Kevin Smith was kicked off a Southwest plane this weekend, allegedly because there were "safety concerns" due to him being too fat. This was despite the fact that he regularly flew Southwest and, after being removed from one plane, was allowed to fly on another Southwest flight shortly afterward.
He utilized the power of Twitter to tell his story, sending out the tale to his 1.66 million followers. He made his best fat face on the second flight and posted the picture below, with the caption "Hey @SouthwestAir! Look how fat I am on your plane! Quick! Throw me off!"
Then Smith took to the virtual airwaves Sunday night with a podcast entitled "Go F*** Yourself, Southwest Airlines." This all led to the Associated Press covering the story last night.
I found the story fascinating, as it's the kind of thing that used to be buried in gossip magazines, but greater immediacy and the viral nature of information online got Smith's story out to the masses and created a public relations problem for Southwest. They tried to respond on Twitter, in person, on the phone, but they appear to have bungled a few points along the way, including offering Smith a $100 voucher which, to a famous director who's just been publicly humiliated, probably isn't going to do the trick, and issuing a public apology called "Not So Silent Bob" that amounted to "We're sorry, but he really is kind of fat," including linking to it from their main media page with the title "Southwest Airlines Underscores Customer of Size Policy."
As someone who flies Southwest regularly, I still think there's a lot that the airline does right, though this did remind me of the time that Southwest managed to somehow lose my bag both ways on the same trip, and I didn't even get the $100 voucher offer Mr. Smith did. The airlines are obviously under immense pressure due to the continuing troubles of the airline industry and the economy as a whole, and it seems that customer service may continue to be one of the areas taking a hit in the midst of all this.