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Not So Silent Bob

cday
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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
Anonymous2003
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Southwest simply cannot justify this "person of size" policy. Their seats should be large enough to accommodate all passengers, and if they are not, then they should give, not sell, a second seat to persons of size.
Skinny_Bob
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My god, why suck up to this guy just because he is "famous" - he couldn't fit on the flight so he was rightfully refused. Gets me real mad to see obese passengers who can hardly get into the darn seats - what the hell will happen in an emergency - the aisle gets blocked by a lard ass and people could die. Don't give in to whiners...... Spread the LUV, not the Lard......
Annie_C__Boyd
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Kevin Smith fit into that seat. With the armrests down. With the seat belt on. Wanna try that "he didnt fit" excuse again? I'm going to go out of my way not to fly on your airline. You'd probably throw my pregnant ass off.
C_
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I completely support SWA on this, they remain the only airline that I will fly. Airlines have every right to impose these restrictions and should enforce them. Perhaps Mr. Smith (and other large folks) should view this as a wake-up call and get in shape instead of using it as an excuse to defend their poor choices.
Steve_Gross
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STAND TO YOUR GUNS, KEEP ENFORCING YOUR POLICY.Steve Gross
Ladydiodes
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I have been on a flight where a passenger used the aisle armrest and could not put down the other armrest between us. I called for the flight attendant as I wasn't even able to put down my table as this person was so much in my space. They ended up moving me, and then before the plane landed this person was escorted off the plane. If you can't fit in one sit safely then either pay for 2 tickets for 2 sits or lose the FAT. I should be able to fly safely and comfortably in my sit with out some "fatty" encroaching on my space. I am with Southwest Airlines on this one.
Crash_Test_Addi
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You guys screwed up. Give Smith a free lifetime flight pass and call it even.
Jane11
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so your company is basically making a statement saying in way too many words that mr. smith is too fat for one seat. perhaps your company should practice DISCRETION both in practice and official commentary regarding customers. shame on you, southwest.
Patty
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As a "person of size", I am thrilled this is generating such discussion! If it had been me, instead of Kevin Smith, nobody would know of my humiliation! Every time I get on a Southwest plane (as it is the only one that goes non stop from my city to Las Vegas) I am scared to death I'll get kicked off. That would be mortifying. I cannot afford two seats, nor should I have to pay for them. I sit near the window, with my armrest DOWN, and try not to move for the next three hours, because I don't want the person next to me to be uncomfortable. Planes these days are not made for comfort, for anyone, in my opinion. I hate this policy - I feel it is discriminatory. The comments in this section prove that discrimination against fat people is rampant - look at the rude comments! Everyone should be treated equally - even on an airline. 50% of the population is overweight. It's the size of the seats and configuration of the plan that is the problem - herd them in and get as many cash paying customers as we can! Southwest - get rid of this policy please.
Skinny_Bob
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My god, why suck up to this guy just because he is "famous" - he couldn't fit on the flight so he was rightfully refused. Gets me real mad to see obese passengers who can hardly get into the darn seats - what the hell will happen in an emergency - the aisle gets blocked by a lard ass and people could die. Don't give in to whiners...... Spread the LUV, not the Lard......
Matt_R
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SouthWest, you should never have revealed PRIVATE information about Mr. Smith's traveling habits with your airline. However many tickets he has purchased in the past have nothing to do with the current situation. In this blog post, and your overall handling of this situation, you have come across as dishonest, detached from reality, and manipulative. I for one will never be flying on your airline again. Good riddance.
Dan_M_
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Anyone who thought about it a minute would realize that restricting obese people from flying in one seat is not based on safelty. If it was, then you would also have a policy that would restrict those who have trouble moving from any seat but the window seat, because they are far more likely to slow down the exit of people they block than a fat person. Now, I'm not suggesting you do this. I'm merely suggesting you don't lie about the reasons you do things. It is a business decision based on the idea that you'd rather lose the business of the obese and gain buisness of those who don't want to be cramped by them. It has nothing to do with safely. Yet, I'm sure many people believe your lie....which must be one of your principals....telling believeable lies to make a profit.
Anonymous25
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He could fit safely in one seat, didn't need a seat belt extender, and he's confirmed that you've never contacted him. You're just hiding behind a blind policy that DIDN'T EVEN APPLY HERE. Your own people even admitted he was unjustly thrown off. I can't believe how many angry and envious people are posting about how evil it must be to be large (but still fit in ONE SEAT), and are willing to bow and scrape to a corporation, eager to be publicly humiliated. Southwest will never see a dime of my money again.
vampo
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Thats BS Southwest, kevin Smith did not deserve any apology of any kind. If he gets so pissed that people point out his wight to him then maybe he should consider to stop eating all that extra food that he obviously does not need and go out for a jog or do some workout every now and then. Instead of sitting on his ass munching and complaining over people that are only FOLLOWING RULES.
flkeyes
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In a time when other airlines are adding fees for bags and now pillows and blankets, Southwest has courageously resisted these trends. They have always put the customer first. The policy to require overweight passengers to pay for a second seat is very reasonable from a safety perspective. It is clear that planes are designed to carry a maximum weight to safely lift off. Also If a person sticks out in the aisle this is unsafe for exiting or passage. This is a policy that protects everyone on board and I applaud Southwest for upholding it. Just because someone thinks they are being mistreated doesn't make it so. You may not like the rules about smoking, seatbelts or electronics either. But its their plane and their rules. Most often, as in this case, the rule has a reason for being enforced. Keep up the good work, so far you're still the best choice for the flying public.
flkeyes
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In a time when other airlines are adding fees for bags and now pillows and blankets, Southwest has courageously resisted these trends. They have always put the customer first. The policy to require overweight passengers to pay for a second seat is very reasonable from a safety perspective. It is clear that planes are designed to carry a maximum weight to safely lift off. Also If a person sticks out in the aisle this is unsafe for exiting or passage. This is a policy that protects everyone on board and I applaud Southwest for upholding it. Just because someone thinks they are being mistreated doesn't make it so. You may not like the rules about smoking, seatbelts or electronics either. But its their plane and their rules. Most often, as in this case, the rule has a reason for being enforced. Keep up the good work, so far you're still the best choice for the flying public.
Rebecca13
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I find it horrible the way your company treats people. Fat or not, celebrity or not, treat fellow human beings (also paying customers) with respect. I will never fly on your airline if this is the way you treat people. You'd better change something.
Skinny_Bob1
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My god, why suck up to this guy just because he is "famous" - he couldn't fit on the flight so he was rightfully refused. Gets me real mad to see obese passengers who can hardly get into the darn seats - what the hell will happen in an emergency - the aisle gets blocked by a lard ass and people could die. Don't give in to whiners...... Spread the LUV, not the Lard......
Daed
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I won't be using SWA in the future.
Joe23
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Thank you from those of us who have sat next to someone spilling over into their space for the duration of the flight. For those of you who don't know, armrests can be down and still have someone spilling way over into your space. Good job SWA!
Anonymous4451
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this is not the first time that it has happened. and from what i have read and seen, this rule is used randomly. one passenger got off of one southwest flight where he was deemed small enough to travel without fuss only to be prevented from boarding another southwest flight because he was "too large". did he grow between flights? why not have a private area with a test seat where people can see if they need to purchase two seats. simple, don't embarrassed them. that is the big issue here (no pun intended). I don't have a problem with people needed two seats. i don't have a problem with looking at the comfort of other passengers, i don't have a problem with looking at safety, i do have a problem when your company does not enforce its own rules across the board. and i do have a problem when the only way you have to deal with this is to embarrass people into buying another seat. come on, investing in test seats will be an investment (which from reading your earning, you can afford) and it will prevent this angry email/tweet/stories about how you discriminate against "large" people.
Pam111
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Mr. Smith said he didn't even have to wear a seatbelt extender. I think you were just so used to him buying an extra seat you tried to strong arm him. Bad Bad PR Southwest. I'll not fly you again either.
Anonymous2947
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Thank you for not actually assessing the Safety and Comfort (Why are these proper nouns for your company?) of your travelers, but just making a knee-jerk reaction. If this traveler's proportions had actually disturbed others fliers or been prohibitive of Mr. Smith's movements Which they obviously weren't as he was able to board the plane), this reaction would have been justified. When I travel on flights with elderly passengers or families with infants, I am made uncomfortable and unsafe. Elderly travelers are often slow and unable to operate emergency devices (or stow/remove their personal overhead luggage), while infants and/or toddlers crying and kicking my seat throughout a trip certainly make me uncomfortable. If airlines such as Southwest would like to create policies for comfort, they should do so unilaterally, as well as enforce such policies unilaterally. As it stands, to brush this under the rug of a "Safety and Comfort" policy is capricious.
Anonymous2489
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This blog post is full of shit, and you guys know it. Now stop speading lies about your 'amazing' customer service which is frankly appaling.
Funny_about_Mon
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Why should Southwest have to apologize to this gentleman? Why not simply provide seats that are comfortable for human beings? No one who rides an airplane these days can be anything other than squished in and miserable. I'm a pretty svelte female, myself -- neither very tall nor very wide -- and I'm so uncomfortable on airplanes I avoid airline flight at all costs. It didn't used to be that way. I've been flying transatlantic since the days of the Constellation, and I can assure you that the business of jamming people in like sardines is a recent development. So is awful customer service. Neither type of customer abuse is necessary. Love your "peanuts" page design: so emblematic!!! Even better than the scornful tone of the post's title.
Anonymous1795
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I had decided years ago that Southwest was too craptastic to ever fly with them again. I'm not a particular fan of Smith but he has every right to complain about the manner in which he was treated. That you chose the snarky title "Not so silent Bob" is just further evidence that you care little about your customers. It's so sad for big corporations when the customers they mistreat won't just STFU and take it.
Anonymous2755
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I feel sorry for people of size . I also do not feel persons of size is a disability .Thats a joke!!!! I hope South West sticks to its guns and diggs in its heel. If a person is encroctching on another seat they pay at a discount for another one. It a fair policy YOU KNOW IF YOU NEED ANOTHER SEAT. OWN up to it Kevin knew he needed another seat he had already purcased two on earlier flight. People of size KNOW you people of size Medical or not Do something of your size not disability act thats not what you are... Maggie not afraid to say a spade a spade try it
Former_Southwes3
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This is not an apology, this is Southwest's attempt to use Social Media for PR Damage control.
Amy__Tricia_and
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Ruh roh. Now you guys have done it. You'll never hear the end of this. I look forward to seeing how long it takes you guys to change some cruddy polices that you and other airlines have. If I were you, I would figure out a better solution quickly. Good luck... you're going to need it.
Aaron6
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So, will Southwest be picking up Kevin's 'Daley Show' challenge to prove him wrong? Wall Street Journal Article with challenge http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/02/15/morning-roundup-director-kevin-smith-challenges-southwest-airlines-to-prove-he-was-2-fat-2-fly/
kneesus
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Would SWA have scrambled to apologize if it was just some normal guy instead of a famous director? I doubt it. Way to insult the guy by offering him a measly hundred bucks after you pretty much gave him the adult equivalent of being pants-ed then wedgied while all the kids are chanting "fatty". Now you release his private information? So if I complained would you tell everybody how I had an allergic reaction to stupidity last time I flew with SWA? The most disgusting thing is how they've been pushing this aggressive advertising campaign about how great they are. Maybe SWA should show everybody how good of shape they need to be in before they buy a ticket. Put that information out Southwest Airlines, let's see that commercial.
Happy1
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Shame on you Southwest. You are discriminating against your own customers and then trying to cover it up with your "policy." I called your "customer service" phone number to voice my concerns yesterday, but was told by two different representatives that they couldn't take my complaint. I was unaware of how poor the service was at Southwest until Mr. Smith bravely exposed your treatment of larger-sized customers. No one is fooled by your weak and deceitful "apology."
intnorbertcon
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"Many of you reached out to us via Twitter" "reached out" is now my favorite euphemism for "public pranging". All I know is were this exact same series of events to have happened to a normal human, they would not have gotten a personal phonecall of apology, a lightning-fast rescheduling and a blog entry about the event and its resolution. Not to mention about eighty fragdillion comments on same. Good job of putting out a fire over a weekend, tho.
Mike_from_Michi
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I am not sure if posting this is just for my own satisfaction or if anyone will ever read it. I sympathize with the gentleman that had this problem and with the airline who now has the PR issue. I also am a routine flyer and I have to sit next to a variety of people with whom I would never normally share personal space. I try to understand, first, how my own actions and behavior might affect others befiore I sit there frustrated over the way that I am being handled by my unwelcome seatmate and the airline which has allowed the unpleasant situation. Besides the passenger who is "width-challenged", I include the passengers who are hygiene-chalenged and mothers with "lap-babies". I also include the executive who is reading a full newspaper and the hurried traveler with the Big-Mac-and-Fries combo. If any of them asked if I mind if they sit next to me, I would answer differently if I were personally asked than if I responded in a blog. Yes, I mind. If you have to ask if you can emcroach on my space and ruin my trip, why not just avoid doing whatever you are doing that needs my permission? In any case, SWA (and United, Alaska, TED, DELTA, etc., etc.) -- keep the standards of flying at a courteous and respectful level. Prevent discourtesy where you can, but don't be discourteous if you enforce rules and guidelines. I pay full fare for my seat and I want to sit in it -- with the armrest down. MIKE
SW
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It's a SAD day when SouthWest can't control their MEDIA! And having a condescending Conservative Christian debate human respect for a company like Southwest is OUTRAGEOUS! Get a real decent compassionate person who won't make fun of a serious situation! Christy Day has GOT TO GO! What a complete TOOL! Refund his money and keep him as a client! Heck! Make him your new spokes-model. Southwest used to be cool...what happened?!?!
Ready_to_Change
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Listen beanpoles, the MAJORITY of America is heavy and these issues regarding seats are going to keep coming up. How about a NORMAL sized seat. Before, you start griping this is not the issue, IT IS THE ISSUE. The airlines, including Southwest, have made smaller and smaller seats to cram as many people into a flight. Even thin people have trouble getting enough leg room. Live and let live and just let us fly. HEY, its Southwest. The Peoples Airline, and the people are heavy. How about adding a couple of inches and adding a ten dollars to the fare. Then create a new campaign. You are now free to be yourself around the country. Sincerely, New American Airlines Customer
Maria3
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What a bunch of BS! How do you explain humiliating that woman on the flight he eventually flew home on? I mean seriously folks, can we please just call a spade a spade? Southwest Airlines hates fat people and their employees carry out that mentality. Over and over again SW has these PR issues because someone finally makes a fuss. Can you imagine how many inappropriate things happen at SW that we DON'T hear about? What a bunch of jerks!!!
Joe32
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No one wants to say it but as a frequent air traveler who has had the unfortunate experience of being seated next to an obese person, I applaud SouthWest Air and the way they handled this situation. If you are grossly obese, you simply have to do more careful planning and unfortunately you may not be able to change your flight on a whim. Stay the course Southwest. I haven't flown your airline before - but I will now!
Linda8
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Thank you Southwest for being considerate of ALL of your customers. I resent paying for a seat and then having to share a part of it with someone who cannot fit between the arm rests.
Maria3
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What a bunch of BS! How do you explain humiliating that woman on the flight he eventually flew home on? I mean seriously folks, can we please just call a spade a spade? Southwest Airlines hates fat people and their employees carry out that mentality. Over and over again SW has these PR issues because someone finally makes a fuss. Can you imagine how many inappropriate things happen at SW that we DON'T hear about? What a bunch of jerks!!!
Kasarr
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For Real??? I sincerely mean, REALLY??? This is how you conduct your business. You use tweets and blogs to respond to an outrageous situation that should be handled in person and a bit more privately. Yes, Yes, I know... he started it, so what, he should have. If this weren't Kevin Smith and if it hadn't gone so viral because he's Kevin Smith, you'd be threatening litigation for slander. You people are disgusting.
Anonymous3162
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Thank You SW for looking out for the rest of us. I am a small person who at times has had to sit next to a large person that has been crammed into the seat beside me. It is not pleasant. Even tho their lower body is between the arm reats, their upper body is not. By the way who the heck is Kevin Smith. If he is such a hot shot why isn't he flying first class on another airline and leaving SW to us ordinary people.
Stephen_Slogget
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Thank you SWA!!! I for one don't mind saying I'm sick of beng compressed by overweight passengers sitting next to me. Any airline that applies this logic will get my business. Sorry Kevin, I know you're famous, rich & everything & that I'm just a pleb so my opinion doesn't count for aything but maybe you could start having some consideration for others. Just because the person sitting next to you doesn't complain doesn't mean you're not making things uncomfortable for them. Buy two seats or lose some weight...now there's an idea...your cardiovascular system will thank you too. Have a nice day.
Anonymous2826
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Yeah, that was adorable and whatnot but you know darn well he could fit in the seat. So let me personally tell you southwest blog writers that i hate your company, and will never pay for your "services" since you dont seem to understand that you're supposed to treat a customer with respect and when you write a sad excuse for an apology letter (blog) you act like you bloody mean it instead of making up a bunch of bull about how you were right to treat him in such a manner when he was only taking up one seat. Seriously, this was the worst apology i have ever read in my entire life. When you apologize you dont fucking say, you deserved it asshole, you said you were wrong and that he was right. Even when you're trying to make up for a wrong (probably because you want his/our money, not because you care) you treat the him like shit. Now i maybe skinny so this will never be a problem for me, but i demand you treat other people with dignity. The way you treated kevin Smith and that poor woman (mostly the woman, she's the one you should really be sending your half assed apology to) is wrong. Die in a fire, assholes.
BillE
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Southwest you have my vote on kicking the BLOB off the plane. His rights do not over rule someone elses rights. The other person paid for a seat, not half a seat because some lard ass over-flowes into his. I'll fly with you folks anyday.
Anonymous124
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They probably had extra seats on the plane, just not TWO ADJACENT SEATS. I think they did the right thing. I'm not sure why everyone is in an uproar about it. Limits on size have to be set for the safety of other passengers in the event of an emergency. I applaud the airline for addressing the situation so quickly online.
Barbara_Martin
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As a person who has sat next to an "overflowing passenger" all through a very uncomfortable flight during which my movement was limited, I thank you for your stand on this. If passengers are going to infringe on another's space, they need to buy an extra seat, as Mr. Smith usually does. I think his loud stand on this does not reflect his wise practice in the past, and I applaud your decision to make comfortalbe the person who purchased his ticket in a timely manner. Sincerely, Barbara Martin
Jen_Hathaway
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As a point of interest, I made sure to also listen to Kevin's podcast about this story. Turns out that on the subsequent flight, he had two seats and another larger person was seated in the third seat, with his empty seat between them. She was between the armrests with her seatbelt buckled. The attendant took the girl out of her seat, walked her to some other place, and told her that next time she flies, she should purchase a second seat, then brought her back to her seat in the row with Kevin. The girl was humiliated- and for no reason, as there was already an empty seat in the row AND the girl was buckled up between the armrests. He found out about this later on in the flight after he and his fellow passenger talked a bit. He described her emotional state as "brittle" as a result of the incident. His fury and motivation for continuing to make this so public was not about his own experience, but because after having witnessed this blatant humiliation of a fellow passenger who does not have his resources or public platform, he realized that Southwest regularly humiliates its passengers as a matter of policy. An excellent documentary that all Southwest customers and employees should be required to watch "The Corporation" [google it]. It describes the sociopathic behavior of corporations [and their employees]. I would suggest that with all of the insane "antiterrorist" measures in place when people fly these days- which have never, by the way, stopped any terrorists, but only turn passengers into dehumanized cattle and create a antagonistic relationship between passengers and personnel- that with all of those other indignities we all have to face at the hands of the air travel industry, this additional dehumanizing measure is well beyond the pale. Southwest has in this situation failed to provide one of the most essential points of human service: Respect.
Schnack
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Considering that Mr Smith (1) Discussed this with SWA staff prior to boarding (he does buy 2 seats for privacy, not for size reasons). (2) Did not require a seatbelt extender. (3) Fit within the armrests. (4) Had the support of the passengers on both sides of him - that they were comfortable. I have to draw the conclusion that SWA exercised some *other* criteria for considering Mr. Smith to be a safety hazard - which SWA has thus far declined to state. Will the airline be issuing a more specific statement so that potential customers who wish to avoid this kind of awful embarrassment and inconvenience can ensure we don't fall foul of your rules?
Anonymous4416
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To all the fattys... lose some weight... its for your own health.