps virtual companies, remote talent and hybrid teams improve productivity, collaboration, creativity and job satisfaction for optimum performance and long-term success.

  • Avatar Jeff Goldman says:

    Nice post! I’d like to see Spirit Airlines do exactly as you recommend. It makes perfect sense. But if prior conduct is any indicator of future action, then I don’t see them doing this.

    Spirit Airlines seems to the untrained eye to take delight at regularly doing “the wrong thing.” Google the story of a woman who was sexually molested on a Spirit flight a year ago and see how inhumanely these same Spirit officials handled that situation. Check Twitter, Facebook or Yelp for countless stories of unbelievably uncaring and even mean treatment from Spirit Airline’s customer service professionals. Or find the warning from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, to travelers who may not know what they’re getting into when they book a Spirit Airlines flight.

    In reality, I don’t think any of the bad PR Spirit earns happens by mistake. I think they are proving a point. I think they are telling their core customers, “Look how we steal from those other people so we can pass the savings on to you.” With mostly full flights and $23 million in profits last quarter, I think their messaging is working for them.

    For more background on how Spirit Airline is unlike any other airline — or just about any other business in the U.S. — read

  • Avatar Kathryn says:

    Why not just go one step further and make them remember it for a long time, a punishment of 1000 cuts? In addition to his $197, SA should also start donating $1.97 of every ticket they sell to WWP and show that they really care.

  • Very astute observations Jeff.
    And, sadly, you are probably right on the money.
    I thought that $197 would be a minimal investment and a logical place to start.
    Spirit Airlines appears to have been laying low on social media lately, perhaps they will keep a low profile hoping it will all blow over, maybe they’ll build enough courage to do something…the right thing would be ideal.
    Time will tell.

  • Avatar Jeff Goldman says:

    Actually, interesting story about why Spirit doesn’t participate in social media anymore. Up until 11 months ago @Spirit_Helper (Heather Harvey) was Spirit’s voice on Twitter. She (or someone using her account) said some terribly callous things directly to that woman who was sexually molested on a Spirit flight. The Twitterverse quickly took notice and outrage was unleashed (with far greater passion than this latest controversy) and a couple of hours later, her original comments were deleted from the @Spirit_Helper timeline.

    The next day, the entire account was deleted, and that’s the last time Spirit offered any interaction in the social media. My moles within the company tell me that Ms. Harvey was quickly promoted, and that while they still occasionally monitor online comments about Spirit, they never again plan to respond on Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else in the social media. Their reasoning being that, “we get too many complaints there to have time to respond to.”

    At the end of the day, they are never going to change their policies — or their attitude — until they see them hurting their bottom line. As far as Spirit is concerned, their bottom line has never been this healthy. And, to paraphrase Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza (from a previous PR black eye) all of these angry veterans “will be back when we save them a penny.”

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