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Not So Silent Bob

‎02-14-2010 03:57 PM cday
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‎02-14-2010 03:57 PM

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. We are responsible for the Safety and comfort of all Customers on the aircraft and therefore, we made a judgment call 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.

You've read about these situations before. Southwest instituted our Customer of Size policy more than 25 years ago. The policy requires passengers that can not fit safely and comfortably in one seat to purchase an additional seat while traveling. This policy is not unique to Southwest Airlines and it is not a revenue generator. Most, if not all, carriers have similar policies, but unique to Southwest is the refunding of the second seat purchased (if the flight does not oversell) which is greater than any revenue made (full policy can be found here). The spirit of this policy is based solely on Customer comfort and Safety. As a Company committed to serving our Customers in Safety and comfort, we feel the definitive boundary between seats is the armrest. If a Customer cannot comfortably lower the armrest and infringes on a portion of another seat, a Customer seated adjacent would be very uncomfortable and a timely exit from the aircraft in the event of an emergency might be compromised if we allow a cramped, restricted seating arrangement.

1,760 Comments
I love Southwest for protecting me from having to sit next to fat people squished into one seat.
Excellent job Southwest, you have certainly done more that what he deserved, his attitude and language on Twitter was uncalled for. As he's a regular traveller he would have ticked that he agreed to the terms and conditions of carriage, therefore he should be aware of the arrangements for "more than average sized' passengers.
LMAO1
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This is the funniest BS blog I have ever read. I'm pretty fat myself and i dont use that arm rest thing. I have never been kicked off a plane before. I will never fly SWA again.
Kevin Smith has already confirmed he received no phone calls or messages; keep lying.
So, what you're saying is, "Sorry, Kev, but you ARE fat." Sorry, Southwest, but you ARE assholes.
So, Kevin Smith was complaining about an issue he already knew about (based on his previous double-seat-buying habits). He was complaining about Southwest enforcing a 25-year rule he already knew about. He was complaining that the Southwest pilot was extremely observant when the pilot immediately identified that something was wrong. In cases like this, I'm glad corporations now have free speech Smiley Happy
Did it ever occur to you that maybe he purchased two seats normally so he didn't have to sit NEXT to anyone else? Unless your seats are half the width of other airlines, there is absolutely NO way this man was encroaching on another person's space. If I could afford it, I would purchase two seats just so I wouldn't have to sit next to any of you annoying "average-sized" parents with drooling and kicking children, or simply to avoid travelers who want to talk to me and be my best friend for two hours while I'm trying desperately to ignore you.
Except that Kevin Smith says the flight wasn't full. And if you're going to have this policy, it needs to be consistent. Why was he issued one ticket when he's "supposed" to have 2 seats? Why does the captain get to make a subjective judgment? I'm a fan of Southwest...or I was until today. You need to clarify this policy. It doesn't affect me sizewise, but if you enforce the size policy arbitrarily, how do I know you won't enforce some other policy just as arbitrarily?
Anyone ever think that he may purchase two seats so that he doesn't have to talk to the person next to him for an entire flight--perhaps to protect him from "Hey, can you read my script?" He is not THAT large.
To be honest, I would not want to sit next to a fatty on an airplane. They smell and overflow into my seat. However, this is Kevin Smith we are talking about. If Kevin asks, tell him I yelled at you and championed his right to be fat and fly on your airline.
A heartfelt apology is not usually followed by justification of the action. An apology is a way of saying you were wrong. You still don't understand that your company's actions caused this situation in the first place. Pathetic.
It's nice that you've found something in your rulebook to attempt to excuse this behavior. There are two types of customer service people. The type that try to provide service, and the type that try to find a rule to "make it all just go away." You've shown us precisely that you're the second type. I have known better than to seek "Customer Service" from overworked underpaid automatrons who know how to echo their corporatespeak. Now stop rocking the boat, start rowing it, don't beat a dead horse, admit your captain who threw off Kevin Smith is a horse's ass, and apologize publicly for this excuse for an excuse. Ehud Tucson AZ
This blog doesn't address his claims that he was perfectly capable of having both armrests down, and had already put them up by choice by the time the attendants arrived and decided to eject him.
Wow. "Anonymous". If you're try not to be a plant for the company, you might want to not be so transparently on their side and not use words like "carriage"
New Arrival Anonymous3309
New Arrival
Do a google image search for him in 2010 and you'll see he's not the worlds smallest guy. I wouldn't want to share a row with him. I paid for my seat and nobody else should occupy it. Silent Bob apparently knows he is a customer of size and should be ashamed for trying to fool the public into believing otherwise.
Why not just ask the person seated next to Mr. Smith if s/he felt uncomfortable or unsafe? Or, if this truly is a 25 year policy, why not inform him he cannot fly with a single-seat before he boards the aircraft? It seems to me the issue is less about the policy, but whether the way it was enforced. You singled out someone, "celebrity" or not, in front of an full plane of passengers and essentially said "you're too fat to fly." It's only Mr. Smith's celebrity that has caused this to become known, and it makes me feel sorry for all those in the past that were embarrassed by being called out by a SOUTHWEST EMPLOYEE. If I did that at my job, I'd be fired.
I fly very regularly on southwest but will no longer. My business will be taken to virgin and alaska.
Yeah. I can't stand fat people either.
If you knew he needed two seats, and he paid for two seats, why would you approve him on a standby flight with only one seat? Shouldn't you have said, "Sorry, Mr. Smith, we don't have enough seats on this flight" rather than seat him and then humiliate him by forcing him off the aircraft? What does he get..."we're sorry for your inconvenience. Here's a voucher for a future flight. Typical airline apology....instead of taking responsibility and admitting a mistake, you start yelling "we did it for safety purposes." It's a hollow apology.
SWA is by far the best airline in this country to fly. And for you over weight people that don't want to fly SWA because of this, I say great. There is nothing worse then not even getting my portion of the seat I paid for.
Blah blah blah. Your apology means nothing because you go on to temper it with the usual corporate rubbish to justify your bigoted policies and you try to pretend that you do it only in the interest of the health and safety of Kevin Smith's poor, inconvenienced fellow passengers. As if anything counter to that has ever stopped corporations like yours from making a quick buck before. I can only imagine the horror that Mr. Smith, obviously a repeat customer, endured emotionally as you insulted him so publicly and I sincerely hope that he has drawn enough attention to you people to cause some serious damage to you financially. I prefer fatties to fatcats anyday.
You failed to mention that BOTH his armrests were down and he was seatbelted in, WITHOUT a seatbelt extender. Your pilot saw a fat guy wearing a hoodie and decided he was a nobody and decided to stroke his ego by expelling him from the plane. You're company in particular is horrible to the larger customers. What cracks me up is the fact that once you found out who he was, you rolled out the PR machine. If he was an average Joe he wouldn't have gotten shit. Your company sucks. I refuse to fly with your company again. I hope the PR nightmare that's about to begin over this, puts all of you out of business. Screw you Southwest.
Sarah2
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I don't know why Southwest can't step up and admit they messed up. That would be better PR than making it sound like it is the customers fault.
Amy2
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I am confused. I was told, specifically, by several people at Southwest that if I couldn't fit in a seat, I could not sit next to my 4 year old, 35lb daughter and just share the two seats with her. I was told that I had to buy 3 seat for the two of us, even though we would have been very comfortable in two seats. If your goal is to make people comfortable, and not just make money, then why would I need three seats? I even called your 800 number and asked two different people there....
Your apology is lame and contradictory. I will never fly SW again, and I'll vocally encourage everyone I know to boycott an airline that has no respect for their passengers.
Kevin Smith is cool, American Airlines FTW!
Joe19
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I am not a constant flyer, but I fly at least 2-3 times a year round-trip, and until today I used SWA exclusively. Now, I will go with another airline that doesn't humiliate its overweight customers. So disappointed.
Ridiculous. First of all, anyone can see much bigger passengers than Kevin Smith flying all the time. My boyfriend is 6'5 and over 300 lb, and flys constantly, and has never been asked to leave a flight. The policy is ridiculous because it's so random, why is one fat guy "dangerous" but another gets a pass? Second, there are thousand things about flying that suck, and people are really just a bunch of whiners choosing a convenient scapegoat (fatties) rather than the actual culprit (cheap airfares and airlines). It's not the 70s anymore, the days of luxurious jet liners with big seats and real meals is over. Flying is basically like public transportation these days. It's cheap, it's uncomfortable, and you just have to grit your teeth and get through it. I flew next to a guy a couple weeks ago who farted throughout the flight to the point that I wanted to pass out, and flew a couple months ago against a slender but tall man who jabbed his elbows into me the whole flight--he was so tall and long-limbed he couldn't really help it. I've also flown next to fat people who, yes, took up a bit more room and made an already uncomfortable experience of flying a little bit worse. But so what? Get over it. People really just need to get a grip. Kevin Smith is a foul-mouth and I don't even like his movies, but he's totally right about this one.
Apparently your mother never taught you how to apologize. Pathetic.
Just another reason why the airlines are no longer the friendly skies. I do not consider myself a large person, yet i feel cramped in these seats. if you really cared abotu people being able to safely and quickly exit a plane, you would make the seat size bigger. Instead, you make them smaller, and charge more if you want a freaking cushion for your seat. I fly regularly for business, and I can assure you, I will NEVER fly yoru airline again.
gaijin
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How would you deal with a person like me, then, who's too tall to fit in the seat length-wise? Would I have to buy a ticket for the seat in front of me, and have it removed? ;P
Ross5
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"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one." In this case, "comfort" may be substituted for "needs". The majority of Southwest's customers are those who take responsibility for their well-being to the extent their girth is contained within a single airline seat. The minority who cannot be contained within a single seat cause undue discomfort to the majority. I applaud Southwest for not compromising their position on long-standing policies.
What a pathetic bunch of crap. I used to have a lot of respect for SWA but you are glossing over the issue. KEVIN IS NOT LARGE ENOUGH TO REQUIRE TWO SEATS! Yeah, he's got some extra weight, but it's not like he's over-lapping into another seat. It's one thing to have a policy about morbidly obese people trying to fit into a single seat but that is just not the case here. So stop lying and give a real reason for what happened! Sounds like you have a pilot that just decided to be an ass and you certainly aren't going to admit to that. For all the BS commercials and PR stupidity it seems you guys are just like every other airline. Nice non-apology apology though. I used to date a girl like you guys.
Dear Comments Moderator, You're going to lose even more credibility if you only allow posts that support your erratic and ill-defined policy. Don't make this PR problem worse by making your blog a one-way conversation.
What a pathetic bunch of crap. I used to have a lot of respect for SWA but you are glossing over the issue. KEVIN IS NOT LARGE ENOUGH TO REQUIRE TWO SEATS! Yeah, he's got some extra weight, but it's not like he's over-lapping into another seat. It's one thing to have a policy about morbidly obese people trying to fit into a single seat but that is just not the case here. So stop lying and give a real reason for what happened! Sounds like you have a pilot that just decided to be an ass and you certainly aren't going to admit to that. For all the BS commercials and PR stupidity it seems you guys are just like every other airline. Nice non-apology apology though. I used to date a girl like you guys.
I'm a fan of Kevin Smith's movies, but I'm with Southwest here. The policy is in place, has been for a long time. I don't really think he deserved an apology... he should be grateful that he got one, and he only got one because he's a celebrity. Re: the comment that says the heartfelt apology is not usually followed by a justification of the action... but the justification of the action was ... right. The airline was following policy. How exactly were they wrong? Sorry man... maybe exercise a little. Eat less. Or accept that people who are "large" are an inconvenience to us "normies" on an airplane where the environment is cramped to begin with. You don't have a "right" to flow over from your seat into my seat any more than I have a right to smoke in my seat.
skv1
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What is the definitive gauge for a Customer of size? The armrest is the definitive gauge for a Customer of size. It serves as the boundary between seats and measures 17 inches in width. Customers who are unable to lower both armrests and/or who compromise any portion of adjacent seating should proactively book the number of seats needed prior to travel. I’m large but can be seated with the armrests down. Aren’t your Employees wrong to question me? If a concern exists, we shouldn’t ignore it even if it’s difficult for both parties to discuss. Condoning an unsafe, cramped seating arrangement onboard our aircraft is far more inappropriate than simply questioning a Customer’s fit in our seats. This is crap. You say that customers who can't lower both armrests are too fat to only buy one seat. But then you say that you can still "question" (i.e. remove the person from the flight) even if they CAN lower both armrests. Where does the dividing line really lie? GO KEVIN SMITH!!!
Genius
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southwest is fail
Justifying your discriminatory policies with the discriminatory policies of others is despicable. There are legitimate non-discriminatory and non-humiliating ways to deal with the differences of passengers. No one expects you to risk the safety or even the comfort of passengers. Certainly you can come up with cost effective solutions that don't put any passengers, including people of size, in jeopardy. We would certainly be willing to discuss options. We welcome your response. http://www.peopleofsize.com and http://wwwfacebook.com/peopleofsize. Contact us at info@peopleofsize.com
skv
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What is the definitive gauge for a Customer of size? The armrest is the definitive gauge for a Customer of size. It serves as the boundary between seats and measures 17 inches in width. Customers who are unable to lower both armrests and/or who compromise any portion of adjacent seating should proactively book the number of seats needed prior to travel. I’m large but can be seated with the armrests down. Aren’t your Employees wrong to question me? If a concern exists, we shouldn’t ignore it even if it’s difficult for both parties to discuss. Condoning an unsafe, cramped seating arrangement onboard our aircraft is far more inappropriate than simply questioning a Customer’s fit in our seats. This is crap. You say that customers who can't lower both armrests are too fat to only buy one seat. But then you say that you can still "question" (i.e. remove the person from the flight) even if they CAN lower both armrests. Where does the dividing line really lie? GO KEVIN SMITH!!!
jonw
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As a Southwest flyer, their policy makes sense, but my gosh, what drama - lets all relax and go watch some grass grow
Sounds like a celebrity wants some free publicity.
Deb9
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You are flailing in a major PR crash. The title of this post is rude, as was the similar tweet that went out from your account last night. Tweets including your rep's dating status and about her family were bizarre and unprofessional. The policy is not unique to SW, but your lack of real safety and care of the HUMAN BEINGS who buy your tickets--which you've replaced by smarmy songs and bitchy attitudes, is, and that's why you get more public complaints for how and when you enforce it. This poorly written (why is Safety capitalized?) restatement of your policy is just another customer service fail revealing SW's deeply lacking, self-congratulatory brand. You lose.
I think what this really comes down to is what Not Buying It said. "Why does the captain get to make a subjective judgment?" Kevin said via Twitter, "I flew out AND back IN ONE SEAT..." Why was he then only too fat for this one flight/pilot? Up until today I, like a lot of people, flew almost exclusively Southwest Airlines coach. I can fit in between the arm rests fine but I for one am too tall for those tiny seats. Hey Southwest, want to earn my business back? Start forcing very short/small people to fly at least one class higher and call it your "highly evolved" policy. This way you can afford to take a couple rows of seats out for us fatties and tall people to stretch out back in coach.
Jane3
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So, do you employ any public relations professionals at all who are soundly advising you? Or just lawyers to make sure you're not taking responsibility? Let me ask about these policies: Do you require elderly who cannot move as fast, use a cane or require wheelchair assistance to bring along help for safety reasons so that they don't slow down the exiting process in case of emergency? Do you charge them extra for the ability to use a wheelchair and get assistance from the airline crew? Do you require someone who is wearing a cast on his/her leg to purchase an extra seat for the comfort and safety of others? Do you allow people with mental disabilities who might be confused in an emergency situation to fly on your airline? Do you allow unaccompanied minors who cannot be expected to act in the same manor as an adult in an emergency situation to fly your airline? Furthermore, do you wait until these people have boarded and then publicly-humiliate them for their differences? Basically, your response says you discriminate against people who are overweight, not people who may pose a safety risk for the other passengers in an emergency situation. Furthermore, your policy implies that being overweight is a choice. Are you sure you can prove that every time? Are you up on the latest medical research on this issue or are you still holding up policies based on medical research of 25 years ago? And just because 'everyone else is doing it' doesn't make it right, ethical or moral. What a first grade answer! Are you going to be a follower on social policies or a leader? Your public relations says you're a follower, which is not good branding or positioning (PR 101). I hope someone with the money and power to do so, like Kevin Smith, will challenge your very discriminatory practices. I hope that your airline will take this opportunity to really examine its policies of discrimination. As I recall, you also recently arbitrarily did not allow a young woman to board your flight because you found her clothing to be too provocative (a very subjective term). That is very sexist because it says that women are responsible for policing the behavior of others by not dressing in a way that will cause lust. Isn't that the Taliban's position too? Very forward-thinking of you! Get it together, Southwest. There is nothing intelligent, redeeming or apologetic about this very ill-conceived response.
Southwest Airlines, You title the blog post with a smug, smarmy tone and expect this apology to be taken as sincere? I can't comprehend the logic. Southwest has really disappointed with the treatment of Mr. Smith on the plane. Apology's fall on deaf ears in this particular situation, since this policy was obviously unclear to employees and passengers alike. Your policy needs to be all there, in black and white and clear as crystal. You get nothing, you lose, Good Day Sirs!
This whole story saddens me tremendously...however, I find great solace in the upcoming arrival of the movie: "COP OUT" . Starring Bruce Willis AND Tracy Morgan...this hysterical action movie opens nation wide February 26!!
Yes, the captain has control over the flight, and ultimately the final say. The captain is effectively in charge of the flight; he is responsible for getting the customers from point A to point B. If he feels that he cannot do that safely, calmly, or sees any situation that puts another customer into discomfort or danger, he has the power to act on it. Most airlines have this policy, if not all. In fact, if this situation would have happened on another carrier, most likely the situation would be a lot more ugly. Southwest is lightyears ahead of many airlines in the customer relations field. Also, when Mr. Smith bought a ticket, he agrees to the terms and conditions of the flight. That is what is said on Southwest.com or on any ticketless itinerary or confirmation page. One of these terms is that Southwest reserves the right to deny him a seat, FOR ANY REASON. Mr. Smith agreed to these terms and conditions when he bought a ticket. Sure, he probably didn't read them (no surprise there), but he still has to abide by them. Say what you want about Southwest, but Mr . Smith is probably looking for some attention from his 1.64 million followers on Twitter.
This is about the worst apology I've ever seen. First of all, the title of the blog itself is insulting. Were you trying to be cute or funny? Does a disgruntled customer not have the right to speak out? Secondly, from a PR standpoint this is horrendous. You're disclosing personal information about Kevin Smith's history doing business with you and this is supposed to quell any concerns potential customers may have about flying with you? I'm glad Kevin Smith has been as vocal as he has been about this because it's shined the light on what little concern Southwest has for its customers. I'm never flying with your airline again.
This is about the worst apology I've ever seen. First of all, the title of the blog itself is insulting. Were you trying to be cute or funny? Does a disgruntled customer not have the right to speak out? Secondly, from a PR standpoint this is horrendous. You're disclosing personal information about Kevin Smith's history doing business with you and this is supposed to quell any concerns potential customers may have about flying with you? I'm glad Kevin Smith has been as vocal as he has been about this because it's shined the light on what little concern Southwest has for its customers. I'm never flying with your airline again.