I find it interesting that every person who has posted here and disparaged Kevin Smith do not seem to have bothered to collect all of the facts.
1) Mr. Smith purchases two tickets as he prefers to be left alone during his flight and he can afford it. If I could afford it, I would do the same and I am not a heavy person.
2) Mr. Smith was able to comfortably sit between two lowered armrests and therefore should not have been subjected to SWA's people of size policy in the first place.
3) Mr. Smith was lied to by the gate attendant as admitted by Ms. Rutherford. The pilot did not direct the staff to eject Mr. Smith, someone else made the call.
4) Mr. Smith was directed to his seat by a flight attendant who did not express any concern in regards to his size.
5) Mr. Smith was treated poorly by SWA staff when he complained about the treatment that he had received.
As someone with 18 years of customer service experience, here's what I would have done (and avoided all of this mess to begin with): I would have sincerely apologized to Mr. Smith for the embarrassment he experienced during his ejection from the flight, then I would have refunded his money for both of the tickets he was going to use on the flight he actually took and let Mr. Smith know that I would be speaking with the staff to determine what happened and would provide retraining for anyone who was in need. I would have asked Mr. Smith if this was satisfactory and if he replied in the negative, I would have told him that I would pass his complaint up the ladder and let him know when someone would be contacting him.
Then, I would have spoken to my employee, gotten their side of the story and determined whether the policy was applied appropriately. If it was, I would have discussed with the employee whether the situation could have been handled more tactfully to have spared the customer embarrassment. If it was not, I would have counseled the employee on how I would have handled that particular situation.
I believe that SWA's policy is appropriate, however, the manner in which they enforce that policy is obviously flawed. If a customer is told prior to being boarded that they may exceed the existing policy limits (tactfully and professionally), they can choose whether to purchase a second seat or risk being removed from the plane if they do not fit between the armrests. I have personally been uncomfortable due to the size (not just weight, but height and broad shoulders as well) of the passenger next to me, but cannot justify the manner in which SWA handles this issue.
As to the "safety" concern, there are many other passengers who are allowed to fly who may present similar safety concerns as an overweight person (wheelchair bound, casted appendage, blind, cannot walk unaided, etc.). Until those passengers are refused access, the "safety" issue is a moot point and should be removed from the policy.
I believe that Mr. Smith was embarrassed and then initially ignored when he brought his concerns to the appropriate parties. If this situation had happened to me, I would have been just as angry as Mr. Smith. It was unfortunate for SWA that Mr. Smith has access to enough people via Twitter and his own website to have brought things to this level. For me, if a "celebrity" as many have deemed him, can be treated like this, how will I, an average person be treated. This entire situation could have been resolved with the proper level of customer service attention that every passenger should receive.
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