By castigating Spirit Airlines for following their own rules in refusing to refund a dying vet’s ticket price, we are guilty of the same behavior exhibited by the occupy movement who want to ignore the rules and get something for nothing.
First, let me state that I sympathize with the plight of Jerry Meekins, the Marine vet dying of cancer who requested that Spirit Airlines refund his ticket fare even though he did not purchase the insurance which would have covered this situation. This is truly a case that tugs at the heartstrings, and it’s easy to assume the airline is being insensitive by insisting on following its rules despite the tragic nature of the situation. Mr. Meekins is facing his own mortality, and I find it a little disturbing that his thoughts at this difficult time are centered on the refund of $197 as opposed to thoughts of spiritual preparation for the afterlife and of visiting with family and friends while time allows.
Second, Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza failed miserably to demonstrate compassion for Mr. Meekins when explaining company policy in dealing with this particular issue. Spirit Airlines offers a low-cost option for travelers and allows its customers to pay only for the service options important to them in an a la carte manner. Many travelers find Spirit’s business model distasteful and choose to fly with other airlines, but many are comfortable with this business model and choose to fly with Spirit. In America, we have the right to choose which business to patronize for whatever reason, and millions exercise their right to patronize Spirit Airlines. Mr. Baldanza should have taken more care to explain why Spirit’s business model allowed for lower fares in more compassionate tones while also explaining that by refunding Mr. Meekins fare without his purchase of the optional insurance, it would be unfair to other passengers who had purchased the insurance and would contribute to both increases in ticket prices for all passengers and an increase in the number of cases where customers demanded refunds without purchasing the optional insurance. After all, who would then purchase the insurance if it became apparent that the airline would refund fares in unusual and sympathetic cases? Spirit would then be forced to include the insurance in the price of every ticket, thus driving up costs for every customer and shrinking the options available to their customers.
We have witnessed the Occupy movement take to the streets to demand that America’s rich provide them with free stuff in a sense of profound arrogant entitlement. We are shocked that these protesters feel entitled to that which was earned by another through that person’s hard work. The protesters show not the least bit of inclination to participate in the American Dream by working hard for their own wealth; rather they demand the fruits of others’ labor. I would be much more sympathetic to their plight if they were complaining about the lousy economy Obama and his progressive liberal Marxist minions had foisted upon the country and their inability to obtain employment under such wretched economic conditions. But, they are only demanding that some mist-shrouded and nebulous group of rich hand over their wealth for the enjoyment of the protesters. At its most basic level, their message is one of give it to me because I want it!
We are rightly repulsed by this demonstration of loutish behavior on the part of the Occupy protesters. They have no right to demand that for which they are unwilling to work. Likewise, Mr. Meekins has no right to demand that Spirit Airlines violate their company policies to refund his fare when he chose not to purchase the ticket insurance. Mr. Meekins voluntarily purchased a non-refundable ticket without insurance protection to save on his fare. His situation evolved into one in which tragic circumstances rendered him unable to travel and negated his need for the ticket. Upon learning this, he sought to create a special circumstance that would allow him to violate Spirit company policy and the terms of his ticket purchase through his tragic and emotionally charged situation. In this regard, Mr. Meekins is no different than the Occupy protesters who demand something for nothing.
We conservatives decry the hypocrisy of the left in demanding that wealth be transferred from producers through socialist taxation schemes that fund those unwilling to work for their own livelihoods. We have no problem with helping those who obviously can’t support themselves through illness or infirmity. We consider it our Christian duty to look after those who can’t look after themselves. However, we also chafe at seeing the able-bodied line up for handouts in increasing numbers that threaten to turn America from a nation of hard working producers into a nation of whiners with an entitlement mentality. We have an innate sense of fair play which is often manipulated by the liberal left wishing to guilt us into supporting their redistributionist schemes to reward their supporters with the fruits of our labor. No one likes to be manipulated, and no one likes to be continually manipulated with the same obvious tactics.
I am truly sympathetic to the plight of Mr. Meekins, but I also feel that his circumstances demand consideration of matters more weighty than the refund of a measly airline ticket. His case has been used to manipulate Americans into reinforcing the idea that capitalists are greedy and insensitive to their downtrodden customers and that they are only interested in robbing their customers with absolutely no compassion. Capitalism is responsible for providing Americans with the greatest standard of living in world history. It does this by offering goods and services demanded by consumers at the lowest price and the highest quality. Companies most closely aligned with the needs of their customers thrive under capitalism while companies not in tune with the demands of the marketplace are winnowed out and left to die. Perhaps it’s a cruel arrangement, but one which has worked well to elevate our standard of living.
One thing that struck me throughout this episode was the fact that, despite millions of people signing up on Facebook to protest Spirit’s supposed unfair treatment of Mr. Meekins with vows to shun the airline in the future, there was never any effort to raise money among the protesters to refund the ticket fare to Mr. Meekins. In the end, it was Mr. Baldanza who refunded the fare out of his own pocket. Perhaps this was a cynical act designed to curry favor after his insensitive missteps in the initial handling of the issue, but perhaps it was also that Mr. Baldanza decided to demonstrate his Christian charity when so many others were only busying themselves with contempt and scorn. Only God is able to look into the heart of a man and know his true motives, and the Bible warns us to judge not lest we be judged. It also chastises us to be slow to anger and keep a hold on our tongues. These are definitely things worthy of consideration when pondering the supposed mistreatment of others before all of the evidence has been gathered.