Southwest Airlines sort-of sorry to Kevin Smith, he says he wasn’t too fat to fly

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Yesterday there was a lot of buzz over the fact that director Kevin Smith was bumped from a fully booked flight on Southwest airlines, allegedly for being overweight. Smith tweeted the news and it quickly led to a media debate about airline regulations and the proper way to deal with larger passengers. I was watching CNN last night and they kept bringing up the story and showing Smith’s goofy Twitpic.

The background is that Smith was accepted as a standby passenger on a full flight on Southwest airlines (which doesn’t assign seating and has only coach-level seats), only to be told that his girth was a safety risk and that he had to leave the plane. Smith once bought two seats on a Southwest flight, but has tweeted that the detail that he does it “regularly” was repeated by the news outlets in an attempt to make it seem like Southwest was right to kick him off the flight. Southwest has since apologized for the way they handled this particular case, but it was more of an apology for letting Smith on the plane in the first place, not for bumping him. They also made it seem like Smith needed two seats, which he didn’t.

Smith isn’t accepting Southwest’s half-assed apology and blogs that he was told by a Southwest employee that he was kicked off because the flight was overbooked and it was an arbitrary decision that wasn’t made because he was too big. That same employee later backed down in a follow-up call and tried to claim that it was over his size. He did fit in his seat with both armrests down and the seatbelt buckled. He even tweeted that the two women on either side of him told the stewardess that it was no problem to sit next to him. Southwest refuses to acknowledge that publicly, though, and Smith is upset about it:

According to Linda, with the melee surrounding boarding and finding a second seat for the other passenger, the Pilot called for a quick settlement of any outstanding issues so that they might take off. And even though I was already planted in my arm-rest lowerable, seat-belt-buckleable seat, I got the hook.

So the Pilot DIDN’T bounce me because I couldn’t fit in the seat. In fact, it sounds like the Pilot had very little to do with bouncing me at all. And Linda said she just found this out today, as they gather info from all involved.

But if that’s the case, then who made that call to yank me? Someone had to actually point a finger and say “Him. He goes.” And not only that, but they then stood behind a fabrication that I was being ejected because I was too fat for my seat.

Regardless, I thanked Linda and told her she was the nicest Southwestern employee I’d met in the last 43 hrs. And then, I asked when Southwest was going to update their blog, to which she said soon, and we hung-up pleasantly. And as pleasant as Linda was, clearly the notion of me going on Larry King scared the shit out of somebody over there.

I was very nice but very firm/clear with Linda: Southwestern needs to make this right. And “right” is Southwestern falling on their sword over a situation THEY CREATED and continued to mismanage for nearly 48hrs.

So I swore to Linda, up and down “Get me a document to sign, and I’ll swear on my child’s life and penalty of all I own that I’ll never sue your Airlines. But just PUT THE F*CKING TRUTH OUT THERE THAT I’M NOT TOO FAT TO FLY, AND THAT THIS WAS ALL AN UNFORTUNATE ERROR ON SOUTHWESTERN’S PART.”

This is the piece Linda wrote.

She called me a little bit ago to see if I’d read the piece. I put her on hold, quickly read it, then got back on the horn.

“Linda – there’s nothing about me not being Too Fat To Fly,” I said.
“The people around you said they had to lean over to make room for you,” Linda offered.
“Linda, they didn’t! The older lady was leaning against the window like she was gonna nap, and the lady to my left was already leaning toward the aisle. I would never pick a seat that might possibly make me look even fatter because I don’t fit in it or something.”
“That’s the report I have,” she continued, then sighed and added “This is so embarrassing to talk about.”
“Wait – what people around me?” I asked.
“The people seated next to you.”
“You guys went to their houses and interviewed them?”
“Then where’d that statement come from?”
“Others people around you.”
“Linda, there was nobody but me, the two ladies, and Suzanne. Are you telling me this is Suzanne’s report?”
“The report we received said the ladies were leaning away from you.”
“They were already leaning when I sat down! They didn’t lean because of me! I even asked them both if I was a problem. But you said you took their statements, and now you’re saying they weren’t interviewed at all. You said we’d get to the bottom of who made the decision to boot me, since it WASN’T the Pilot.”

And Linda apologized and pointed out the blog apologies for putting me on and taking me off the plane, as well as the refunded fares.

“But the last paragraph is still all about your two seat rule. By including it, you guys are still saying I was Too Fat To Fly – or at least NOT correcting it. You even say ‘You’re not here to debate the decision the Employees made.’ But when we spoke, you told me they were wrong, and THAT’S why I was happy and ready to drop all this. I don’t want your money, I just want you to put in print what you told me: that I was grabbed because I was the last guy on, not because I didn’t fit with the arm rests down, or because I couldn’t buckle the seat belt. Because I did. And we both know this.”

I feel like a broken record with that stupid “But I could buckle and fit” sh*t. Pathetic, right? Grasping at any dignity straws. But that’s what you do when you’re kinda stripped of your dignity.

I could hear it in her voice: the sad frustration. Somewhere between the two phone calls, the bounty that was hinted at got a lot smaller. And while the apology is a little deeper now and more sincerely-worded than it was in the initial “apology” blog (thank you, Linda), it still infers that I need two seats to fly on Southwest Airlines.

I begged her to just put the truth in the about me and the seat belt and arm rest – at least admit you guys were wrong: that I wasn’t Too Fat To Fly. And while in phone call #1 it seemed promising, it didn’t happen. There was some standard corp-speak about how they’re going to examine their “Person of Size” policy, and how they know it needs change. I sincerely hope it does. That shit with the Girl on the flight was just heartbreaking and shameful.

But to be honest, I was looking for a little exoneration so I didn’t have to keep exonerating myself. And 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.

You guys screwed up, SWA; why’s it so hard to own up to it? Now I’m gonna carry this Too Fat To Fly shit around like herpes for the rest of my life, and it was never even true.

[From Kevin Smith’s blog]

This is typical of airlines and large corporations in general – say you’re “sorry” for the “situation” without admitting you did anything wrong. I’ve only flown on Southwest once, over 10 years ago, and was annoyed by the stupid kind of goofy banter between the stewardesses and the way that everyone was jockeying for seats. I chose never to use them again, although I don’t fly much domestically. I much prefer JetBlue and maybe after that Delta, for the professional way they handle passengers. It sucks to fly no matter what but some airlines are definitely more tolerable than others. When I fly I want to feel like I’m taken care of and like everything is under control, not like I’m having dinner at TGI Fridays. Now that Southwest treated Smith like a second class citizen for being overweight I doubt that I’ll fly with them again, especially considering the way they deflected blame afterwards.

Kevin Smith Promotes "Shooting The Sh*t With Kevin Smith"

Kevin Smith Promotes "Shooting The Sh*t With Kevin Smith"

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21 Responses to “Southwest Airlines sort-of sorry to Kevin Smith, he says he wasn’t too fat to fly”

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  1. GatsbyGal says:

    I was gonna say, Kevin Smith isn’t so fat that he needs to be kicked off planes. Those pictures make him look bigger, though, just because for some reason he still chooses to dress like a teenage boy in big baggy shirts and pants (oy vey, Kev, c’mon now…you’re awesome, but…c’mon).

    Southwest is a bunch of crap and I hate flying with them – mostly because since it’s a “cheaper” airline, the folks flying with you tend to be…less than savory. Also, the only time my luggage has EVER been lost, it was lost by Southwest (and I fly a LOT).

    (Also, is that his daughter in that picture? She is such a cute girl!)

  2. KLily says:

    This is exactly why I won’t fly Southwest. The very IDEA that I might be booted off — in front of people — is unbearable. I am a plus sized woman, but I’m not HUGE. Still, I won’t risk the humiliation factor.

    Truly, sizeism is the last acceptable prejudice. Always okay to hate on a fatty.

  3. Erin says:

    I hope the financial fallout from this forces them into bankruptcy. Even after a promise NOT TO SUE, SWA still refuses to do the right thing. They deserve whatever they get.

  4. Stephie says:

    Their inability or willingness to admit their wrongdoing is enough to never fly with them.

  5. TG says:

    I love Southwest! And will continue to fly them. I am not an unsavory character, either.

  6. Snarf says:

    This is fast turning into a he said, she said, they said fight. Boring!

    BTW – JetBlue is far superior for domestic flights period.

  7. Rianna says:

    I would be worried to fly on that airline in case they told me to get off as well. I am a size 16/18 and can fit in the airline seats comfortably with the armrests down but I really dont want ever to deal with the humilation of having to leave in front of everyone. I feel for Kevin Smith.

  8. lin234 says:

    When I was a kid, my mom made me switch seats with my younger brother because the man next to him was overflowing into his seat. Since I was tinier and skinner than my brother, my mom thought it would work out better. It was an approximate 16 hour flight from LA to Taiwan. Most uncomfortable flight ever.

    Thank god I had an aisle seat and could scoot to the side but when it came to drinks and dinner time, the man had trouble getting his table to sit at a flat angle and spilled some of his soda on me even though I was casually sitting as far as I could because part of him was in my seat. He ended up eating his dinner by holding his tray to his stomach.

    I think there are people who should have to buy two seats if necessary because it sucks for the person who is trying to squeeze into one seat and others who are next to them, trying to give them more room without looking rude.

    Maybe it’s time to consider a diet when you can barely fit into an average seat.

    I’ve flown with Southwest loads of times throughout college to visit friends in other states. Never had any trouble with them. Flights were on time, no lost luggage, and sometimes they even arrived early.

  9. lin234isanidiot says:

    I’m the daughter of a pilot. I’ve been on many, many, many, many, many, many flights because we got them all free and our family is spread out over the USA.

    I’ve never encountered and never seen this elusive “spilling over into the seats” person whose magically formless fat oozed over into the next seat.

    I suspect it’s a very rare happening that’s turned into some kind of urban myth and people are afraid that one day they’ll be that person next to the mythical overflowing fat person and so they all band together to attack people in situations like this. Even if those people never actually bothered anyone.

    Gotta make an example of them.

  10. lucy2 says:

    None of this makes much sense. If the flight was overbooked, why did they let him on? And if he was on and in a seat, and there was no one without a seat, it’s not overbooked, just full.

    He’s a big guy, but he’s not that huge. I do have to wonder though, maybe the ladies on either side were being polite to his face, but then later told the airline they were uncomfortable?

    To end it and move on, SWA should just say it was a ticketing error and apologize for implying it had to do with his size. That’s all he wants, and as they don’t seem to have proof that his size was a problem, that’s what they should do.

  11. Bob says:

    Odd that you’ve never had the experience, lin234. Because most of us have had the flight from hell, with obese people spreading over the arm rests and into the space we paid for. Yeah, that measly little bit of seat and air space I have to give up because someone can’t stop stuffing his piehole? I have to suffer because I have a normal BMI?

    Kevin Smith’s career has been tanking for years. He should be thanking SWA for giving him a vehicle to get his name back out there.

  12. lin234 says:

    It happens. It’s a combination of horizontal girth and fat that makes “spilling over into the next seat” possible. Just because you’ve been on many flights and never encountered this doesn’t make my experience less plausible.

    I’m not saying it happens often, but when it does, it’s uncomfortable for all parties involved. It’s a sensitive subject and I’m not trying to make fun of anyone. I’m just recounting my worst flight experience.

    bob- I think you meant the person responding to my post.

  13. fizXgirl314 says:

    you know I find it despicable and disgusting that some of you are using this as an excuse to launch grenades at fat people in order to deflect how tragic and embarrassing this story is… the fact remains that the story is about THIS guy who is neither that large nor appears to be spilling any of his fat on other people… I mean seriously, isn’t it good business to try to accomodate people in the standard range of heavy… especially in america?

  14. lol says:

    There’s a difference between OMG HE’S SPILLING OVER INTO MY SEAT STUPID FAT PEOPLE and bumping into the next person and being made somewhat uncomfortable by the experience.

    Newsflash: The latter happens no matter what on any form of public transportation. The former rarely happens and is generally an exaggeration of the latter fueled by your prejudice.

    You aren’t special snowflakes experiencing some special form of torment because your poor thin selves had to endure being next to a fat person. Get over yourselves.

  15. Trillion says:

    I swear airlines are adding seats to increase their profit margin. I’m not overweight and I find the seats barely comfortable. JetBlue and Virgin are the only domestic airlines I’ve flown where I felt I was having a positive experience.

  16. padiddle says:

    Airlines suck, period. For everyone. I can’t even imagine being an overweight person on a flight. So uncomfortable. For what’s it’s worth, I used to LOVE Frontier airlines, but they are not in business anymore 🙁

  17. Carriana says:

    I started following him on Twitter 2 c what he had 2 say & he contradicted himself a lot.

    Anyway, I agree with the “2 fat 2 fly rule” becuz as a ticket buyer, I expect 2 have my entire seat & space 2 myself and not share it w someone’s fat rolls.

  18. DK88 says:

    I think what they did to Kevin was mean and unfair, and he is not by far the biggest person I’ve seen on a flight…I’ve been a fan of his from the beginning, but I find it disturbing that he kind of takes no responsibility for his overweightness – just kind of saying over and over again, I’m not too fat, I fit in the seat, the seatbelt buckled, etc. He seems in denial, and he is very overweight – maybe he should take this as a wakeup call instead.

  19. Reader says:

    It’s not hating on overweight people to want to be comfortable in a seat you paid hundreds of dollars for! And seriously, did he expect the people beside him to admit in front of everyone that he was bothering them? What a selfish jerk.

  20. Scarlet Vixen says:

    Um…why is he a selfish jerk? Cuz he wants to fly on an airplane? Cuz he happens to weigh more than you do? If you’re going to insult someone, at least come up with an accurate epithet. Dumb.

    I love Kevin Smith–I think he’s a genuinely cool guy. And I think that Southwest could’ve just said, “Hey, our bad. It’s not cuz this guy is fat.” I don’t think there would’ve been anything wrong with that, or damaging to their company.

    But, to play devil’s advocate of sorts, Kevin Smith is very pear-shaped. He carries the majority of his weight below his waist, so he doesn’t look as large in pics from the chest up. However, I still don’t think you should throw someone off a flight in front of everyone because he’s chubbier than your average person. If he fits in the seatbelt and armrests, it’s a done deal IMO.

  21. Kelli says:

    “Yeah, that measly little bit of seat and air space I have to give up because someone can’t stop stuffing his piehole? I have to suffer because I have a normal BMI?”

    Oh please. Poor, poor you has to sit next to someone who isn’t a size 1. “Suffer?” Really? Drama Queen much?