May 4, 2012 at 6:07 PM ET
Spirit Airlines has decided today to reverse a controversial decision it made in April and is refunding the airfare purchased by Jerry Meekins, a dying veteran who could not use his ticket.
Meekins recently purchased a ticket from the airline to visit his daughter in New Jersey. "Two weeks after I bought the ticket, I found out I was terminal," Meekins, a Vietnam veteran, told NBC affiliate WFLA-TV in Tampa, Fla.
When contacted by WFLA-TV at the time, Spirit Airlines issued this statement: "Our reservations are non-refundable, which means we don't do refunds and we are not going to issue Mr. Meekins a refund."
The airline also said that it offers low-cost travel insurance that covers a variety of unexpected circumstances and added, "It wouldn't be fair to bend the policy for one and not for all."
Ben Baldanza, the airline's CEO, said in a statement released today, "In my statements regarding Mr. Meekins' request for a refund, I failed to explain why our policy on refunds makes Spirit Airlines the only affordable choice for so many travelers, and I did not demonstrate the respect or the compassion that I should have, given his medical condition and his service to our country."
In addition to refunding Meekins, the airline is donating $5,000 to the Wounded Warriors, a charity designated by the veteran.
NBC-affiliate WFLA contributed to this report.
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