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Director Kevin Smith booted from flight because of Southwest’s anti-fattie policy

By pams
Monday, February 15, 2010 14:59 EDT
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And he let the airline have it on Twitter:

What happened?

In a row played out on Twitter, Smith issued an expletive-laden series of messages aimed at the airline for ejecting him from a flight from Oakland to Burbank on Saturday because he was apparently too overweight to fit in his seat.

“Wanna tell me I’m too wide for the sky?” Smith asked on his Twitter account shortly after the incident. “Totally cool but fair warning folks: If you look like me, you may be ejected from Southwest.”

Smith had fallen victim to Southwest’s booking guidelines for a “customer of size” which say that passengers who are unable to lower both armrests when seated should book another seat because of complaints it has received from customers whose comfort has been ruined by the “encroachment of a large seatmate“.

The captain also deemed him a “safety risk” even though Smith was able to buckle up with the regular seat belt without an extender.

Now here’s where it gets insane — since Smith’s Tweets were causing a PR nightmare as other “passengers of size” chimed in on Southwest’s policy of ejecting them, the airline apologized! For what? That’s its policy!

Aware of the unfolding PR disaster, a tweet appeared on Southwest’s Twitter feed about six hours later, promising Smith he would get a call from the airline’s customer relations vice-president.

“Again, I’m very sorry for the experience you had tonight. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do,” a second tweet to Smith read.

The cover-your-fat-ass-removal-policy apology makes no sense. Either stand behind the fat-bashing policy or not. I’ll tell you why this is explicitly a fat-bashing issue — I find Southwest’s criteria for passenger ejection extremely flawed, since I’ve sat next to people, particularly broad shouldered athletic men who are not obese, who encroach into my space with their arms and shoulders, and many sit with their legs wide open as if they are relaxing on a couch. How is this not equivalent to “encroachment of a large seatmate?”

Now if Southwast want to charge someone more for a seat (or buy a second seat) because of weight, citing some sort of safety issue, that’s another matter, since balance of plane load could be floated in the realm of a legitimate policy, but that’s not what was stated to Kevin Smith. It may be weight/fat discrimination, but that’s a separate issue than the story at hand. To enforce that policy, Southwest would have to weigh its passengers at check in, or if it wants to be more proactive in its fat patrol, require passengers to send in their height, weight and body mass index at the time you book the flight so they can determine who is a safety risk, right?

Actually, if Southwest wants to ensure passenger comfort, they also need to take into consideration who has broad shoulders or wide hips and match everyone up so they fit in like puzzle pieces.

In the end, if size and seat encroachment is the issue Southwest is going to stick to, then there are a many more passengers of “size” who need to be booted from a Southwest flight besides the Clerks director.

What do you all have to say?

P.S. If an airline really wants to do something about passenger comfort, how about keeping the families with out-of-control, undisciplined children (and I’m not talking crying babies; that generally can’t be helped) into their own section of the plane or create “family friendly” flights, and eject passengers who won’t stop yammering on the cell phones after being told to shut them off.

 
 
 
 
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