Published May 03, 2012
A Facebook campaign calling for a boycott of Spirit Airlines has taken off with jet-like propulsion since the carrier's denial of a refund to a dying former Marine made headlines.
The “Boycott Spirit Airlines” Facebook page has seen its number of "likes" soar in recent days, rising from roughly 700 earlier this week to more than 17,000 as of early Thursday. The social network support has come as Jerry Meekins, a 76-year-old Vietnam veteran with terminal esophageal cancer, raised a fuss when the Florida-based airline nixed his request for a $197 refund. Meekins was going to fly to New Jersey for his daughter's surgery, but his doctor told him not to fly, citing his deteriorating health. The Facebook page blasting the much-complained-about airline already existed, but Meekins' plight has sent furious fellow veterans and concerned citizens flocking to it.
"This is a despicable act on their part," one post read. "They should have quietly returned the airfare and they could have avoided this. I will never fly this airline."
Another wrote: "Here is another former Army soldier supporting you! They picked the wrong group of people to mess with!"
"I hope all the negative publicity is worth $197," read another post.
Meekins, who appeared on Fox News' "Fox & Friends" Wednesday, said he appreciates the support. The ex-cop, who drove up from his home in Clearwater, Fla., said he's gotten numerous offers of cash, including a $197 handshake from host Steve Doocy -- which Meekins said he would donate to the Wounded Warrior Project for injured veterans. But it is no longer about the money, said Meekins, who added that he's genuinely touched by the outpouring of support.
“It’s been tremendous, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” Meekins, of Clearwater, Fla., told FoxNews.com following the appearance.
Peter Forbes, president of the Veterans of the Vietnam War and the Veterans Coalition, told FoxNews.com his 70,000-member, Pennsylvania-based organization sent a letter asking for a reversal by Spirit Airlines on Tuesday
"What would have happened if this patriotic American said ‘no’ when called to serve his country?” the letter obtained by FoxNews.com reads.
The tight-fisted airline is standing by its decision, according to Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson. Spirit officials say their refusal to compromise helps them keep costs down for all passengers, and note that passengers can pay extra for insurance that enables them to apply for refunds -- an option Meekins did not take.
Meekins protested near the airline’s ticket counter at Tampa International Airport last month and was joined by other veterans, including one who voiced the potential of a boycott.
"We've got 3 million Legionnaires, and when you take into account all veterans, you're talking 10 million people,” said Bill Hamlin, commander of American Legion Post 5 in Tampa. “Can Spirit Airlines really afford the negative publicity and the possible boycott of at least 10 million veterans?”