(RNN) - After more than a week of bad press and public backlash, Spirit Airlines has decided to refund a dying vet's money for a flight he was too sick to take.
Jerry Meekins, a 76-year-old ex-Marine with esophageal cancer, purchased a $197 ticket to visit his daughter, but was told by a doctor two weeks later that he was too sick to fly.
Spirit denied his request for a refund, saying he should have purchased travel insurance. Meekins said he was offered a credit for a future flight.
"I did not know I was terminal when I purchased the ticket, and I found out two weeks later and asked out of curiosity 'How do we go about getting a refund?' They said 'No way,' they wouldn't even change the name to my daughter so she could fly back and forth," Meekins told Fox News on Tuesday.
After days of staunchly defending their decision, CEO Ben Baldanza reversed course Friday, issuing a statement saying he would personally refund the money and make a $5,000 contribution in Meekins' name to the Wounded Warrior Project.
"Every day we seek to balance customer service with customers' demands for the lowest airfare possible. But sometimes we make mistakes," he said.
"I did not demonstrate the respect or the compassion that I should have, given his medical condition and his service to our country."
The airline faced a tidal wave of criticism, with nearly 40,000 people "liking" a Facebook page called Boycott Spirit Airlines after Meekins' story went public.
"I hope all the negative publicity is worth $197," read one post on the Facebook page.
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