Skip to main content

Southwest Airlines Community

Not So Silent Bob

Not applicable

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
Not applicable
I will NEVER fly Southwest again!! Kevin Smith also said there was a man on his flight bigger than him who was left alone. Why is that??
Not applicable
This statement is complete BS corporate-speak, not to mention a discriminatory policy. I predict a class-action suit in Southwest's future. I don't fly Southwest and advise any and everyone to fly Virgin.
Not applicable
This is what happens when you try to use "social media" instead of putting work and money into practical customer services and staff training. Sooner or later it bites you in the ass. ""A heartfelt apology is not usually followed by justification of the action." Amen. Southwest needs to be honest RIGHT NOW. Apologise for being uneven and handling a situation badly. Move on to making sure that people are treated evenly and fairly so next time a celebrity isn't recognised they don't have reason to be publicly pissed. It's the only way Southwest is going to keep any dignity. The internet allows communications between anyone and everyone very quickly, and the only way to harness that is with honesty and integrity and improving the core of what a business does. Normally I charge a lot of money for that kind of advice, but you can take it and keep it with Kevins hundred bucks.
Not applicable
Blimey. Is there any more personal data about Mr Smith that you would like to broadcast to the world? Passport number perhaps? Whether he prefers sweet or savoury? I sincerely hope you have cleared the release of this info with him before publishing it, but frankly I suspect you haven't. Here's something my mother told me once, you might find it useful in the future: when in a hole, stop digging. Anyway, frequent flyer here, never been a fan of your airline but it's always nice to have one more reason to avoid it.
Not applicable
I have been a fan of SWA for years, and even held a "companion pass" for a couple years. As Mr. Smith described the situation, both armrests were down, and he didn't require a belt extender. Your "apology" doesn't address that. AT ALL!. My wife is a "person of size", but she IS able to lower both armrests- I can only imagine the humiliation of getting bounced off a flight, and the safest course of action for my family, given your "apology" is to stop using your company. If your phone isn't ringin', you'll know it's me.
Not applicable
SWA should amend their procedures in order to preserve safety and maximize respect for thier customers. This issue will not go away anytime soon while the country is in crisis with obesity. I am served notice of additional fees at the counter in the airport if my bag is not within restrictions, and in a one-on-one conversation that is not in the crowd of a seated airplane. I respectfully request that that is how airlines handle whether or not I will fit in a seat. Kevin Smith is definitely pro-comfort and very likely pro-safety. His complaint was not that a safety policy existed. His complaint was about the disrespectful manner in which it was carried out.
Not applicable
SWA should amend their procedures in order to preserve safety and maximize respect for thier customers. This issue will not go away anytime soon while the country is in crisis with obesity. I am served notice of additional fees at the counter in the airport if my bag is not within restrictions, and in a one-on-one conversation that is not in the crowd of a seated airplane. I respectfully request that that is how airlines handle whether or not I will fit in a seat. Kevin Smith is definitely pro-comfort and very likely pro-safety. His complaint was not that a safety policy existed. His complaint was about the disrespectful manner in which it was carried out.
Not applicable
another reason that I REFUSE to fly crap, cattle call, southwest airlines!!! I hate their whole concept and they are NOT THE cheapest airlines. Give me Continental or Easy (Sleezy) jet any day.
Not applicable
I fly over 100 times a year, about half of them on Southwest....not anymore.
Not applicable
"a timely exit from the aircraft in the event of an emergency might be compromised if we allow a cramped, restricted seating arrangement." By that logic, coach needs to go entirely.
Not applicable
If you eat too much, you have to pay for 2 seats. Stop complaining you overindulging fatwad.
Not applicable
If you eat too much, you have to pay for 2 seats. Stop complaining you overindulging fatwad.
Not applicable
Why can't we read comments without having to make a comment ourselves?
Not applicable
You people are idiots. He buys two seats BECAUSE HE CAN, not because he's too fat to fit in the seat.
Not applicable
Let's face it. Kevin Smith is a big guy. He was pretty hefty when he made Clerks, and he's pretty hefty now. However, I know people who could sit on Smith and squish him flat. This is yet another example of Southwest gate and cabin crews arbitrarily applying company rules for convenience or attention whoring. Remember when you kicked the girl in the tiny dress off? It wasn't because every other passenger could see her cooch. Next time I fly Southwest, I'll take a middle seat-- with tiny dress on the window, and Kevin Smith on the aisle just so I can enjoy all your uppity flight attendants staring up her skirt and brushing by his bulbous booty. I weigh 200 pounds on a 5' 7" frame. Am I subject to Southwest's Passenger of Size policy? I could be given such arbitrary enforcement. Give me a break, Southwest. This is why I don't fly with you more often. I'm from Birmingham, a BIG Southwest station, and, I was born only minutes before Southwest's first revenue flight ever, but I tend to book Delta. Southwest has an array of non-stops from my town, but I'd just as soon take the 30-minute hop to Atlanta or Memphis for crap like this. Fire Suzanne #84175 NOW.
Not applicable
southwest, let this be a lesson. Irrespective of MY size, my family and I are not ever flying southwest airlines until this policy changes. There are other solutions rather than kicking people of flights. For instance, don't fully book flights....reserve seats for customers complaining about being "encroached". Southwest especially woudl be able to fill those seats with standby customers if there aren't any "people of size".
Not applicable
Why in the heck does southwest offer an apology to this tubb-o? Some fat people are so selfish. They know that they are going to be sitting on the person next to them, yet they don't give a rat's poo because they know that it is not PC to speak of someones fatness and that most people are too embarrassed FOR fatty that they won't say anything to hurt fattys feelings. Get a spine Southwest and quit apologizing to the rude and selfish people.
Not applicable
I just finished listening to Kevin's full story (smodcast.com) and it is quite clear, having heard the whole and unabridged story (obviously from his point of view) it sounds far more like Southwest has a systemic policy of humiliation on their hands, and that Kevin's booting from Southwest wasn't even remotely an isolated incident. It's simply that Kevin has a large and vocal group of people who listen to him. This is quite obviously not simply a matter of smoothing things over with a single passenger, which basically means this whole blog entry is either a complete fabrication or Southwest corporate really has no idea what goes on in their planes. It's simply staggering that Southwest would have the gall to say "Well, we don't normally talk about these matters publicly" when it's quite obvious that these policies are being enforced openly, in ways that seem almost designed to do anything but put people at ease, on the plane in front of all the other passengers. It's also plain to see that Southwest's standard policy with all "customers of size" is to be as demeaning as possible without giving customers enough room to sue, and then attempt to handle as one-off situations those rare occasions when the fat person in question has an audience. As a "customer of size" I will never fly Southwest again, not ever.
Not applicable
you are correct, each passenger deserves to be comfortable, and not have that comfort infringed on by other passengers. On my recent flight from Las Vegas a passenger next to me had a HORRIBLE body odor. It was nauseating. According to your policy, he should have been removed- he was clearly infringing on my flight. Another flight, a woman with a broken leg was seated next to me. Her cast filled at least half of my leg room. Why was she not removed? Also, in case of an emergency, not only would she have been unable to disembark the flight quickly (she needed crutches to move) but she would have trapped an entire row of passengers- is this not a flight safety risk? And finally, at 5'10 and almost 200 # I am not a small girl, but fit comfortably into a seat. According to Southwest policy, I am then allowed to bring my 23 month old child along to sit on my lap. My child can kick the seat in front of her, lean on the passengers around me, and consume the flight crews' attention, all while screaming at the top of her lungs. Odds are, I will not be asked to leave the flight (having flown at least a dozen times with her). Seems crazy then, that if I gained that same 28 pounds of weight, Southwest would throw me and my quiet, still, respectful fat belly off the flight!
Not applicable
I think it's okay to require two seats, my problem is he was allowed on the plane and already seated. I think it would have been more professional and probably taken better if it had been done quietly before boarding. I also think if he is a frequent customer what was done and how it was done makes absolutely no business sense. I think it's time for buisnesses to realize in today's economy you might want to try a bit more customer servie.
Not applicable
I'm a Southwest frequent flyer. However, I'm also a fat woman--a size 14/16. I'm not going to fly Southwest any longer, since you obviously have no hestitation in shaming fat people. Your apology is disingenuous.
Not applicable
Did anyone from SWA on the plane inquire of Mr. Smith if the purchase of two tickets was to accomdate his size or based on a preference not to sit next to someone else? From the outcome, I can say with 99.99% certainty that they did not. It was not the policy that was at fault here, but as is usual in these kinds of situations, the application thereof. Whether the customer in question is Kevin Smith of "John Smith" the treatment received from SWA was uncaring and (the insult you as SWA should feel mostly keenly) -- bureaucratic. Every rule becomes petty when applied by petty people, and in this case sadly the SWA crew proved themselves petty and uncaring about the quality of service they deliver. ONE QUESTION would have been all it took "Mr. Smith, we notice that you normally purchase two tickets when flying with us -- if you require both of those seats to comfortably fly, I'm sorry to say we cannot meet your requirements on this flight. If you like, you can either stay on this flight provided you can get by with one seat, or please take this travel voucher and we'll help book you on a flight that will better serve you." See that's easy, and you all can still implement your 25-year old policy and Kevin Smith (and hopefully everyone else!) is treated with respect.
Not applicable
I'm a big guy, and while I have flown Southwest plenty of times, I don't think I'll take the risk again. I can't imagine getting kicked off a plane, so I'll stick with other airlines that I know will fly me.
Not applicable
South West you SUCK, plain and simple.
Not applicable
Do you see what you bring out in people southwest? How you make it ok for people to discriminate against heavy set people? Read the tweets that support you, read the comments that support this blog. All you have to do is read a few into your own blog and find a couple of these sayings. Search your name on twitter, some of these quotes have your name attached to them. "I don't want to sit by a fatty" "they stink and smell" "fat people should die, then they won't fly" "I hate fatties, good for southwest kicking them out" "overweight people disgust me" This is what you encourage every time you kick someone off your plane. These are the people rooting you on. The ones who hate a person not by the content of their character, but for the size of their body. This is what you stand for South West. Your symbol, your trade mark is now one that goes hand in hand with hatred. When I see your emblem, I will think of discrimination against a group of people different from the norm. Change all words relating to weight into words meaning a race, or a religion or a sexuality. Now do you see? I don't know what too big is. When I sit in a seat, my arm touches my neighbors, if I gain five pounds will I be discriminated against? If I gain water weight for my returning flight, will I be asked to leave? Chances I am not willing to take. So, I to will not be flying southwest airlines. Why would I support an organization that hates.
Not applicable
SWA: this is almost as classy a response as when Amtrak kicked the diabetic off the train in the middle of the desert when he had a hypoglycemic episode. Mr. Smith, count yourself lucky - they could've done worse, I suppose.
Not applicable
Why is the PR person sharing a customers travel information with the internet? Don't you have some kind of 'policy' for that? Seems like some of your precious policies are enforced more than others.
Not applicable
I will never fly southwest again. Thanks for making me feel less than even though I may be a little more than what you deem to be proper weight. Bag fees don't seem to be so bad after all.
Not applicable
I would never fly Southwest Airlines!! This is horrible!! All of you idiots that support Southwest's decision to kick him off the plane, I hope all of you feel the indignity that he must have felt. I truly hope you all are humiliated in public. Southwest, I will never fly you again!!
Not applicable
I would never fly Southwest Airlines!! This is horrible!! All of you idiots that support Southwest's decision to kick him off the plane, I hope all of you feel the indignity that he must have felt. I truly hope you all are humiliated in public. Southwest, I will never fly you again!!
Not applicable
Hopefully, he will sue Southwest's corporate ass off. The pilot should be suspended for abuse of a passenger. Remember the TV series about Southwest...seems every episode revolved around them booting a passenger off a flight. I'll gladly pay extra for my bags so I don't have to worry about some corporate Nazi booting me off the flight because they don't like the way I look.
Not applicable
i will never fly southwest again. thanks for making me feel less than even though i may be a little more than what you think as fat.
Not applicable
Kevin Smith was completely in the wrong in this situation. The airline was doing him a favor by letting him board an earlier flight, and he obviously would not be pleasant to sit next to (just google image the man). People like Kevin Smith are trying to make obesity seem acceptable, when in reality is is a dangerous and unhealthy way of life. SouthWest's $100 coupon was way more than he deserved, and I hope that they benefit from the publicity.
Not applicable
Arbitrary enforcement by power happy employees is the problem. SWA doesn't even follow the standards it posted on its website. His armrests were down and his seatbelt was buckled and still he got tossed from the plane - yet not a word from Southwest's PR morons about those facts. With the size of the seats, anyone older than 6 could be deemed fat.. What a bunch of assholes.
Not applicable
I'm really amazed to see SWA tell really obvious and blatent lies in an insulting blog response. This is not the customer focused company it used to be. First off, the title. "Not so silent bob"- kinda insulting and pretty flippant. This combined with the corporate speak nonsense in the post tell us that you don't take this issue seriously at all. Secondly, I'm profoundly insulted that you would stoop to the level of telling blatant lies about this situation to try and make it sound reasonable. You did not stop Kevin Smith for "comfort or safety" on the flight out, so obviously the claim that this was the reason here is a lie. Further, claiming this has been the policy for 25 years is not a justification. Its only a statement that I should have started boycotting you earlier. And, again, if its been policy for 25 years, how is it that Kevin Smith and my husband (who's about the same size) have been flying with you for a couple decades without problem? A random refusal of service is not a policy. Don't lie to, or about your customers. IF there was a safety issue here, you could name it. But its obvious there wasn't. That you would choose to lie about this is unexcusable. The ONLY acceptable response here is to make a consistent policy or get rid of this randomly applied prejudice against fat people. I know offering decent sized seats is out of the question.
Not applicable
I wonder if the corporate mouthpiece who posted this on the SWA blog would feel sufficiently compensated if he/she was wronged at an establishment and embarassed ( unnecessarily ) and then was given money of his/her next visit to said establishment where his/her public shaming occurred? To me this really isn't about whether or nor Kevin Smith is obese or too fat to sit in the seat. It's more about why SWA felt the need to debase and shame another person in front of a planeful of people. I don't feel the need to give SWA any more of my money at this point, nor do I want to give them an opportunity to embarass me in front of complete strangers. Thanks SWA you just made my decision when choosing an airline much simpler.
Not applicable
BTW, this blog post is exactly the kind of generic, bland, bullshit we have all come to expect from the big airlines like Northwest, Delta and United. Southwest USED to be different. Inconsistent, Arbitrary and Customer Hostile? Just another bloated american airline that needs to go under.
Not applicable
This isn't even an apology!! If it wasn't a celebrity that this happened to Southwest wouldn't have even apologized and it would never be heard of. I'm sad for Kevin's inconvenience but glad that southwests unfair procedures were brought to the publics attention.
Not applicable
If a customer can fit into their seat and put on their seatbelt without an extender surely one seat is more than enough. The extender is the emasure that they're too big, so where's the problem?!
Not applicable
smodcast.com - to hear the full story straight from Kevin Smith's mouth. On the flight he finally got on, IT HAPPENED AGAIN, to a girl in the same aisle as him. He had two tickets. He was at the window, the middle was empty, and this girl was at the end, and they pulled her off and told her next time to think about buying a second seat. And for all those SW defenders, all those ANONYMOUS comments, Own your comments... if you really felt right about what you were saying you would own those jacka$$ery comments.
Not applicable
As a man that weighs only 10 pounds less that Mr. Smith, will I need to run the risk of 'escorted' off a plane? I just flew Delta recently cross country, and while they billed me $20.00 for my bag... I wasn't worried about being 'subjectively judged' by the Captain to see if I was too fat to fly. A major FAIL Southwest.
Not applicable
Kev is a big boy, but not as big as you make him out to be. Not like he's of Snorlax proportions now is it? This is possibly a ploy by SWA to give themselves more publicity. It's a shame you've done this since Kev said he could put both armrests down and that the flight wasn't full. I suggest you listen to his SModcast and feel very ashamed of yourself. Bracing for impending shitstorm.
Not applicable
Ugh typical Corporate, emotionless, crap response. Insulting title, back handed apology which is then all but withdrawn with a justification for their actions at the end. Just sad. I am so sick of corporations like yours.
Not applicable
Southwest Airlines: Yeah, we hate fatties too.
Not applicable
I will simply no longer be flying with Southwest! Nothing more needs to be said.
Not applicable
This "customer of size" recognizes that the label of "customer of size" is completely subjective. I can fit in a seat and lower both armrests and fasten a seatbelt. Does that mean that someone at SW would think I was too fat? Who knows! It's arbitrarily enforced. I would never and will never give Southwest one dime. I think this blog is fake, I think SW is doing the majority of commenting, it's obviously one-sided. And reputable, stand-up business organizations don't conduct these kinds of PR disasters on Twiter and a blog---they stand up and talk about it OUT LOUD to the public. Thank you Kevin Smith for bringing this to my attention and I hope it just snowballs and snowballs for Southwest.
Not applicable
Was this revenge for the $8 the pilot wasted on Chasing Amy?
Not applicable
It is just a piss poor excuse for a lack of customer service, and a lack of policies that help the front counter people actually help their customers. As a larger person myself, I usually check in earlier and ask about seating, and ask if there is a seat that might have a free one beside it - because I don't like even the thought that I might inconvenience people. So in this situation, SWA knows that they will have a certain amount of its customers that will be larger, so can the seats not be arranged so everyone is comfortable? I live in Canada, and apparently there is a one person, one fare rule here- however, the bs you have to go through to get that 'approval' that your ass needs an extra seat for free is a pain. However, I've never found it a problem flying with AirCanada or WestJet - I've always either had a bit of extra room, or been seated beside someone who is smaller, or doesn't mind. I'm not sure how they do it, but they have never made me feel uncomfortable or any less of a person. I would recommend that if SWA has this much problem with managing passengers, they take a tip from some of the Canadian airlines. Here's some crazy talk for you - you can be respectful AND ensure that all of your customers have a wonderful flight. WHAT A REVELATION!
Not applicable
KEVIN SMITH HAD JUST FLOWN ON SOUTHWEST THE DAY BEFORE! HE WAS A REGULAR PAYING CUSTOMER! HE COULD CLOSE HIS SEATBELT, AND COULD LOWER HIS ARMREST. AND SOUTHWEST DECIDED TO TREAT KEVIN, A HUMAN BEING, LIKE A TUMOR THAT HAD TO BE CUT OFF, HUMILIATING HIM IN THE PROCESS. DISGRACEFUL. I HAVE 25,000 EMAIL ADDRESSES AND I AM LETTING THEM KNOW HOW YOU TREAT PEOPLE. IT'S 2010 YOU IDIOTS. TREAT PEOPLE WITH RESPECT.
Not applicable
It is just a piss poor excuse for a lack of customer service, and a lack of policies that help the front counter people actually help their customers. As a larger person myself, I usually check in earlier and ask about seating, and ask if there is a seat that might have a free one beside it - because I don't like even the thought that I might inconvenience people. So in this situation, SWA knows that they will have a certain amount of its customers that will be larger, so can the seats not be arranged so everyone is comfortable? I live in Canada, and apparently there is a one person, one fare rule here- however, the bs you have to go through to get that 'approval' that your ass needs an extra seat for free is a pain. However, I've never found it a problem flying with AirCanada or WestJet - I've always either had a bit of extra room, or been seated beside someone who is smaller, or doesn't mind. I'm not sure how they do it, but they have never made me feel uncomfortable or any less of a person. I would recommend that if SWA has this much problem with managing passengers, they take a tip from some of the Canadian airlines. Here's some crazy talk for you - you can be respectful AND ensure that all of your customers have a wonderful flight. WHAT A REVELATION!