Travel News

Spirit Air’s PR Scandal and the Solution to Nonrefundable Tickets

Earlier this month, Spirit Airlines initially refused to refund a $197 ticket to a dying veteran. After an explosive backlash, chairman Ben Baldanza issued a statement apologizing for his insensitivity and announcing that he would personally refund the money to the veteran and the airline would make a $5,000 donation to Wounded Warrior Project. Peter and George Hobica, founder of Airfare Watchdog, look for the lessons in last week’s outrage.

Peter Greenberg: How do you feel about refundable, or rather nonrefundable tickets, George?

George Hobica: First of all, I was shocked that Spirit Airlines backtracked on this because they’re notorious for being tone deaf and holding their ground on issues.

I was amazed they were giving $5,000 to the veteran’s favorite charity organization and making a public apology. It’s just not Spirit’s ‘spirit’ to do something like this.

PG: Obviously, the PR was so bad Ben Baldanza felt like he had to do this, but if you read between the lines, he is personally refunding the $197 ticket and that means the company isn’t changing their policy one inch.

GH: Most airlines have a similar policy. It’s airline policy and frankly, if this guy wasn’t a vet and just an ordinary guy, I wonder if it would have gone so viral.

PG: But it did go viral didn’t it?

GH: It sure did and it was a terrible hit for their PR and they must have some real hit to their bottom line, such as cancellations or no traffic to their website because normally they just don’t apologize. Perhaps, you remember the email that was leaked that the CEO essentially said, screw customer service we don’t care about people complaining about things.  He even responded to one of the executives saying why do we care? We’re not in the business of customer service and it got leaked to the press and they didn’t apologize for that.

It’s just who they are. Spirit is very similar to Ryanair in the UK Both CEOs have a similar viewpoint. They don’t care about the passengers!