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My Conversation with Kevin Smith

‎02-15-2010 07:44 PM LindaRutherford Employee
Employee
‎02-15-2010 07:44 PM

I had the chance this afternoon to speak directly with director Kevin Smith. I let him know that in my 18 years here at Southwest, I have never dealt with a situation like what has been unfolding in the last 48 hours. I let Kevin know we have refunded his airfare. I told him we made a mistake in trying to board him as a standby passenger and then remove him. And I told him we were sorry.

 

 

Now, 48 hours later, after talking to many involved, we know there were several things going on that day and that our Employees were doing their best to get his flight out safely and on time, including finding seats for everyone and trying to accommodate standby passengers. The Captain did not single Kevin out to be removed, but he did ask that the boarding be completed quickly. At that time, our Employees made the decision to remove Kevin after a quick judgment call that he might have needed more than one seat for his comfort and those seated next to him. 

 

 

Although I’m not here to debate the decision our Employees made, I can tell you that I for one have learned a lot today. 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.

 

 

Southwest, like most carriers, has a policy to assist passengers who need two seats onboard an aircraft. The policy is an important one for the comfort and safety of all passengers aboard a plane, and we stand by that 25-year-old policy. This has our attention, and we will be reviewing how and when this delicate policy is implemented.

1,804 Comments
Rick23
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Thanks, I've sat next to seem really fat people on airlines. I appreciate you enforcing this for us all! If anything, I think most people should be required to run a mile in under 15 minutes to fly southwest. Can we get this imposed?
As an customer of Southwest and a 'larger' (fat) person, I can honestly say what little dignity I have left (once you factor in being a fat guy), is worth much more than $100 voucher, or buying two tickets out of fear of being booted. While this may be a 25 year old policy, clearly its enforcement is capricious and Southwests' attempt to downplay this to ensure that fat folks won't cause trouble in the future is such a CYA move that its just insulting. You've lost me as a customer, not because you've got rude employees but because of the 'It's not our fault it's his' PR attempt. Transparent and insulting.
Joe_W
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When I pay for a seat I should not be infringed upon. Southwest should be commended for what they have done to lower the cost of flying and the positive impact they have on local economies. All of you whiners can fly on the other carriers that charge to check your bags, maybe they'll get creative and start charging passengers based on weight just like cargo. You are consuming more fuel. If I'm not mistaken Southwest will refund the second seat if the flight is not at full capacity and Mr Smith had two seats on another flight. What is the problem Mr. Smith knows the rules. What other carrier refunds your money? I have experienced flying on numerous carriers and no one else wil give you a refund if the price of the seat declines with the exception of Southwest. I guess I will have more elbow room on my next flight on the best airline in the industry. HATS OFF SOUTHWEST
I applaud Southwest for continuing to demonstrate humility and grace, and willingness to demonstrate to learn from every situation.
that's kind of a half-@$$ed apology Linda...
I applaud Southwest for continuing to demonstrate humility and grace, and willingness to learn from every situation.
jmmtx
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Hearing both sides of the story, its good to know SWA is doing all they can. I know traveling is frustrating, but it takes understanding and communication, and SWA has done a great job of it.
Your attempt at saving face SUCKS. I will never fly with Southwest again.
That's fine if you have ur policy regarding overweight passengers.........BUT, this should be addressed WHEN the customer checks in!! NOT when the customer is already on the plane! This is the main reason that I will not fly with Southwest Airlines..
The issue at hand is that no public shaming should EVER be happening by your employees. It happens quite frequently, honestly - even to those of us who follow your policy and buy two seats - only to have the crew try to store other people's items under the extra seats we bought - or trying to SPLIT THE SEATS UP that we buy to abide by your policy. Trust me - we're aware that we're overweight. Many of us are working on decreasing our weight, but it doesn't go away overnight. The humilation we deal with by the airlines when we follow the rules you set up? Goes way beyond the pale. And we're just supposed to put up with it because you know... we're fat... and therefore subhuman.
I for one appreciate Southwest's efforts to make flights comfortable for us normal sized folk who may have to sit next to exceedingly overweight individuals. It sounds to me like Mr. Smith is not only being unreasonable (it was his choice to try to fly standby on an earlier flight) but is acting like a spoiled kid, or else just using this to drum up attention for himself . Don't apologize too much, SW.
Lee3
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Good job, Southwest. You've reached out, apologized twice, and gave him a refund. Unlike Kevin Smith, you acted with class the whole way and didn't have to resort to foul language. You've done everything you can -- if Kevin doesn't accept any of that, then it's not your problem anymore.
I just love that all SW blog posts have peanuts around them. Smiley Happy
You call this an apology? Why is it so hard for you people to just come clean and tell the truth? This does not make things right. What about all the people who aren't famous who your employees have targeted and chosen to publicly shame. This is not over, not over by a longshot. Jerks.
I can't believe the audacity of some people that think that a private company (as in: not owned by the gov't) is in some way required to accommodate anyone. Southwest has the right to create policies as it sees fit. Without proof of some need for the company to accommodate a certain disability, they don't have to do anything. I love Southwest and I'm a proud supporter.
Are you censoring posts on your blog? I posted on your insult-titled last entry, "Not so silent bob," and my post never appeared. Strangely, all the posts supporting your "Person of size" policy and those describing horrible experiences sitting next to overweight people. I asked if you label very tall people whose legs are squished in coach seating as "persons of size," too. You need to re-evaluate your policies, stop penny pinching and and care about ALL of your customers of ALL sizes. Otherwise, your airline is doomed. This is not going to go away. One last question: Is Cristi Day still in your employ?
"At that time, our Employees made the decision to remove Kevin after a quick judgment call that he might have needed more than one seat for his comfort and those seated next to him." Are your employees robots that can't change their mind after they made a decision? I can understand them going, "Alright, maybe we should boot this guy." But once you see that hit fits in the seat, why do you STILL KICK HIM OFF? That makes NO sense. Your airline just sucks, that's the problem.
"At that time, our Employees made the decision to remove Kevin after a quick judgment call that he might have needed more than one seat for his comfort and those seated next to him." Why didn't your employees abide by your own rules and regulations regarding fatties and allow him to stay when he demonstrated that he could sit in the seat with the armrests down? Also... why allow the armrests to go up at all if one isn't allowed to sit with them up?
Linda, Your apology still comes off as "it wasn't our fault, he's a fatass" to me. as such I will still go with my boycot of your airline, thank you.
Come on. Kevin Smith should view this as a wake-up call to change his unhealthy lifestyle. Get over it Kevin. Truths in life are often bittersweet. I used to be overweight, but one day I just told myself, I don't want to be fat anymore. I have slimed to to below average BMI after running 4 marathons and have kept the lower weight range for 5 years.
Listen to Kevin Smith's side here: http://www.smodcast.com/
Greg28
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I fly SW quite a bit and can say too many time I have had to sit, squeezed into my seat next to a large person I feel should have had to purchase two seats/tickets. Since they were already sitting in about half of my seat. If they are going to use two seats they should have to pay for both seats.
Please let us know when these employees have been terminated, so we can consider flying with SWA again! If you treat a celebrity with such indignity, what can the rest of us expect from you? Personally, I believe that Mr Smith, regardless of his "revenue" status, should now enjoy free flying for life on your airline. A $100 is WAY too little compensation for your airline's extra poor customer service!!!!
Fabio
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With an excuse of Mr Anonymous, I would like to make his words mine. "As an customer of Southwest and a 'larger' (fat) person, I can honestly say what little dignity I have left (once you factor in being a fat guy), is worth much more than $100 voucher, or buying two tickets out of fear of being booted. While this may be a 25 year old policy, clearly its enforcement is capricious and Southwests' attempt to downplay this to ensure that fat folks won't cause trouble in the future is such a CYA move that its just insulting. You've lost me as a customer, not because you've got rude employees but because of the 'It's not our fault it's his' PR attempt. Transparent and insulting."
Paige3
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While I understand this whole bru-haha has some "larger" customers upset, those of us who fit into one seat are actually really happy to hear this policy was enforced. I have been seated next to "customers of size" on MANY airlines, including Southwest. Some of these people couldn't put the armrests down all the way, and very few could use their tray table while eating/drinking, which caused a mess. As a very frequent business flyer on Southwest and other airlines, I'm a big believer in the concept of "owning" my seat while I fly. I bought that seat; the whole seat is mine for the duration of the flight. And when I'm seated next to someone who doesn't fit within their seat, they are using more space than what they paid for. In fact, they're using the space *I* paid for. How is that okay? How is that comfortable for anyone involved? If you need more room than one seat can provide, you should have to purchase it - unless, of course, the flight's not full. By all means, take up part of an empty seat, just not one that I'm sitting in. High five, Southwest. Sometimes the right thing to do is the hardest. Large people might be loud, but we average-sized people can be loud too. I'm behind you 100%.
I think that this seems a weak apology on the whole. You should be striving to improve the airline's standing at this point by keeping the policy, but changing the scale of your seats. Clearly if your company must take such a firm stance on this policy, your seats are too small. Why not prevent this from being an issue ever again by fixing mechanically the space allotted to passengers. You don't have a first class, so with the extra room of not having one you should be able to expand everyone's seating a little.
I'm sorry that you think that this will sooth over people. The only reason you are saying anything is because your employees picked on the wrong person. You decided to pick on a fat guy (which I guess is the last acceptable group to pick on) but you pick on one who has the voice of the people to hear his complaints. You have Good Morning America and Larry king trying to get him on the their shows to tell his story. This is quickly becoming a PR nightmare for you. If it was a regular fat person all you would have said was, "Too bad so sad" I hope this tarnishes Southwest for a long long time. And I don't think he is going to stay quiet until you meet he reasonable demands, do you?
h6
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this apology is about as apologetic as the last one. The fact that a policy exists for 25 years does not mean that it is a *good* policy. Kevin Smith challenged you guys to take a seat onto the daily show and he'll sit in it. Why don't you take him up on it?
Skyray
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I hope this leads to some evaluation and clarification of the policy. I know two people personally who are overweight (not Kevin-Smith-big, just in the 200s and fine to fit comfortably in a seat) who won't fly SW out of fear that they might be singled out and ejected. These are customers who fly routes SW serves and who would provide regular revenue (without encroaching on another passenger at all), but who avoid Southwest out of fear of embarrassment because the policy isn't clear. (And even less so, given Smith's claim of both arms fitting down next to him.)
Everyone seems to keep forgetting that this is not only a comfort issue, but also a safety issue. I certainly don't want to have to try and climb over some obese passenger who is stuffed into their seat in the event of an accident or other unexpected emergency. Thank you to Southwest for handling this situation for the benefit of all passengers and not just some upset Hollywood director.
Skyray
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I hope this leads to some evaluation and clarification of the policy. I know two people personally who are overweight (not Kevin-Smith-big, just in the 200s and fine to fit comfortably in a seat) who won't fly SW out of fear that they might be singled out and ejected. These are customers who fly routes SW serves and who would provide regular revenue (without encroaching on another passenger at all), but who avoid Southwest out of fear of embarrassment because the policy isn't clear. (And even less so, given Smith's claim of both arms fitting down next to him.)
I am glad to see Southwest talking about the situation. So many companies be it an airline or other industry would act like nothing happened. As someone who is built like a broomstick I do appreciate Southwest's concern for everyone's comfort. One of the biggest bonuses of flying Southwest is the open seating. Depending of course on how full the flight is I do have some say in who I share a row with. And this works both ways. I can avoid someone I might not want to sit next to. Or I can seek people out. Turns out a small group of us were traveling from AUS to MHT via BNA all independently. This was back in the day of the backwards-facing seats. We all made sure to sit together on the second plane because we had so much fun during the first. We couldn't have easily done that on another airline.
I don't know why Southwest had to apologize. Kevin Smith is no more than a cyber bully. I saw him not long ago at The Grove and he is 400 pounds. Even if he could fit in a seat with arm rests down, I don't see how that would be fair to the person sitting next to him and it concerns me how safe that would be if something had happened. I feel that SW is so scared of bad publicity and the impact on business - and I hope that does not have you compromise your safety practices.
I support Southwest 100%. Allowing large people on can cause a huge problem when a quick evacuation is necessary. You also have to respect the fact the person next to you paid for a seat and does not want to be squeezed by a large person that can not fit in a seat. The selfishness of large people in not realizing that in a quick evacuation they can easily cause many people to not be able to evacuate in time to avoid peril.
I have seen Kevin Smith and for everyone who is whining about their space on a place, Kevin fits in one seat quite nicely. He did not even need a seatbelt extender. Stop defending big time corporations who only care about money and not people. How do I know this is the case here? He fit in one seat, with no extender, and they still threw him off! The two women who sat on either side of him had no problems at all. SW, I am severely offended!
This is considerably more diplomatic than the first attempt. However, it still does not address the fact that he passed your armrest test and was still removed. Policy is policy, but if your employees are going to make judgement calls based on just deciding that maybe that he "might have" needed more than one seat, this leaves it completely up in the air for them to be able to decide at will, disregarding the regulations set in place, who is a Customer Of Size and who is not. Being a very tall person and not a tiny person, I am now horribly paranoid that even though I fit comfortably in your seats and can lower the arm rests and buckle the belt (not even adjusted to anywhere near its loosest), that I still may be JUDGED by your flight attendants, regardless. Count me among those who will still no longer be flying your airline after this. I will be sticking to Allegiant Air for my local flights and ANYONE BUT YOU for longer flights. Once again, I am not having an issue with the policy and will gladly purchase two seats on any other airline in the event that I ever become a Customer Of Size. My issue is with the apparent completely arbitrary nature of its implementation. I SAY GOOD DAY, SIR.
Look, bottom line is that very large individuals can be a danger and hazard to all the other passengers in the event of an emergency. They may also make the person sitting next to them uncomfortable and then there's the whole question of balancing the plane's weight. I suppose the enforcement seems a little spotty but if the crew thinks that it's a safety issue then we MUST trust them! Good for Southwest... this shows that they're looking out for everyone. Kevin is just being unreasonable by kicking and screaming in public... he should probably channel his energy by going to the gym.
I frequently fly, after seeing what has unfolded with Kevin Smith, I have decided that I and my entire family, will never fly on Southwest again. You all have discriminated enough pax (including Kevin as well as others), enough to make us take our business elsewhere, even if that means we have to make connections when departing from PHL. I know I am not alone. Way to go Southwest, I hope your discrimination policy is worth the loss of business.
there is no need to keep reiterating your 25 year policy. Kevin Smith was not in any violation of any policy. He fit in the seat. The employees made a bad judgment call and did not stop to even CHECK to see that the arm rests went down.
COME ON SW..(and airline industry)..it's the 21st Century..U can't hid behind your corporate walls anymore..if U f up..U will be called out-props for the apology..but your POLICIES and TRAINING of staff needs to CHANGE..now..and u need to SHOW U will CHANGE..2010=transparancy on the net..social media will rat u out if u mess with your customers. Because of US..there is a YOU. Thank u.
"Although I’m not here to debate the decision our Employees made..." No, that is exactly what you should be doing. Either stand behind them and go up against Kevin or admit your policies were 100% wrong, and offer a reasonable solution to your abysmal policies.
COME ON SW..(and airline industry)..it's the 21st Century..U can't hid behind your corporate walls anymore..if U f up..U will be called out-props for the apology..but your POLICIES and TRAINING of staff needs to CHANGE..now..and u need to SHOW U will CHANGE..2010=transparancy on the net..social media will rat u out if u mess with your customers. Because of US..there is a YOU. Thank u.
Mikesw
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Very half assed. I like how with enough publicity the story is slowly changing. Now the pilot didn't kick him off (like Kevin claimed all along). And they made a judgement call he *might* need another seat? Why don't they just admit now that they made a mistake, that he should never have been kicked off. They didn't judge wether he could fit in the seat or not (like Kevin said all along) they made a too quick judgement. Why don't think just admit this now? Saying the mistake they made was boarding him and then removing him is NOT saying they made a mistake in kicking him off. Shame on you Southwest, this is a a typical doublespeak apology that does not apologize for the heart of the matter.
Thank you for saying that you were sorry. I think it should have been said MUCH earlier, but better late than never. But saying, "This has our attention, and we will be reviewing how and when this delicate policy is implemented." seems like a vague, empty promise. How about all the passengers who are not famous like Kevin Smith but have had to deal with this random policy? What about the woman he sat next to on his return flight? What are you doing to apologize to the rest of the public? What concrete steps are you taking?
Myk
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Hey Rick, the correlation between running ability and being fat is a pretty far reach. I'm sure there's plenty of normal or even below normal people who could barely even run a mile at all. Hell I can WALK a mile in under 15 minutes. Stupidest thing I've heard, but thanks for sharing.
This post is so much better than yesterday's "Not So Silent Bob". Thanks Linda for posting a reasonable response. The situation could have and should have been handled differently and it's great that you acknowledge that.
Thank you for saying that you were sorry. I think it should have been said MUCH earlier, but better late than never. But saying, "This has our attention, and we will be reviewing how and when this delicate policy is implemented." seems like a vague, empty promise. How about all the passengers who are not famous like Kevin Smith but have had to deal with this random policy? What about the woman he sat next to on his return flight? What are you doing to apologize to the rest of the public? What concrete steps are you taking?
Here's a problem with your whole story: If the captain didn't single Smith out for removal, how is it that Smith knew the captain's name? The flight attendant, who refused to give her OWN last name (according to Smith) was telling Smith a lie to back up the "quick judgment call" you mention? This makes no sense. How stupid do you think we are? He was already seated! And the people around him told the attendant that they were comfortable! Do you dispute this? Frankly, it's not a hardship for me to boycott Southwest, because it's such a horrible airline that I only fly it as a last resort. I was not at all surprised to hear Mr. Smith's story because everyone knows that your staff--on the ground and in the airs--is famously rude and unprofessional. But I can assure you that, because of this, I will never fly Southwest again. I have already forwarded this news story to several fellow frequent flyers, and I hope they will do the same.
Thank you for saying that you were sorry. I think it should have been said MUCH earlier, but better late than never. But saying, "This has our attention, and we will be reviewing how and when this delicate policy is implemented." seems like a vague, empty promise. How about all the passengers who are not famous like Kevin Smith but have had to deal with this random policy? What about the woman he sat next to on his return flight? What are you doing to apologize to the rest of the public? What concrete steps are you taking?
Thank you for saying that you were sorry. I think it should have been said MUCH earlier, but better late than never. But saying, "This has our attention, and we will be reviewing how and when this delicate policy is implemented." seems like a vague, empty promise. How about all the passengers who are not famous like Kevin Smith but have had to deal with this random policy? What about the woman he sat next to on his return flight? What are you doing to apologize to the rest of the public? What concrete steps are you taking?