I quietly stopped flying Southwest years ago over their "Passenger of Size" policy. I also don't fly anyone on my family on Southwest; when friends mention travelling, I let them know about my concerns, too. Because I'm part of a community of people who travel regularly to weekend events -- and the mother of two college students -- this comes up a lot.
The bottom line is that because Southwest's policy is worded to allow any employee to challenge any passenger at any time, without regard to whether that passenger fits in a seat with armrests down, does not use a seatbelt extender, etc, I and others never know if they are going to be subject to exactly the kind of harrassment that Mr. Smith and the other passenger on that flight received. One could be a regular flyer for years, and then one day an attendant in a bad mood or an irritable pilot may decide, arbitrarily, that one does not meet their subjective criteria to be allowed to remain on the plane.
Why would I choose to purchase a service that may be arbitrarily denied me in that way? Why would anyone? Southwest has repeatedly show that as a company, it maintains a policy of allowing employees to make these sorts of arbitrary decisions, to the detriment of the customer. (For example, the infamous short shirt and irritable child incidents.)
So, I don't fly Southwest. My family doesn't fly Southwest. I don't pay for others to fly Southwest. Because I have worked professionally in the travel industry in the past, my employers in the tech industry have often sought my guidance in making travel plans and travel polices, and I have always counselled them to avoid Southwest, in large part because of policies like this one.
Several other commenters have suggested that Mr. Smith and his supporters are the "vocal minority" and that the "silent majority" supports Southwest's decision. If I have posted for no other reason, it is to make sure that Southwest knows that as all other customer service situations, for every vocally unhappy customer, there are, in fact, plenty of silently unhappy ones who simply walk away, taking their business elsewhere. There are countless thousands of people affected or offended by this policy who never complain; we just spend elsewhere. Many of us are reading Southwest's response right now, sharing it with others, and adding to that number. How many past, present, and potential customers can Southwest afford to alienate, I wonder?
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