Spirit Airlines Denies Refund For Widow Catherine O'Connell's Husband Who Couldn't Fly After Dying Suddenly

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The country’s most complained-about airline is widening its lead over the competition, this time refusing to refund ticket fare for the husband of a Palm Bay, Fla., woman.

The woman said her husband could no longer take the flight — because he was dead.

Pressured by a local TV news investigation, Spirit Airlines finally agreed to give Catherine O'Connell her money back. The widow lost her husband suddenly in July, and when she asked Spirit to refund the cost of his ticket for a flight the couple had booked from Florida to New Jersey, the airline responded with stony silence.

“I can’t handle it. I’m too upset. I’m too emotional,” O’Connell (pictured) told Action 9 News. “I don't know why they can’t take care of it.”

Spirit is known for its cheap fares — and for recouping that money by charging fees for everything from printing a boarding pass to ordering a cup of water on the plane.

“This kind of money is a lot to me,” said O’Connell. “It may not be to them, but it’s a lot to me.” 

The Action 9 investigation found that even with non-refundable fares, most airlines have a policy of granting refunds in case of death or sudden illness, as long as the customer provides documentation. O’Connell says she provided Spirit with records showing her husband was really dead.

The New York Times reported in May that Spirit is not only the airline industry’s most-complained-about carrier, it has no real competition in that category. The Transportation Department gets between six and eight complaints per every 100,000 Spirit passengers.

Compare that to an industry average of 1.4 complaints per 100,000 flyers.

Spirit flights also clock in on time less that 70 percent of the time, compared to an 80 perecnt industry average, and 90 percent fort the best-run airlines.

After a case in 2012 in which Spirit refused to refund a $197 ticket to a former Marine who canceled his trip after learning that he had terminal cancer, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza, contacted by another news organization, shrugged off Spirit’s prodigious complaint rate as “an irrelevant statistic.”

“If you ran a restaurant, and out of every 100,000 customers, eight of them said they didn’t like your menu, would you change your restaurant?” he asked.

SOURCES: Action 9 News, New York Times, Fox News