Thursday, April 19, 2018
News Roundup

Dying man pickets Spirit Airlines over refund policy

Jerry Meekins will spend the last months of his life in a battle with both cancer and Spirit Airlines.

On Tuesday, Meekins, 76, and three other veterans with the American Legion picketed in front of the airline's check-in counter at Tampa International Airport. They want Spirit to create a refund policy for sick and dying customers.

Under Spirit's current policy, customers' airfares will be only partly refunded if they die before their flights.

"That's sick," Meekins said. "Hopefully, the public thinks it's sick, too."

A Vietnam veteran and former police officer, Meekins is dying from esophageal cancer.

He bought a plane ticket from Spirit Airlines in March, before he learned he only has a few months left to live. He was going to fly to New Jersey to visit his daughter, who is having surgery next month. Meekins needs to take care of her while she recovers.

Because his treatments have weakened his immune system, Meekins' doctors have told him that he is too sick to fly. He called Spirit last week to get his $197 back, but he was told that all tickets were nonrefundable. No exceptions.

"(Spirit) should have a policy for situations like this," said Carol Gray, Meekins' girlfriend.

Meekins wants the airline to care enough to look at customer needs on a case-by-case basis. He hopes that with enough public pressure, Spirit may show compassion to those with special circumstances.

"This was never just about the money," he said.

If the airline does decide to give him the refund, Meekins said he wants the check made out to the Wounded Warrior Project, a program that provides aid to injured soldiers.

Bill Hamblin, the commander of American Legion Post No. 5 in Tampa, thinks Spirit should make an exception for a dying man. If it doesn't, he predicts that Spirit will lose a lot of customers.

"If they don't do something, I won't fly it," Hamblin said.

Misty Pinson, spokeswoman for Spirit Airlines, said that while the airline sympathizes with Meekins, it is standing firm on its no-refund policy. She said the airline hears about situations like his all the time, and it wouldn't be fair to the airline's other customers if it were to bend the rules for him.

"We don't make exceptions to that policy just because a person has an unusual circumstance or goes to the media," she said.

Comments
The Daystarter: The Lightning win one on the road; Steve Persall rides off into retirement; meet the Tampa Bay Times’ new business columnist

The Daystarter: The Lightning win one on the road; Steve Persall rides off into retirement; meet the Tampa Bay Times’ new business columnist

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• It’s more of the same with sunny skies and warm temperatures today. It’ll be a bit cooler at the beaches around the mid-70s, but east of Interstate 75 it will be in the mid to upper 8...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

NEWARK, N.J. — Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Taking Care of Business shook the walls of the Lightning locker room not long after it dispatched the Devils in Wednesday's Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.The 3-1 win was sparked by Nikita K...
Updated: 4 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 18

Wednesday’s scoreboardSoftballAdmiral Farragut 2, Boca Ciega 1Springstead 10, Nature Coast 4
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Times columnist Tom Jones gives his thoughts while watching the broadcast of Game 4 of the series between the Lightning and Devils:Hard work beats everythingWe watch the Lightning all season long and marvel at its skill. Nikita Kucherov, Steven ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Political skirmish erupts over plan to revamp Hillsborough commission

Political skirmish erupts over plan to revamp Hillsborough commission

TAMPA — A political fight over the makeup of Hillsborough County government could be heading to voters to decide.After a discussion divided along party lines, commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to move ahead with a plan to overhaul the structure of th...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

LARGO — The Pasco-Pinellas state attorney cleared a Largo police officer who fatally shot a 30-year-old man last month.The letter from State Attorney Bernie McCabe said Officer Matthew Steiner was "in imminent fear for his life" during the March 23 e...
Updated: 6 hours ago
2 men spread affirmations in New Hampshire; bipartisan bill calls for VA to study pot; 3 men convicted in plot to bomb Somali refugees; more in U.S. news

2 men spread affirmations in New Hampshire; bipartisan bill calls for VA to study pot; 3 men convicted in plot to bomb Somali refugees; more in U.S. news

New HampshireWe need more of these signsTwo men are trying to spread some positivity with their feel-good signs. NH1 reported Greg Amaral and Wendell Walker have stood in downtown Nashua with signs carrying positive messages each weekend since Easter...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. aren’t available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Wed., April 18, midday:15 112 6177e_SRit28928Wed., April 18, evening:11 318 7120e_SRit93676LottoWed., April 18:...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Diamond shines light on ‘lost planet,’ says study; Merkel condemns attack on 2 men in Jewish skullcaps in Berlin; more in world news

Diamond shines light on ‘lost planet,’ says study; Merkel condemns attack on 2 men in Jewish skullcaps in Berlin; more in world news

WorldDiamond sheds light on ‘lost planet’Fragments of a meteorite that fell to Earth about a decade ago provide compelling evidence of a lost planet that once roamed our solar system, according to a study published Tuesday. Researchers from Switzerla...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Updated: 8 hours ago