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Icarus Award: In the Spirit of Failing

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For the past few weeks trouble has been at the airport, but now it’s back up in the sky. Have airlines lost the spirit of customer service? From cartoon-theme planes, to megalomaniac ice cubes, Lily J. Kosner looks at the week in airline failures. And remember to vote for the worst offender in our poll.

Honor Our Troops with a Refund

Spirit Airlines is not winning any fans this week especially on Facebook. After denying a $197 refund to former Marine and 76 year-old Vietnam veteran, Jerry Meekins, who found out she was suffering from terminal esophageal cancer and unable to fly, the airline is now the target of a “Boycott Spirit Airlines” page that as of press time had 38,000 likes. Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza first responded to uproar on and defended the airline decision. However, on Friday, Baldanza reversed his decision and personally refunded Meekins money and had the airline donate an additional $5,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Quite the Costly Carry-On

Don’t expect to toss your bag in the overhead bin on your next Spirit Airlines flight. The airline, who is known for a variety of fees, has raised their carry-on costs to up to $100 a bag, effective November 6. Currently the $100 fee is only in place for those who wait to pay at the gate and is significantly lower if you pay online before check-in. Airline spokesperson Misty Pinson argues that the fee will encourage customers to plan ahead. Future Spirit passengers might consider investing in a Scottevest.

Fly the San Rio Skies

Hello Kitty is continuing to conquer the skies. The Taiwanese EVA Airlines has expanded their cat-themed fleet from three planes to five. The Hello Kitty flights feature their icon on boarding passes, headrest covers and more. If you’re looking to catch a Hello Kitty sighting, book an ETA flight between Taipei, Tokyo, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Shanghai, Guam, Seoul and Hong Kong.

Too Fat to Fly, Just Fat Enough to Sue

Last May, Southwest passenger Kenlie Tiggeman made headlines after a Southwest gate agent informed her she was too fat to fly. Now, Tiggeman has filed an injunction against Southwest in the New Orleans district court alleging that the airline discriminates against obese fliers. Southwest is known for their customer of size policy that requires customers to buy a second seat if they can’t fit between the armrests. Southwest’s seats measure 17 inches across. Tiggeman is not seeking monetary compensation, but a change in industry standards for larger passengers. Southwest has already apologized, refunded Tiggeman’s ticket and offered flight vouchers after the May 2011 incident.

Ice-Cold Ego

Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson is often the public face of the airline and now he’s the public face of their cocktails. This week, the airline introduced “Little Richards,” oversized ice cubes shaped like Branson’s head. A Virgin spokesperson noted the ice cubes, which were introduced to promote the airline’s new upper class bar, were designed so that CEO Branson can travel “in spirit” with his customers. What spirit? The spirit of creepy?

A Four-Year Old Suspect won last week’s Icarus Award. See all the past nominees in the Icarus Award section and vote her to select this week’s worst travel failure.

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By Lily J. Kosner for

Related Links: Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, Gawker, San Francisco Gate