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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
Jeff_T__Sampson
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Southwest has a very reasonable policy on dealing with overweight passengers, the problem here is that that policy was not followed. This passenger, famous or not, was singled out and a new policy was made up on the spot by someone from Southwest. From your website: "Customers who are unable to lower both armrests and/or who compromise any portion of adjacent seating should proactively book the number of seats needed prior to travel." According to Smith, he was able to lower both armrests and buckle the restraint even without the need for a belt extender. I don't see how this does not meet the guidelines so its hard to see this as anything other than arbitrary decision making on the part of the Southwest staff either at the gate, jetway or on the aircraft.
Anonymous1663
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You lost another customer. You lost Kevin Smith, who obviously spent a lot of money with you. And you lost me, who probably flew once a year. Maybe you don't care, but with 1.6 mil twitter followers of Kevin Smith, I think you may start to.
Anonymous197
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How bout putting down that double cheeseburger and not being so fat? Problem solved.
Simmering
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Frankly, I like the rule. I like the fact that SWA is willing to stand behind the rule. Itsnot like SWA has kept this a secret and they did offer Smith a voucher. He's embarrassed at how he was treated? Seriously, he wasn't embarrassed before he borded the plane. Projecting his inadequacies and weight issues onto SWA is not the airlines fault. If he doesn't like the airline policy, he is free to move his business somewhere else.
Simmering
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Frankly, I like the rule. I like the fact that SWA is willing to stand behind the rule. Itsnot like SWA has kept this a secret and they did offer Smith a voucher. He's embarrassed at how he was treated? Seriously, he wasn't embarrassed before he borded the plane. Projecting his inadequacies and weight issues onto SWA is not the airlines fault. If he doesn't like the airline policy, he is free to move his business somewhere else.
drelo
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Thanks Kevin.
m_batzman
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Every--I mean every organization must have policies in place that govern how people are treated. Especially airlines in this day and age. So it all comes down to how the policies are communicated, enforced and how the people affected by the policies are treated...period. Southwest has a policy for overweight people...fair enough--I would even agree it is needed. But this sounds like a total FAIL how the policy was communicated and enforced. And let's be honest...if it wasn't Kevin Smith with the media reach he has we would have never heard word one about this and another human would have been trampled on by corporate policies design for something good but customer service that is completely detached from the fact that they are dealing with people not cargo. Go Kevin Smith!!! Southwest get a clue about customer service!!!
fcancer
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Good for Southwest. Sorry Folks, nothing worse than paying for a seat and then you have someone taking over the entire armrest and a portion of your seat. This has nothing to do with morals people.
Dave111
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The enforcement of your policy is not done well. It humiliates and degrades overweight persons. You need to do a better job in communicating to overweight people this policy before they are seated on the plane. Maybe you have personnel problem with stressed out employees who just want to let off steam on the overweight?
Aaron5
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Bravo Southwest. This guy's showing just how classy he is by his low-class profanity filled tirades towards you. I'm sure the people sitting next to him aren't upset with Southwest. I know I wouldn't be. There are certain disadvantages to being overweight, and flying in an airplane comfortably is one of them. Lose some weight if you have that big of a problem with these types of things Mr. Smith.
PeopleOfSize_co
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Does Southwest hate fat people? We are 1/3-2/3 of your customers. We are talking about it today at http://www.facebook.com/peopleofsize.com. Also http://www.peopleofsize.com and info@peopleofsize.com.
Anonymous888
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All the people that are complaining and bitching that this is not right, are probably overweight and angry they have to buy two seats
Anonymous4329
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Rather than trashing a perfectly good company, couldn't Mr. Smith just stop super-sizing his combo meals?
Anonymous1126
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Wow. I always go out of my way to fly SWA, but after this incident I will go out of my way to avoid SWA. I am overweight, although not as large as Mr. Smith, but still fit easily in one seat, no seatbelt extender, with the arm rest down. I fly often. I've seen photos of Kevin Smith and this man most definitely should not have been removed from a plane for being too large. I've seen countless people flying on SWA much larger than Mr. Smith, in one seat. But, if it can happen to him, it concerns me that it could happen to me as well. How humiliating. Since SWA has come out and said his removal was indeed justifed, I'll definitely be avoiding the risk of such a situation in the future by flying another airline. If he fit in one seat, without a seatbelt extender, and with the armrest down, he never should have been removed. Shame on you SWA!!!
T_Day
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As a lardass myself, I sympathize with those forced to sit next to me. I do my best to stay in my territory and that always means I'm stuck awake for the entire flight. Smith gets no sympathy from me. It's not his metabolism. It's not a disease, an affliction, or a handicap. The dude can't keep his mouth shut, oblivious from this whole episode. If he isn't stuffing his mouth with food, he's whining that the world doesn't accommodate him. At some point, reality will set in, about the time he loses a limb due to diabetes or has a bypass and gets a defibrillator implanted. Whooo! He made a couple of bad movies and now he’s a star. Obviously the bar for infamy has been set so low that ants can’t crawl under it.
Anonymous1024
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HOORAY FOR SOUTHWEST! Thank you for showing concern for the 136 other people on your flights. As a frequent flyer of SWA, I absolutely believe you did the right thing: IF THE BUTT DOESN'T FIT...go back in the terminal and get another Cinnabon. Then hire NetJets.
njsmartie
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WOW I'm glad all these OBESE posters are taking other airlines. WHINE, WHINE, WHINE. Now I won't have to put up with your fat taking up a third or more of my seat.
John23
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This is justification--and a poor one at that--not an apology. Aside from the treatment on the airplane, I'm amazed (in a bad way) that in your "apology" you opted to share Mr. Smith's past purchasing history with the airline.
Anonymous251
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Isn't the real issue here the fact that most people are incredibly overweight? Instead of arguing about the fact that most people CHOOSE to be fat (98% of obese people have no medical issues related to their weight) people are suggesting the world should be re-designed to help make life easier for woman who are 200+ lbs and men who are 300+ lbs? Seriously? Maybe we wouldn't have the travel issues, health issues, social issues, etc if people HELD THEMSELVES ACCOUNTABLE - lose weight! Then, you only need to buy 1 seat and never need to worry about issues like this again. Simple resolution, right?
Brandon_Abell
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What is the actual size that people must be able to fit into to not be discriminated against? If you have a true "policy" then you must have actual dimensions and not the "discretion" of some lame pilot that got a free ride on his training from our military and taxpayers. You can do it with luggage, so do it with people. At the very least have some kind of special chair somebody can sit in that will tell them definitively whether you think they're too fat or not *before* they board the plane.
Aaron5
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Cheers to SWA!! This will be known as the new "non-fat airline." More space for everyone else since all the fatties will be on other airlines! Can't wait to fly SWA!
Karen_F
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I'm a big fan of Southwest AND a big fan of Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) but I do feel that he may have taken this a bit too far. He knew he needed 2 seats and did purchase 2 seats but then took an earlier flight and they only had 1 seat left. That is why he was asked to leave. I would think he would not want to be uncomfortable anyway - and would ...have wanted to leave. My suggestion to Kevin - if you want to be comfortable AND not to be hassled - fly 1st class on ANOTHER airline.
Definitely_Too_
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As a person who has bought 2 seats, because I really am too fat for one seat (and Kevin Smith certainly isn't), let me tell you that buying 2 seats on a packed flight is a recipe for misery. I've had the flight attendants seat people next to me anyhow, then the boss attendant announces to the entire cabin "No, the Fat Lady bought two seats" and then, basically, everyone on the plane, packed in like sardines, stares at you like "Oh, so you're some rich bigshot you get all that space to yourself, aren't you special?" The airlines need to have some friggin' bigger seats. It's not just unusually large people who are uncomfortable, lots of passengers are. They've made it impossibly uncomfortable, both physically and psychologically, for many of us to fly at all.
RKG
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One of those canceled tickets you got this morning? It was from me, and I'm 5'8" and 150 pounds. Now that I realize tickets are so cheap because you have business practices such as this, I don't feel the need to fly you every two weeks to Chicago anymore. Northwest isn't that much more expensive.
Anonymous2
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Why is it as a Non-American the only press I EVER see about Southwest is negative. I mean it doesn't help that the only supporters of this policy are about as obnoxious as the policy itself. I've never see this level of bad press for KLM or British Airways.
Anonymous2692
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SW, regardless of Kevin Smith's behavior, you've completely botched your handling of this from the start. You should have had a VP contact him immediately to defuse the situation, but now to try giving a justification and getting into a he-said/we-said battle is even more bizarre and a no-win approach. At best you look slightly petty and fumbling, at worst you look arrogant and idiotic (my view). I'd recommend you fire your current PR/mktg people and hire some with a clue.
Anonymous3543
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I fly regularly and unless you have some sort of medical notice stating your weight is uncontrollable, then this policy is fine. Using "America is fat" as an excuse to ok the discomfort of everyone who has self control is sad. I continue to fly Southwest as my preferred choice because I don't have someone spilling over into my seat.
robert_forreste
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The seats should be wider. Men have broad shoulders. Their butt can fit comfortably in the seat portion of the entire seat but the shoulders of each bumps into the adjacent passenger. Gets most uncomfortable on flights of 2 hours duration or greater. Amarillo, TX
BFF
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GREAT JOB SOUTHWEST!!! I would love to have seen the face of the poor passenger seated next to him. I'm sure it was a look of total relief! It's his choice to be fat. It's not my choice to sit next to him and be smashed in my seat as he's taking MORE THAN HIS SEAT!!!
Anonymous4517
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Thank you Southwest for having the guts to protect my safety in case I have to get out of the seat in an emergency, and preserving my right to enjoy my seat without an unwelcome visitor. I will fly you now as my first choice. Good work!!
Anonymous2537
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Stick to your guns Southwest! Who wants to be stuck on an airplane sitting next to Not-So-Silent-Bob with his rolls of flab spilling over into the adjacent seat? I have had to endure this nasty situation at other airlines. Now I know that if I fly Southwest, I won;t have to put up with it. He knew the rules... he just wanted some free publicity. Bravo to the SWA Team and especially that pilot !
Carolyn
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Okay, here goes !! To date, my son and I have flown with SWA three times. The only reason we have continued to fly with them at all is because we have LUV (an inappropriate name for anything associated with SWA) Vouchers issued as credit from their COS policy ! The first time we flew with them, the check in agent asked if my son would need a second seat and then explained the COS policy (at no point during the online reservation procedure was it ever notated that people of size would have to purchase a second seat), we told the agent that he had always fit into the seats at Delta and that we didn't anticipate that we would have a problem with SWA seats either, so he sent us through with the one ticket. When we arrived at the boarding gate, the agent there informed us that the ticketing agent had phoned ahead to inform her that we refused to purchase a second seat. She looked at my son and said “There is no way he will fit into one seat. Look at him! “Of course, the airport was crowded and she made the statement in a tone that could be heard by everyone within relatively close proximity. My son was so embarrassed that he walked away to let me deal with it. The board gate agent was not only unsympathetic; she was extremely rude and unprofessional. I asked to speak with a supervisor. He allowed us to enter the plane, made sure that my son fit into the seat with the armrest down, then told my son, “You are not to raise those armrests for the entire flight or it will be assumed that you could not fit into the seat comfortably. " What the heck??!!! I didn't hear a single comment to any of the other passengers aboard that plane that they were not permitted to raise their armrest during the flight!!! I was angry, but assumed the worst was over. I was wrong!! Once we arrived at our destination, we had a wonderful vacation. However, when we arrived at the airport in Las Vegas for our return flight home, we were faced with a nightmare!!! The ticketing agent was rude, he told us " You MUST purchase a second seat in order to fly “I advised him that the supervisor in Columbus had boarded my son first, insured he fit into the seat, that we flew nonstop from Columbus to Las Vegas without discomfort and that there was no conceivable reason we shouldn't be able to do the same on the flight home. He replied “I don't care what they did in Columbus; your son is too fat to fit into one seat “ WHAT ??? By that time I was pissed ! I told him that SWA had set a precedent by allowing him to fly in one seat and they should honor the original determination and allow him to fly in one seat. Again, we were sent on to the gate with one ticket. When we arrived at the boarding gate, the flight was overbooked and they were requesting volunteers to be ' bumped ' . My son and I had a flexible schedule and we told them that we would give up our seats and take the next flight. While we were waiting, two SWA employees approached us...we assumed they were going to tell us that they had accepted our offer to take a later flight and give us the details. The woman spoke first, she said that we were scheduled on flight **** to Columbus, but the flight was overbooked, we only had one ticket for my son and " there is no way he is boarding that plane with one ticket and unless someone is willing to give up their seat, there isn't another ticket available for him, so he can't fly " It was an overbooked flight...there were hundreds of people all around us, they did not ask us to step aside so they could address this with a modicum of privacy to avoid embarrassment or unpleasantness, they voiced their opinions in a crowded venue for everyone to hear ! Why is it that am I no longer surprised at the complete unprofessionalism of Southwest employees ? I advised them that we had already volunteered to take a bump in order to accommodate other passengers, but I also informed them that I didn't appreciate their lack of compassion, nor their lack of judgment in how to address such a delicate matter. She said that we HAD NO CHOICE, that we had to accept a bump to a later flight and directed me to the agent who would be making those arrangements, but again, she stated, " He must purchase a second seat or I absolutely will not permit him to board the plane " She followed me to the desk to make our new flight arrangements and then she told the agent there that she would just do it herself to insure it was done correctly. She then told us that instead of a nonstop return flight that we would have a four hour wait, take a flight to Salt Lake City, then board another plane for the return to Columbus. After she had the basic details arranged, she told the other agent to finish up and then she walked away without a word to my son or me. The second agent was very polite and extremely apologetic, but when he went to print out our tickets, it seems that Ms High n Mighty had neglected to reserve our tickets from Salt Lake City to Columbus, that it had over booked in the meantime, and there wouldn't be another flight out until the following day ! So, had the other agent not verified the details, we would have been stranded in Salt Lake City ! He told me that the best he could do would be to arrange for us to take a flight from Las Vegas nonstop to Columbus the following day. I asked him if SWA was going to pay the expenses related with another night's stay since it was only due to a SWA agent's error that we were being forced to stay. He called the same woman who had approached us and who hadn't confirmed our reservations, to ask if SWA would absorb the cost of the stay. He looked very surprised, and when he ended the call, he informed us she refused to absorb the cost of the stay. Soooo...not only would they not permit my son to fly home in one seat as he had flown in to Las Vegas, they wouldn't allow us to board the plane for our flight home, the offending agent didn't follow through on her end so we weren't able to go home at all that day, and then we had to pay expenses for another night in Las Vegas due to disrespectful, incompetent SWA employees. Unfortunately, the next two trips we have made with SWA were almost identical ! Extremely rude, extremely disrespectful, extreme incompetence. I will be flying SWA alone this weekend and since I am far from a Customer of Size, I shouldn't have an issue with that policy but I am looking forward to seeing if I am treated as I was when I travelled with my son...or if I will be treated differently when I am not with a person that SWA considers " too fat " to grace their planes...because I can't help but feel that much of the reason we were treated so badly is because SWA and its employees don't realize that if you treat a person differently because of their color, their religion, their handicap, OR THEIR SIZE, it is clearly a matter of DISCRIMINATION. And Southwest Airline, I want to know, why is it that when a high profile film producer complains, you supposedly offer apologies via phone calls, Twitter, and an open apology on your web site, yet I have sent at least three email complaints about issues and treatment my son encountered which was far worse than that to which Mr. Smith was subjected...and SWA never once offered an apology of any kind to my son !!!! And I am sure there are numerous others who have had similar experiences due to SWA's discriminatory COS policy...have any of you received an apology ??? Just curious...
LMAO
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You guys are so boned! You should have put a douche clause in your contract to protect yourselves. Why is it that there are set standards for carry on luggage but the weight limit standards are completely arbitrary. I personally hope that your entire airline goes out of business for being such immaculate tools! Burn in **** Suzanne!
Anonymous3453
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If you have to spill onto my seat then pay me for the use of my seat or buy my seat. If that's an issue maybe the airlines could accommodate fat people by having an obligatory fat seat row and charge accordingly. The bottom line is I don't mind sharing arm rest but I don't share my seat with spillover fat. Thanks Southwest for taking the fair road.
Anonymous1925
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Good for you, SWA, but I wish you would enforce your policy uniformly. Last year, I flew you from FLL to SFO, connecting through LAS. I paid extra for an assured A-group seat, but in fact found your aircrew decided to situate an enormous 300-plus pound standby in the empty middle seat next to me. He did his best to pull in his bulk, elbows and all, but it was one uncomfortable 5-hour run to Sin City ... for both of us. Thank goodness my connection to SFO was near empty and I could luxuriate in my very own row. That's the only thing that kept me from complaining. We all have rights. Let's not give greater rights to greater-sized people.
Anonymous665
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How dare you, Southwest! If you really want to apologize take Kevin Smith up on his offer to sit in one of your seats with the seatbelt fastened on the Daily Show. If he can't do it he'll donate to the charity of your choice. But I know this will never happen because your employees were wrong. Their treatment of Kevin was not unique. It happened again that same evening. I will be voting with my wallet and directing my friends and family as well as everyone on my Facebook and Twitter to do the same.
Anonymous1310
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I can understand you having this policy. However, if he fit in the seat why was he taken off the flight? He did not purchase two seats because he was fat but rather because plans changed. Get your facts right Luckily I have never flown Southwest (mainly because I do not fly at airports with a lot of Southwest service) and I never will even though I am moving to an area with more Southwest service. I do not like being treated like cattle when I have to board my flight anyways.
Anonymous1310
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I can understand you having this policy. However, if he fit in the seat why was he taken off the flight? He did not purchase two seats because he was fat but rather because plans changed. Get your facts right Luckily I have never flown Southwest (mainly because I do not fly at airports with a lot of Southwest service) and I never will even though I am moving to an area with more Southwest service. I do not like being treated like cattle when I have to board my flight anyways.
Sig_Rave
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Man, I love all the BS comments here that are clearly from SWA publicity staff. Nobody's buying it, morons. Try again.
rpratt
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ANONY: "Did it ever occur to you that maybe he purchased two seats normally so he didn't have to sit NEXT to anyone else?" I think that this would be better stated as: Could it be that he purchased two seats normally so that he didn't have to sit next to "ANOTHER FAT" person. Fat on Fat, in a total of 35 inches. We need pictures.
Cindi_Hartman
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After hearing both sides of this story, the way Southwest handled this and is continuing to handle it is simply undefendable. I travel for 40-50% of my job and have a choice of airlines. I won't be choosing Southwest. May I suggest the following solution to avoid humiliating your customers in the future? You currently offer a sample place for people to test their luggage to make sure it's regulation size and will fit in the overhead compartment. You advertise those dimensions on your web site. Do the same for people - advertise the dimensions that will fit into your seats. At the airport, offer a "test" seat where a passenger can demonstrate that they fit without overlapping into the adjacent seat. If they fit, they're entitled to any seat on the plane. If they do not fit, then it's reasonable to ask them to purchase a second seat BEFORE they ever get on the plane. And if two adjacent seats are not available, then do not attempt to seat the customer in the first place -- seating them and then aribtrarily asking a customer to leave or suggesting that they may have to purchase another seat AFTER seating them is absolutely outrageous.
Anonymous2860
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The Advance Fat Acceptance group wants to boycott SWA...THE ADVANCE FAT ACCEPTANCE!! Are you !@#$ kidding me!! Go sell that to an emaciated Haitian who eats less in a week than what you had for breakfast! No wonder we piss off the entire planet!
Guy_in_Oakland
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Do you have a standard, objective way to determine if a customer is too large to take a seat? If someone can fit the seatbelt without an extension and (more importantly), fits between the seat rests, it seems to me that they fit in the seat. If you don't have a standard, objective way to determine this, you'll always be at risk of having a grumpy employee make the wrong decision. And, believe me: you have many grumpy employees capable of making bad decisions.
Anonymous4521
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Thank goodness SWA has this policy. I've been on other airlines and have had my seat taken over because they didn't enforce the policy. If you don't like the policy go to another airline... those of us who want our entire seat... the one we paid for... will continue flying SWA and will be happier.
Anonymous1636
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U S U C K
Anonymous3695
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Your policy is fine, except after reviewing this situation Mr. Smith was no obese. He was the standard variety American fatso who while snug, still fit in the seat and was able to lower the armrests. Defending your employees moronic interpretation of your policy (or continuing to insist the pilot made the decision) has me signing up for US Airways Frequent Flier club right now. Later SWA.
Anonymous3882
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I'll never fly southwest again. He did fit into the seat you guys were way out of line and didn't try to correct the situation.
Serialmom
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Thanks SW. I am so sick of these self-absorbed, the- world- revolves- around- me, Hollywood types. Soon, with Obama care, he won't be allowed to be fat and then he can fly all he wants. In the mean time, let him lease his own fat plane now that global warming has been exposed as the big hoax it always was.
Anonymous1242
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I can say first hand that Southwest customer service is abysmal at Oakland airport. I'm glad they screwed with the wrong person. They deserve the resulting fallout after this incredibly backhanded apology. I will fly with other airlines that don't discriminate and humiliate people in the future.
Anonymous1242
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I can say first hand that Southwest customer service is abysmal at Oakland airport. I'm glad they screwed with the wrong person. They deserve the resulting fallout after this incredibly backhanded apology. I will fly with other airlines that don't discriminate and humiliate people in the future.