Skip to main content

Southwest Airlines Community

Not So Silent Bob

cday
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
Anonymous3914
Not applicable
i'm 5'9" 170 lbs and even i can't put the arm rests down comfortably on a plane.
Anonymous786
Not applicable
Christi Day is an idiot. This is the most unapologetic crap even written. You would think that SWA could afford a REAL pr company or at least a pr rep who gives a s#it - this idiot is probably just thinking about boozing and clubing all night. I will never fly SWA again
brenbabe
Not applicable
I am sure that I will not consider Southwest on my next airline flight or maybe never. I would never want to be subjected to the humiliation of the subjective opionion of an employee that may decide in "their opinion" that I am TOO FAT.
brenbabe
Not applicable
I am sure that I will not consider Southwest on my next airline flight or maybe never. I would never want to be subjected to the humiliation of the subjective opionion of an employee that may decide in "their opinion" that I am TOO FAT.
Anonymous31111
Not applicable
But he said he could get both armrests down. Why would a passenger be de-planed for size if he can get both armwrests down? I'd rather sit next to K Smith than someone coughing, a baby, someone eating stinky Chinese takeout leftovers, someone who forgot to bathe this week, or someone with gas.
Peter_Rad
Not applicable
You do not regularly enforce this policy. That's the big trouble. In October, on a direct flight from PHX to TPA, I had a large older man sitting in the middle who pulled up the armrest to fit. He was halfway in my seat the whole flight. I got no rest and was irritated the whole time. I paid for my seat - my whole seat - not to share it with a larger passenger. What determines if someone is going to be deemed too fat to fly? A pilot making a subjective decision? This is one of those issues that you either always enforce or you end up on the wrong end of a PR disaster - like the guy who missed his uncle's funeral.
Anonymous22
Not applicable
"Customer of Size" How charming and what a perfect reason for me never to fly Southwest. Just keep on insulting customers. Did you think this post was somehow going to redeem you? Get bent Southwest.
Kari
Not applicable
I find it interesting that no one, including Southwest, seems to care why he bought two seats in the first place, which he said was because his wife was planning on going but changed her mind, and he kept the 2nd seat so he wouldn't have to sit next to someone else. He says he does have a history of purchasing two tickets because he doesn't want to sit next to someone, which, if I had enough $$, I would do as well. How does that make the jump that if he bought two seats, it must be because HE thought he was too large to fit in the seat? I don't get it. This is not an apology, it's an excuse, and the two of you are telling conflicting stories, so it's difficult to know who to believe.
Anonymous4234
Not applicable
What you really need to do is take your whining attitude to the BIG LOSER! Your language and attitude make you a BIG LOSER to everyone out here reading this blog! You should be ashamed of yourself! Southwest Airlines is my airlines of choice. I don't like sitting next to people who overflow into my seat. I appreciate the SWA policy of offering candidates for the BIG LOSER show two seats for two tickets. You made the mistake of NOT using your two tickets that you purchased for the flight. If there was only one seat left when YOU CHOSE to go standby, YOU should have CHOSEN to stay on your original flight where you had two seats to fit. But then.......you would have no reason to WHINE about it later! Do all of us loyal Southwest cusotmers a huge favor......Book your next flight on American Airlines. Enjoy paying for your checked bags on every flight too. As you so candidly point out, you can afford to pay for two seats, so you can afford American Airlines and their outrageous charges for bags too!
EK
Not applicable
You didn't follow your own policy if we believe Mr. Smith's story that he passed the armrest test. Longtime flyer with SWA, but your inability to be consistent with policy and message makes me question if I will fly with you again. Having the flexibility in your terms of service to deny a seat "for any reason" just opens the door to discrimination. I'm not sure if this situation qualifies, but it certainly doesn't win my vote for you either.
MadMi
Not applicable
Great!! - How about you also ban ugly people because I HATE sitting next to them- YUCK! Nothing worse than spending 8 hours next to a fugly.. and oh, how about people that smell bad and people that smell like cigarette smoke? I hate having to smell other people's stink. And while you're at it, please remove all kids under 14 because they don't know how to behave or shut-up.....and no old people- they snore and it annoys me. Thanks for being the airline for perfect people only!
Micheal_Glenn
Not applicable
I think SouthWest tried to respond too quickly and screwed up the apology. If you listen to Smith's Smodcast he thinks it is linked to one guy. Unfortunately others have to enforce what the higher ups tell them . In a situation of Cover Your Ass, this blog and whoever made this apology probably heard a story of Moby Dick on the plane and that's why instead of a real apology we get a rules explanation. They should have talked to each an every worker who came in contact with Smith. The first question is whether he passed he arm rest test which Smith says he did? The second question should have been who made the decision and on what basis? And lastly, do you think he should have been ejected? Smith shows a picture of himself on the next flight. He's making a funny blowfish face but what he should have done was take a picture of him passing the arm rest test. Really game over at that point.
Micheal_Glenn
Not applicable
I think SouthWest tried to respond too quickly and screwed up the apology. If you listen to Smith's Smodcast he thinks it is linked to one guy. Unfortunately others have to enforce what the higher ups tell them . In a situation of Cover Your Ass, this blog and whoever made this apology probably heard a story of Moby Dick on the plane and that's why instead of a real apology we get a rules explanation. They should have talked to each an every worker who came in contact with Smith. The first question is whether he passed he arm rest test which Smith says he did? The second question should have been who made the decision and on what basis? And lastly, do you think he should have been ejected? Smith shows a picture of himself on the next flight. He's making a funny blowfish face but what he should have done was take a picture of him passing the arm rest test. Really game over at that point.
Anonymous987
Not applicable
Almost 400 comments have been posted as I write this, and it boggles my mind that most posters can't fathom what's really going on here. Southwest doesn't "hate" fat people, nor do any of the other airlines that have similar, if not identical policies concerning passengers of size. Mr. Smith knew the policies, and had previously flown on many Southwest flights having purchased two seats, after which he no doubt sought and received refunds for the second seat. Let me repeat the obvious--Smith KNEW the rules and how the process worked. Fast forward to his flight this past weekend. He has a reservation (his usual 2 seats) for his flight, but opts to go on an earlier flight as a standby. There's one empty seat (not two) left and the Southwest agent apparently goofs and let's him aboard. The captain catches the agent's error, and asks him to deplane. WAAH! They're picking on me because they say I'm fat! WAAH! If Smith had wanted to make the agent's goof "the issue" that would have been one thing (and the correct thing), but his framing the issue as he has ignores the reality that he KNOWS the policy and has complied with it on previous flights. So, why all the ruckus and tweeting that Southwest is evil incarnate? Gee, does the fact that Smith has a major movie opening on Feb. 26th (less than a week away) factor into this? How many articles on this weekend's brouhaha happened to mention his upcoming movie? What a disingenuous way to get some free publicity, not to mention being a sad commentary on how tweeting can be used as an electronic lynch mob and a disincentive for people using their own brains.
Micheal_Glenn
Not applicable
I think SouthWest tried to respond too quickly and screwed up the apology. If you listen to Smith's Smodcast he thinks it is linked to one guy. Unfortunately others have to enforce what the higher ups tell them . In a situation of Cover Your Ass, this blog and whoever made this apology probably heard a story of Moby Dick on the plane and that's why instead of a real apology we get a rules explanation. They should have talked to each an every worker who came in contact with Smith. The first question is whether he passed he arm rest test which Smith says he did? The second question should have been who made the decision and on what basis? And lastly, do you think he should have been ejected?
Anonymous3306
Not applicable
Im not a fat man, at 5'11 about 210, Im a fit guy, and I have big shoulders, when my dad brother and I fly together, we sit with shoulders touchign the whole way damned flight, i wear a size 32 waist pant. Are we going to need to start buying a extra seat now too, cause i was born with broad shoulders? Can we start kicking off those chicks who think a purse the size of a beach bag isnt a second carry-on? Or what about this guy over here who breaths really heavily? This lady has a fro, and part of is is touching my Chair.. Boot that bitch off too?
Anonymous3178
Not applicable
I am definitely afraid to fly with you guys now and I am a bit smaller than Kevin Smith, here I come Jet Blue. I would rather save myself the embarrassment.
Sean8
Not applicable
Maybe the pilot just really didn't like Clerks 2.
Jason21
Not applicable
I am larger than Kevin Smith and even I fit in the seats and don't need a belt extender. And for all those applauding the exclusion of fatties, there are more of us than you. Not good or bad, simply a fact. If this truly is a free market airlines should be catering to us. Oh wait, several (Midwest, NWA) are. Second, get the facts right. Many of you bring up valid points about safety, if he truly did not fit. He did. If the the people next to him were uncomfortable. They weren't. Go here to get the facts (although laced with extremely funny vulgarity. http://www.smodcast.com/
Anonymous2499
Not applicable
I appreciate Southwest for enforcing the policy which keeps the passengers safe and comfortable. Anyone who has ever flown next to someone overflowing into his or her space is no doubt grateful that this airline has the gumption to do so!! Keep it up, Southwest. I'm just sorry you gave out the $100 voucher.
Anonymous3602
Not applicable
I think that there are comments on this blog that show the mindset of people that some are concerned about. The flight's captain singled out Kevin Smith for being obese. A bunch of posts favor your position with ignorant comments like "fat people smell" or they encroach on "my space" (which airlines keep small to get more passengers on a plane to hopefully make more money per flight). If Southwest applied this to any other social group, someone that was Black, Asian, Jewish, maybe or otherwise handicapped you'd catch a legal and political $hit storm. Of course, lucky for you it's okay to humiliate and embarrass someone who is overweight. 32.2% of adults suffer from obesity. Another 30% of Americans are simply overweight.
Nate2
Not applicable
SOLUTIONS: Everyone likes to complain. Let's talk about solutions. How about offering a few larger seats on each plane for your customers of size? Even if you have to charge a small / reasonable premium, I think they would be just as happy to pay it as the skinny people would like to see them there. I don't mean offer extended legroom seats for a super premium like some airlines/flights. I mean some oversized seats to accomodate passengers who might affect safety and comfort of others in the regular tiny seats. Like someone mentioned, airlines go out of their way to offer accomodations to passengers in wheelchairs, etc. How about a little SWA love for the Texas-sized tall people and people of size?
Linda_Clark
Not applicable
Lame response to the issue. It must be nice to be able to sit back and decide which people you will allow to be customers of yours. I'm not even overweight and I used to love a flight on Southwest....sorry but you've been moved to the last choice on the list. I don't like the egotistical attitude that comes with a policy like this. If you so concerned with the comfort of all customers, you wouldn't sacrifice one based on this. Why not slightly wider seats? What's next, you're going to ban all mothers and fathers who want to travel with their kids because the passenger next to them feels their noise level is intruding on their ear comfort? Please rethink this. I'll be sure to read up on Southweat Air's policies going forward. No changes? Then no money from me.
MizWright
Not applicable
So, here's my question: If Smith was unable to "fit" into his seat, and the "determination" was made that he was a hazard to the [poorly capitalised] "comfort and Safety" of the rest of the flight, why has he never been ousted from a flight by you before? If he was able to meet the standards you have set, and demonstrated them at the time of the flight, why was he publicly humiliated in front of a plane full of others? I'm not a small person, but neither am I a "customer of size," to the best of my knowledge: I am a 5'10" woman, weighing in at 160. By current standards, I am a tall woman, but I am generally regarded as "small" because I am relatively thin. I fly about twice a month, generally on flights that are three or more hours, and I am often uncomfortable on flights - regardless of the size of my seatmates. Not because I am fat, or because they are fat, but because current plane configurations pretty much blow a goat and are hideously uncomfortable for all humans. While I certainly believe a company should adhere to its policies, I also believe those policies should be consistently enforced and error acknowledged. In a similar vein, I have a difficult time finding it in my best interests to patronise a company that would a) disclose my shopping history with them so openly, b) humiliate a patron with so little regard for the dignity we should all afford one another as a matter of course - and should demonstrate that much more by virtue of being a business that, by its nature, is a member of the service industry.
Tired_of_incons
Not applicable
I have suffered too many times sitting next to 'people of size' that spill over to the next seat and make your flight not only miserable, but unacceptable. Good for you Southwest! I wish you would even define 'people of size' to smaller dimensions!
Micheal_Glenn
Not applicable
I think SouthWest tried to respond too quickly and screwed up the apology. If you listen to Smith's Smodcast he thinks it is linked to one guy. Unfortunately others have to enforce what the higher ups tell them . In a situation of Cover Your Ass, this blog and whoever made this apology probably heard a story of Moby Dick on the plane and that's why instead of a real apology we get a rules explanation. They should have talked to each an every worker who came in contact with Smith. The first question is whether he passed he arm rest test which Smith says he did? The second question should have been who made the decision and on what basis? And lastly, do you think he should have been ejected? Smith took a picture of himself making a bloated face while on the last airplane. I wished he would have taken a picture of him passing the arm rest test. It would have been game over. Now it continues with a he said/she said scenario.
Anonymous3729
Not applicable
Wow. You can't buy this much BAD PUBLICITY for $10 Million. Southwest should get their highest level Corporate Communications Director on this to work out a PR solution. No matter which "side" the public "weights in on" (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) - the initial Southwest Airlines Blog article began condescending in it's title "Not So Silent Bob", so sets the tone for bad PR. Can't believe Southwest's Statement was vetted at all. Let's see Southwest's President hit the late-night talk shows with Silent Bob and get this thing behind them both. Or loose millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Anonymous2759
Not applicable
Shame on you Southwest. I am a frequent Southwest traveler but this is WAY too much subjective. Do you remove passengers for odor? Legs too long? Speaking to loudly? Kids kicking seat backs? Southwest, you really do need to get it together. I will certainly think twice before buying another ticket on your airline. You know it, we all know it; airline seat are simply too small to begin with. Offer a product that literally "fits" with the reality of our world today.
Anonymous2279
Not applicable
I am fat. I fit in one seat with the arm rests down and I sit hunched upon myself so as not to disturb seatmates. But I'd never fly Southwest. They are too arbitrary in enforcement.
Anonymous1251
Not applicable
I've seen people like this have to back into the toilet because they couldn't walk in and turn around. They are also a major safety hazard should an emergency evacuation be required. Not to mention having to sit in an adjacent seat to one of these behemoths! They wreak of Big Macs and their sweaty folds drape over the armrest and onto your body. And when the doze off all control is lost and their blubber spills into and over every unused space.
Anonymous1249
Not applicable
You offered the most pathetic apology I have ever seen, southwest. I believe I'll have to fly on a different airline now.
Christine_Fergu
Not applicable
Your company's policies are pathetic and this situation is pathetic. I will NEVER fly Southwest. I'm almost glad that this happened to someone that has the platform to shed light on your absolutely senseless and prejudiced way of doing business.
Sean21
Not applicable
You guys are liars. Also your customer service has gone way down in the past few years. I was on a flight where I was shutting down my phone as we pulled away from the gate and a power hungry stewardess yanked the phone out of my hand like I was a third-grader passing notes. I am done with you unless your employees get an attitude makeover. JET BLUE!!!!
Anonymous929
Not applicable
From the guy in the middle seat with only 2/3 of the room I paid for while spending two hours getting snuggly with two very large people I would prefer not to have gotten to know on such a physically intimate level, thanks, Southwest. While you might have tactfully advised him before he got on the plane that if he needed two tickets worth of room, he was not going to get it going standby rather than removing him from the plane later, he should not have been on that flight. Your ground staff left your aircrew in an awkward position that gave them no choice but to offend somebody.
Was_There
Not applicable
I would tell the captain again, Ive been next to large people on a plane and wont do it again . Im SORRY if it hurts peoples feelings but it so hard to be smashed in to your seat for a long flight . They should buy 2 seats because they are as big as 2 people . USA HAS ALOT OF OVER WEIGHT PEOPLE , and for Southwest to speak up on our behalf . I say thank you.
bianca
Not applicable
This is not an "apology" at all. Your shaming of customers and awful "apology" are why i will NEVER fly southwest again.
Anonymous2281
Not applicable
I look forward to documenting the individuals larger than Mr Smith on all future flights to document the absurd lies from SWA
flaarnsturgen
Not applicable
I have flown SWA for many years, simply because I'm a total cheapskate with a low need for basic creature comfort. I don't particularly enjoy being crowded by someone who has trouble fitting into your 17 inch seats, but that's just one of the things I elect to put up with by choosing to ride the "cattlecars of the skies". What I cannot abide, though, is your pretense of fairness and concern for customer well-being. Your arbitrary application of overly broad rules and fumbling rationalizations when caught doing it show you too clearly for the bullies that you are. Thanks for all the years of cheap tickets, but it's time to take my fat ass somewhere else.
Jeremy6
Not applicable
Thank you Southwest for considering the rights and comfort of the rest of us that are not over weight. No one wants another person pouring over into the seat we paid for making us uncomfortable for a 3 hour flight they snooze on our shoulder and 25% of the seat we paid for. It is not our fault they are overweight and we should not have to suffer for it or share our seat for it for the next 3 hours. I think your extra seat policy is wonderful and it is also very nice that you offer a refund for their extra seat if the flight is not full. What more could be asked for. If you are overweight, think of it from everyone else's perspective. How would you like it if the airline allowed underweight 90 pound men to sit on your lap for a 3 hour flight if there were no extra seats from them, would that be ok with you. I think not. Stay off my lap and I'll stay off yours. Bravo South West, I thank you and I am sure the passenger that was sitting next to Kevin Smith from Oakland to Burbank thanks you. Tweet On Mr. Smith, Tweet On. Oh & put down those french fries.
LLJessR
Not applicable
Don't you guys know that the #1 rule in apologizing is to NOT follow it with a justification? I'm curious how the captain was even involved... Every flight I've been on, they are holed up in the cockpit and don't even look at the people boarding... Maybe Southwest hates Jersey.
D__Carey
Not applicable
It's a bunch of hooey! I've not flown SW because of this policy (although I do not have a problem with seat/body size) but I will continue not to fly SW. Their attitude towards consumers is "who cares"....."we don't". They are disgusting in the way they approached this situation and they most certainly could have figured out BEFORE he was seated, his size is a problem. SW is becoming the worst in the airline business. Too expensive, too many rules for their own convenience, not for the convenience of consumers.
Anonymous984
Not applicable
Why did you apologize? I'm glad you removed him from the plane, and would've been glad to see you stand up for your employees' actions.
Zip
Not applicable
Most airline seats are terribly uncomfortable and are quite a joke. Bottom line, Kevin is not that fat. I'm hungry, I am gonna go eat some fast foot. SWA, you suck.
Disciplined
Not applicable
Good job Southwest! Too many people whether fat or not, try to mess with the system and when they don't get something for nothing they whine about it. The policy has been there forever. He tried to scam the system by going standby and getting both seats. What did he want an announcement on the plane "hey everyone get out of two seats so I can give a "standby person two seats and you have to be crunched in three seats with two other people . . . ." He could have waited for his original flight & got his two seats he paid for. If Mr. Smith was ethical, he would give the $100 voucher back, lose some weight, and pay his way like the rest of us. If he doesn't like the process, fly another airline!
Disciplined
Not applicable
Good job Southwest! Too many people whether fat or not, try to mess with the system and when they don't get something for nothing they whine about it. The policy has been there forever. He tried to scam the system by going standby and getting both seats. What did he want an announcement on the plane "hey everyone get out of two seats so I can give a "standby person two seats and you have to be crunched in three seats with two other people . . . ." He could have waited for his original flight & got his two seats he paid for. If Mr. Smith was ethical, he would give the $100 voucher back, lose some weight, and pay his way like the rest of us. If he doesn't like the process, fly another airline!
Anonymous1367
Not applicable
I have two tickets to LV in April, I wish I could cancel them. I'm not going to get thrown off the plane, but I would rather not fly with an organization like yours.
Anonymous3308
Not applicable
To Southwest Airlines: Learn how to apologize in a way that doesn't look like you are trying to cover your ass. Learn how to not knee jerk respond to what has to be the scariest thing (social media) since the boogeyman to you corporate types. You got caught. You got caught being a jerk to someone you had some percieved power over. You are the playground bully. Try this: Apologize like you mean it, say it with feeling and admit you were just meing a bunch of bullies. Oh and by the way, free bags or not, I'll be taking my 12 times a year round trips to LA to Virgin. Way better over there and they like us no matter what size we are.
RB1
Not applicable
This is truly an amazing story in so many ways. First, as others have pointed out, Mr. Smith knew of the policy which is why he purchased two seats to begin with. Second, I am absolutely amazed that he does not seem to understand or appreciate the discomfort he causes fellow passengers nor does he seem to care. And third, I am shocked to find out that there is a National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance..........I realize there are many (valid) reasons as to why certain people may be obese, but I can't figure out why anyone (including obese persons) would want to put their efforts into accepting this rather than to pursue successful treatment of this affliction / medical condition.
Anonymous694
Not applicable
You're digging your own grave here SouthWest. Kevin Smith has said repeatedly, to both your employees and to everyone who's willing to listen, that he DID, in fact, fit between those armrests. You also still have yet to explain why one or a few of your employees informed a "girl of size" on Kevin Smith's next flight that she might have to purchase an additional ticket when the seat next to her was empty and paid for by none other than Kevin Smith. It's one thing to inforce a safety policy. It's quite another to use it as an excuse to be unnecessarily rude to people.
Anonymous4319
Not applicable
I only have one question...if Mr. Smith weren't a celebrity and got asked to vacate his seat would he still have gotten apologies, phone calls, $100 travel voucher and a blog post writeen about him? I have seen several interviews done on local tv of crying, upset and embarassed passengers who were asked to vacate their seat because they wre too large. Tell me, did they get apologies, travel vouchers and phone calls????