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Monday, February 15, 2010

Southwest Airlines Goes After the Fatties

Hollywood director Kevin Smith is fat, but he can still fit in a Southwest Airline's seat. However, he was thrown off a Southwest flight because they implied that he was too fat to fly. Smith does not need a seat belt extender, he is able to lower the armrests on his seat, and he says he is not "that fat." Yet he was escorted off Southwest Flight #106 from Oakland to Burbank because someone at Southwest determined that he was a "safety concern." Southwest, of course, is afraid to use the word "fat."

Kevin Smith's verbal account of the incidentSmodcast.com: Kevin Smith's verbal account of the entire episode (smodcast #106).

Smith also fired off a scorching Twitter storm against Southwest and their mistreatment of fatties. Smith wants Southwest to stop humiliating its overweight customers. He makes a very compelling argument.


Wanna tell me I'm too wide for the sky? Totally cool. But fair warning, folks: IF YOU LOOK LIKE ME, YOU MAY BE EJECTED FROM @SOUTHWESTAIR.

So, @SouthwestAir, go f**k yourself. I broke no regulation, offered no "safety risk" (what, was I gonna roll on a fellow passenger?). I was wrongly ejected from the flight (even Suzanne eventually agreed). And f**k your apologetic $100 voucher, @SouthwestAir. Thank God I don't embarrass easily (bless you, JERSEY GIRL training). But I don't sulk off either: so everyday, some new fuck-you Tweets for @SouthwestAir.

@pigz "I know several people bigger then u who have flown on other airlines" I saw someone bigger than me on THAT flight! But I wasn't about to throw a fellow Fatty under the plane as I'm being profiled. But he & I made eye contact, & he was like "Please don't tell..."

Dear @SouthwestAir, I'm on another one of your planes, safely seated & buckled-in again, waiting to be dragged off in front of the normies.

And, hey? @SouthwestAir? I didn't even need a seat belt extender to buckle up. Somehow, that shit fit over my "safety concern"-creating gut.

Hey @SouthwestAir! Look how fat I am on your plane! Quick! Throw me off!

TFTF = Too Fat To Fly???
And not just ANY paying customer: a paying customer who fit between the arm rests & was able to buckle his seat belt w/o an extender. TRUTH!

Dear F**ktarded PR-Challenged Fatty-Haters at @SouthwestAir: Your "apology" blog is insulting, redacted bullshit. FULL details in two hours.

Hey @SouthwestAir! Here are two more "recent recognitions" for your Twitter home page: "Loather of the Wide" or "Pissin' on the Portlies".

Hey @SouthwestAir? F**k making it right for me just 'cause I have a platform. I sat next to a big girl who was chastised for not buy-ing an extra ticket because "all passengers deserve their space." F**king flight wasn't even full! F**k your size-ist policy. Rude...

Hey @SouthwestAir! I've landed in Burbank. Don't worry: wall of the plane was opened & I was airlifted out while Richard Simmons supervised.

@3rdVentureBro "They're only apologizing because smith has a platform to express his displeasure." Bingo. It's disingenuous as f**k. Wait 'til you hear SMod story about the girl sitting next to me who was pulled aside & chastised for not buying an additional seat.

Via @SouthwestAir "Hopefully you received our voicemail earlier this evening" All lines checked, no voicemail message on any 323. Try again.
Herb Kelleher, @SouthwestAir founder, would get kicked off their planes" ARM REST TEST!

Related news coverage of the story:
LA Times:
Director Kevin Smith Kicked Off Southwest Flight for 'Being Fat'

USA Today:
Southwest offers Kevin Smith 'heartfelt apologies' -- Director Kevin Smith, who was escorted off a Southwest Airlines plane yesterday because he was deemed to big for the seat, is back on Twitter this morning explaining how he "passed the stinkin' arm-rest test" but still had to exit the plane...

Kevin Smith 'too fat' to fly Southwest

ABC News Blog:
Southwest Picks Wrong Fat Guy in Kevin Smith -- Looks like Southwest Airlines may have picked the wrong fat guy. -- Kevin Smith, the film director behind "Clerks," "Mallrats" and others and the actor who played Silent Bob, was asked off a Southwest Airlines flight this weekend between San Francisco and Burbank for taking up more than one seat, in the airline's opinion, thereby threatening the safety of the flight.

The two sides of the dispute are described here by Smith in a (classically Kevin Smith) Smodcast and here in a Southwest Airlines press release entitled "Not So Silent Bob."
Southwest Air Apology:
Not So Silent Bob -- Many of you reached out to us via Twitter last night and today regarding a situation a Customer Twittered about that occurred on a Southwest flight. It is not our customary method of Customer Relations to be so public in how we work through these situations, but with so many people involved in the occurrence, you also should be involved in the solution. First and foremost, to Mr. Smith; we would like to echo our Tweets and again offer our heartfelt apologies to you. We are sincerely sorry for your travel experience on Southwest Airlines.

As soon as we saw the first Tweet from Mr. Smith, we contacted him personally to apologize for his experience and to address his concerns on both Twitter and with a personal phone call. Since the situation has received a lot of public attention, we'd like to take the opportunity to address a few of the specifics here as well.

Mr. Smith originally purchased two Southwest seats on a flight from Oakland to Burbank – as he’s been known to do when traveling on Southwest. He decided to change his plans and board an earlier flight to Burbank, which technically means flying standby. As you may know, airlines are not able to clear standby passengers until all Customers are boarded. When the time came to board Mr. Smith, we had only a single seat available for him to occupy. Our pilots are responsible for the Safety and comfort of all Customers on the aircraft and therefore, made the determination that Mr. Smith needed more than one seat to complete his flight. Our Employees explained why the decision was made, accommodated Mr. Smith on a later flight, and issued him a $100 Southwest travel voucher for his inconvenience...

Kevin Smith updates the story on his blog and reports Southwest still refuses to completely apologize and to say that he is "not to fat to fly."
... while Linda was kind and respectful, if they’re gonna stick with this “Well… he needed two seats…” shit, then we’re just back to square one ...
Linda Rutherford of Southwest Airlines who spoke with Smith offers their side.
My Conversation with Kevin Smith -- The communication among our Employees was not as sharp as it should have been and, it’s apparent that Southwest could have handled this situation differently. Thanks, Kevin, for your passion around this topic. You were a reasonable guy during our conversation...
other reactions:
The Wrap:
Bellygate: It Sucks to Be Southwest Airlines -- Now that the dust has settled somewhat on Bellygate, aka the Kevin Smith-Southwest Airlines drama, I wanted to offer perspective as a strategic, senior-level, mature, corporate-type PR executive...

Thoughts Before Nine:
I've had it with these motherloving fat guys on this motherloving plane -- So - we can allow Snakes on a Plane, but not Kevin Smith?

Daisy, JD (Just Daisy):
Judging You -- I fully stand behind any flight crew’s decision to remove anyone from a plane. Flying is not a right...
TJN opinion here:

The facts of the incident support Smith's argument that he should have been allowed to fly. He can fit in a 17" Southwest Airline seat, lower the armrests and buckle his seat belt without an extender. Southwest violated its own policy when it removed him from the plane. The ability to lower the armrests is their criterion to measure the need to buy two tickets.

Should a private air carrier have the right to violate their own written policy when they choose to do so?

As Smith has said, he is not "that fat." He usually sometimes buys two seats because as he said he likes his privacy when he flies. Smith took his standby seat in front where the people on either side of him were leaning away from the seat he took, and they indicated no discomfort when he asked them if there was any problem with him sitting there.

He made no scene and complied with all Southwest requests. He was embarrassed and as he left the aircraft he made eye contact with a much larger man 4 or 5 rows back, who looked scared. Smith wrote: "I saw someone bigger than me on THAT flight! But I wasn't about to throw a fellow Fatty under the plane as I'm being profiled. But he & I made eye contact, & he was like "Please don't tell..."

Smith also tells of a fellow women passenger sitting next to him on the his next SW flight who was also embarrassed when she was asked to leave her seat after boarding and told up front that in the future, she would have to consider buying two tickets.

It seems reasonable that these "fatty notifications" should be handled at check-in or somewhere before people are seated. Carnival rides have a line drawn to show how tall you have to be in order to get on the ride. Airlines should have a "measuring seat" near check-in that gives passengers a pass/fail at check-in. Why are these employees allowed to make the determination on a random case-by-case basis. Seems like the results will be random and inconsistent as the Kevin Smith incident has demonstrated. Consistency in policy enforcement would seem to be a good goal for a public transportation company.

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