Veterans groups came together on the behalf of a dying Vietnam veteran and retired Marine, Jerry Meekins. Meekins is 76 years old and a resident of Clearwater, Florida. The former Marine purchased an airline ticket with Spirit Airlines for $197 in order to visit his daughter in New Jersey. After the ticket was purchased, Jerry was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the esophagus and was ordered not to fly by his doctor. The veteran wanted a refund for his plane ticket but Spirit Airlines denied his request because of their strict “no refund” policy. After the news of the “no refund” policy hit the media, the veteran groups of America (along with many others) exploded with anger and outrage. Spirit has now reversed its decision and donated funds to the Wounded Warrior Project, but only after an incredible, negative groundswell toward Spirit.
Fox News has received “hundreds of calls” from veterans across America just as mad at Spirit Airlines as Meekins. Meekins even told Fox News that, “The response of most veterans is that they are going to boycott Spirit Airlines.” He also told Fox News that the boycott could be an estimated 6 or 7 million people. This rise of anger towards the Spirit Airlines has even set-off a facebook page “Boycott Spirit Airlines,” which has dramatically spiked with “likes” (more than 41,000 now) and people talking about the veteran and against Spirit Airlines.
With veterans across America furious with Spirit Airlines and multiple veteran groups such as AMVETS siding with Meekins, how can the company afford the negative media attention and even a possible boycott? The answer, they can’t. Spirit Airlines is now facing a serious crisis even though they’ve reversed their decision, but too late. Spirit Airlines’ reputation is diminishing through traditional and social media which will cause the company to lose time, money, customers, and may even cost some their careers. If there would happen to be a full scale boycott by the millions of veterans, the effect would be devastating towards Spirit Airlines because not only the veterans but the families of the veterans and friends would be boycotting as well, leaving the company with a terrible reputation and even less business.
The effectiveness and timeliness of the media is a true wonder of the world today. However, in the case of Spirit Airlines, it can also be devastating for a company’s image. The key to any crisis is to be prepared before it occurs so that when it does happen adversity can be turned into advantage, with sound decision-making! For more information, please contact the Fallston Group at info@FallstonGroup.com. The Fallston Group is a crisis management and communications firm.