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Fat Fights Back – Kevin Smith vs. Southwest on Twitter

February 15, 2010 | Posted in: Passengers,Southwest,Twitter

fat kevin smith southwest twitter

Saturday, screenwriter-producer-director Kevin Smith got in, shall we say, a spat – with Southwest Airlines. And boy did it get ugly fast.

How ugly? It was all over TMZ and, more extensively, on Gawker. The story: a Southwest flight attendant approached Smith, while he was seated on the plane, bag stowed – and told the filmmaker that the captain of the flight “deemed him a safety risk” which Smith took to be a code of sorts for “too fat to fly” – or too fat to fly without buying a second seat, which indeed, Smith has done in the past. Smith says, “I know I’m fat” but he also felt abused, and got busy. On Twitter.

Smith began tweeting and tweeting - unfortunately, most of his comments are so thoroughly NSFW* that I can only offer up some fragments. Keep reading and I’ll show you what I can…

Tweeted Smith:

  • “I broke no regulation, offered no ‘safety risk’ (what, was I gonna roll on a fellow passenger?).”
  • “Thank God I don’t..embarrass easily (bless you, JERSEY GIRL training).”
  • Wanna tell me I’m too wide for the sky? Totally cool. But fair warning, folks: IF YOU LOOK LIKE ME, YOU MAY BE EJECTED FROM @SOUTHWESTAIR.
  • “@SouthwestAir? You [blanked] with the wrong sedentary processed-foods eater!”

Southwest offered Smith multiple apologies via Twitter and phone calls and noted rather mildly on the airline’s blog that “many of you reached out to us” – I’ll bet – Smith has 1.6 million followers on Twitter, and I imagine many of them “reached out”. Meanwhile, Southwest did offer Smith a $100 voucher good for future travel on the airline – but unless I’m reading this guy wrong, I doubt he’ll be taking up that offer any time soon.

I love to hear your thoughts on this…

*Not safe for work

25 Responses to “Fat Fights Back – Kevin Smith vs. Southwest on Twitter”

  1. Karen Kinnane says:

    It’s unfortunate that Kevnin Smith had to be embarassed in public. It would have been worse for his seatmate if Mr. Smith had, shall I say, occupied part of the seat next to him for an entire flight. It’s difficult for flight attendants to get the cart up and down the aisle as it is, it’s a tight squeeze. It would have been more diplomatic to pull Mr. Smith aside for a chat at the counter and inform him then that he needed to buy a second seat or wait until a double seat was available. Perhaps Mr. Smith PLANNED stunt of buying only one seat, in order to get publicity, as he has bought double seats in the past. I had never heard of Mr. Smith before this incident. Think of Mr. Smith’s seatmate if Smith bought one seat and then occupied 1 1/2! It’s easy to be lounging in a comfortable chair twittering one’s outrage and free publicity for Mr. Smith. It’s another to be the one squeezed in your own seat by a fatty, or to have to evacuate the plane in a hurry and have one’s ability to exit to save your life blocked by some person too fat to pass quickly in the aisle. Think Sully Sullenberger and the Hudson River. Would you want to wait for some fat person to get out of the seat slowly and laboriously while the plane rocked on the river and you were afraid it was going down?

  2. Rick Seaney says:

    Karen,

    I agree with you that that this could have been handled better – especially by informing him of a problem before he stepped on the plane.

    I did not have room or time to include all the details (which is why I added links to more information), but a couple of things: apparently, Smith decided at the last minute to take an earlier flight than the one he had tickets for and was told, okay (again, he was not told at the gate he’d need two seats) – which suggests to me this was not a publicity stunt (though I think even Mr. Smith will agree that, that’s what it turned into).

    Also, according to Smith, he was in his seat, belted in (without the use of or need for, a “seatbelt extender”), plus – he also says he was sitting there, with the armrests down, when he was told about being a “safety risk”.

    Best,
    Rick

  3. < <>

    That’s not what I’ve read elsewhere, and had it truly been as he states, I don’t think there would have been any way they could have tossed him off. Other reports say he was unable to put the arm rests down. As someone who often has to use a seat belt extender depending on plane type (but who is alway able to comfortably put armrests down), doesn’t make sense to me that he would have been able to not use an extender but still had known to buy two seats for his original flight ’cause he knew he is large. Something just isn’t adding up here!

  4. Sally says:

    It does not seem right to me that an airline should arbitrarily decide to make seats a certain size (designed to maximize profit not passenger comfort) and then punish those who do not quite fit by making them either buy an extra ticket or get off the plane. Freedom to travel is a right of citizenship and one of the UN’s freedoms as well. An airline that makes it difficult or impossible for large people to fly is not serving its customers and is being discriminatory. If you are a normal sized person or even a normal person who is temporarily overweight, you will not be able to identify with this. People who gain weight easily no matter what or how they eat should not be denied the ability to travel because of the needs of a business to maximize profit. Stimatizing them and embarrassing them is wrong. I’m glad Kevin Smith has the ability to fight back. I flew Southwest for the first time this month, but I will not do it again. Delta handles the needs of people who have various sorts of disabilities and abnormalities much more intelligently. I will reward their enlightened approach in the future.

  5. theresa says:

    I guess what bugs me most is the airlines can add seats, make them smaller in the back and charge a fortune in fees and taxes not to mention baggage fees. All of this is fine, but when those small seats aren’t fitting the rears of us that enjoyed food from one or more sister companies too many times you get tossed for in a round about way still padding their pockets. SW you suck!

  6. Henry says:

    I think the issue here is that the SWA policy is a bit subjective when it comes to this and for people who “appear” intoxicated. There was a reality show several years back about SWA and if you watched many episodes, like I did, there were times when they aired situations like this. In some cases, SWA appeared to be in the right, but in others it appeared to be questionable. I’m sure these episodes will start showing up on YouTube or some other media outlet will find them to prove Mr. Smith’s case.

    What will start to happen over the course of the next several days and weeks is that people will start to photograph and videotape incidents like this on SWA or other airlines and start posting them to prove or disprove the inconsistency, rude behavior and bad customer service.

  7. William Beem says:

    When I book travel on an airline, I’m paying for conveyance from one place to another, not reserving an easy-chair.

    There are large people who need transportation. Paying for two seats doesn’t get you to your destination twice as fast. You may also have trouble defending that second seat you paid for on an airline like Southwest, too.

    Is it so hard for airlines to recognize that their policy isn’t working and they need some bigger seats with more legroom?

    Ah, the glamor of flying is truly dead.

  8. Jennifer says:

    Kevin Smith was flying stand-by….which means he was the last to board the plane. Of course the flight attendants asked him to get off in front of all the other passengers- they had been sitting in their seats already. I’ve flown Southwest hundreds of times- he complains about the treatment from the flight attendants when everyone I know says Southwest has the friendliest employees. They’ve always been nothing but helpful to me.

    Not only that, but Southwest has had this rule for years- and he knew it, which is why he’s bought two seats in the past.

    I really think he is making a bigger deal of this because of his ego. And his new movie comes out in two weeks – coincidence?

  9. Rick Seaney says:

    Everybody,

    Thanks for your comments – it makes for thoughtful reading, no matter where you stand on this issue.

    Regards,
    Rick

  10. drdr says:

    It is my understanding that airlines have been ramping up bag fees because they are a tidy source of profit and because the weight of checked bags increase fuel consumption and the overall cost of flying.

    So… why not just charge for weight? My idea is this: go to the airport with your bags, and your coat, and everything, and step on a scale. Overall ticket price can be a combination of a base fare + per-weight fare. Anyone over a certain weight has to pay for an extra seat. (A combination measure of waist circumference + weight would probably be more accurate in identifying people who “spill over” into the next seat, but that would be too difficult to enforce. The cost of falsely identifying large people is far outweighed by the costs to other passengers of NOT identifying them accurately. A weight standard would be much easier and would facilitate boarding.) None of this trickery about how to avoid checked baggage fees, how to stuff your pockets full of stuff to get your carry-on under weight, etc. Just a plain, easy, per-weight charge that includes your body weight as well as the weight of your luggage. It costs money to transport weight. People need to recognize that and stop being so entitled.

  11. Tina says:

    If you listen to Kevin Smith’s podcast (90 min long), there are some interesting tidbits. Like how he doesn’t normally buy an extra seat, but he did this time because his wife was going to travel with him and they would have the whole row. (She didn’t accompany him on this trip, though.) He took an earlier flight, so was on standby on the flight in question, where he had only the one seat. And he was seated, without seatbelt extender, arm rests down, when they told him to leave. The ladies in the seats next to him were fine with him being in the middle seat. From his description, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to make him give up his seat at all. It would seem that southwest did not follow their own policy, which is if you fit in the seat, you don’t have to leave. Frankly, I’m siding with Smith on this one.

  12. COBrien says:

    In all fairness, is it alright for someone to “flow” over from their seat into yours? I certainly am not trying to condone the behavior of Southwest and this situation obviously should have been addressed before boarding but the attendant noticed the issue and dealt with it accordingly. Perhaps when people are purchasing their airline tickets they should be required to include height and weight. If the weight exceeds the acceptable allotment, then there should be larger seats to accommodate these passengers, perhaps even at a slightly higher cost. We pay to supersize our meals; we pay for upgrades on cruise ships, motel rooms and Theatre seats. If we require more room, it is only fair to pay for it.

  13. maritsa says:

    he was sitting. buckled in and with his arm rests down.that means he could not be flowing over into the other seats. the airlines do need bigger seats. for normal sized humans. more leg room again for normal AVERAGE sized people

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

  14. Bert says:

    Perhaps all airlines should charge by the pound. The rule is to calculate the takeoff weight of the plane by considering ALL passengers with carry-on luggage at 170 pounds each. That obviously was from a previous age when folks were in better shape. A scale at the ticket counter would determine the price of a ticket. OR…so much for every pound over 170.

  15. Sue says:

    I have a chronic and very painful sciatic problem on my left side, in addition to a left foot with nerve damage. I try always to get an aisle seat on the R. side of the airlplane so I can stretch that leg out as much as possible. I can assure you that when I have to sit in the middle seat, any pressure from the leg or hip of the person on my left eventually triggers inflamation of the nerve. I have had this happen several times. When the person is heavy enough that the pressure is intense, it can trigger very intense pain for me before reaching my destination. It is NOT fair for a large person to encroach onto the space I paid for. Simple as that. Or they can give me a refund for allowing another passenger to take part of my seat.

  16. Rick Seaney says:

    Sue,

    You make an excellent case for Southwest’s policy.

    Thanks for writing,
    Rick

  17. Shirley says:

    I haven’t read any of the other comments yet. But I’m tired of airlines cowtowing to individuals, whether they not fit in the seat, smell, not speak the language and sit in exit rows, etc. Sorry, but I paid for an entire seat–not half a seat. Have you ever sat next to someone whose excess is oozing onto you? It’s not comfortable. No one is forcing you to fly–that’s the key here. If you are larger than one seat, purchase two. If you don’t want to purchase two, then drive. Safety should be #1 concern, then comfort of fellow passengers who are entitled to their entire seat.

  18. Rick Seaney says:

    Shirley,

    I have to admit, I don’t often see comments accusing airlines of “cowtowing to individuals” – just the opposite, in fact – but I take your point and thanks for writing.

    Regards,
    Rick

  19. Shirley says:

    Rick: Yes, you are right. Perhaps I did use the wrong word, “cowtowing.” It’s just that, after taking a stance, for instance, removing Mr. Smith from the plane, they later apologize, give refunds or vouchers, etc. And it’s never for the guy/gal who would have had to sit next to Mr. Smith if they didn’t remove him–it’s always the one you can’t fit in the seat, who can’t control their kids, etc.–they get rewarded while the rest of us who follow the rules don’t. For instance, I’ve flown in first class and they’ve move heavier folks from coach to first class because they couldn’t fit in the coach seats instead of upgrading the poor guy that would have been squished in coach had first class been full and keeping the larger person in coach in two seats. And they then proceeded to provide first class meals/service as well. As you can see, once again, getting rewarded.

  20. Rick Seaney says:

    Shirley,

    I know exactly what you’re talking about; it’s like the folks who knowingly try to carry a too-big bag onboard which is then taken from them at the gate and checked – for free.

    I think in these situations, the airlines are far more concerned with their on-time statistics than whether they are rewarding (or punishing) their passengers. It’s not fair, but – what can we do? Any ideas?

    Best,
    Rick

  21. Pat says:

    If you don’t fit in the seat provided for you, then you should have to buy a 2nd seat. SW is a business and if a person occupies 2 seats (or 1 1/2) then that is lost revenue to SW. I have sat next to someone who “flowed” into my seat-arms, butt, thighs, belly, etc and it was not comfortable. I felt that my rights were infringed upon by having to give up part of my seat space.

  22. Rick Seaney says:

    Pat,

    I’m curious – when this happened, did you bring it to the attention of a crew member? If not, how come?

    Thank you for writing.
    Rick

  23. Ash says:

    I fly standby all the time and I have been pulled off of more flights than I care to say. I have never been given a reason in front of the other passengers– which is highly embarrassing as everyone is speculating what you did wrong. However, I am never mad about it. That is the price you pay when you are to get on a flight for which you technically did not pay.

    It is infuriating that people are likening this to some sort of civil rights issue. What about the rights of those of us who paid for our seats and actually “fit” into those seats? It is not fair that a person is able to take up part of a seat that I have paid for and that I would have to ride uncomfortably– no matter the duration of the flight. He needs to pay more or I need a discount. That is what is fair.

    If you know you need two seats, pay for two seats and don’t be frustrated when you are required to wait for the two seats you paid for.

  24. Rick Seaney says:

    Ash,

    I think the problem arises with this: sometimes airlines airlines refuse to let people fly because they need two seats and didn’t purchase two, and sometimes these same airlines allow these same people to fly in one seat. It’s the inconsistency, I suspect, that is so maddening. For everyone involved.

    Thanks for your thoughts.
    Rick

  25. Allison says:

    I feel the same way about people who double-park in parking ramps. If you take up two spaces, then pay for two spaces.

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