Spirit Airlines has long reveled in its reputation for low fares, pay-for-everything approach, and iconoclastic CEO, Ben Baldanza. But it may have gone one step too far when it refused to give a refund to a dying veteran who was told by his doctor that he had lost his battle with esophageal cancer and was too sick to fly.
With a simple handmade sign, Jerry Meekins took the battle to Spirit’s doorstep at Tampa International Airport. Not surprisingly the local news media picked up the story and it quickly spread across the country. The response from Spirit was a resounding NO!
The official statement was: "We receive many requests for refunds every day for similar situations. It wouldn't be fair to bend policy for one and not all. We will not make customers who follow the rules pay for those who don't. It's just not fair." (Under Spirit's current policy, customer airfares will be only partly refunded if they die before their flights.)
What's the ROI of a protest?
Now, one might argue, that since Spirit refused to grant Mr. Meekins a refund, the ROI on his protest effort was zero. And that Spirit’s ROI was huge. I’m sure someone at Spirit is claiming that all this publicity earned Spirit a ton coverage for its cheap $197 fares and strict policies.
One way of calculating the impact would be to add up all the potential impressions from all that coverage in online, broadcast, and print media. Using the typically inflated impression counts provided by most of the leading monitoring companies you’d find out that about half of all Americans (155 million) had the opportunity to see something about this story. Which is no doubt worth a gazillion-and-a-half in AVEs.
Another way to look at it is that 40% of Americans have some sort of tie to the military and/or veterans. And they’re pretty ticked off. So even if only half of those people hear the news, and half of them decide that they will never buy another Spirit ticket, that’s still about 15 million customers that Spirit has lost. What’s the ROI of that?
(thanks for the image to The Tampa Bay Times and Willie J. Allen)
Katie Delahaye Paine is CEO of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine is a dynamic and experienced speaker on public relations and social media measurement. Click here for the schedule of Katie’s upcoming speaking engagements. Katie and Beth Kanter are authors of the book “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit,” to be published this year by Wiley.
The Measurement Standard is a publication of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners, will be glad to talk with you about measurement for your organization.