Southwest Airlines may have opened Pandora’s box by booting writer/director Kevin Smith from a flight for being “too fat.”
Smith is now making his voice heard challenging the carrier’s actions.
Smith has no problem admitting that he’s “way fat,” but he maintains that Southwest had no grounds to evict him because he was within their guidelines for oversized passengers.
If Smith met the requirements, why was he forced to leave?
In their apology to Smith (director of Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy & Dogma among others), Southwest claims that they asked him to leave for the safety of the other passengers on the flight.
They specifically noted that a passenger has to be able to comfortably lower the armrest without infringing on a portion of another customer’s seat.
But Smith insists that he was seated comfortably in the middle seat when a flight attendant approached him to leave. He showed her that he could put down the armrests and while he hadn’t yet fastened his seatbelt, he maintains that he’s able to wear a seatbelt without the help of an extender.
Smith is so confident in this that he challenged the airline to bring in a row of seats and test it out on national television. If he doesn’t pass the armrest test, he’ll donate $10,000 to a charity of their choice. But if Smith fits, they must admit that they were in the wrong.
According to Southwest’s current “customer of size” policy, passengers who do not meet the armrest requirement must purchase an additional seat. If the flight is not full, the second seat will be refunded to the passenger.
In Smith’s case, he had originally bought two seats for a flight from Oakland to Burbank. He has said he occasionally purchases two seats on short, inexpensive flights for privacy, not because of his size.
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He arrived at the airport early and wanted to see if he could get on an earlier flight. There was a single seat available for him, but according to Southwest, after Smith boarded, the pilot decided that he couldn’t safely fit in one seat.
Smith was then forced to leave, an experience he described as humiliating. He contends that the pilot never saw him board the plane, but isn’t sure who made the decision to remove him.
As he was leaving the plane, Smith claims he exchanged a glance with another overweight passenger who was even bigger. Southwest flew the director on a later flight and offered him a $100 travel voucher for the inconvenience. While waiting for his next flight, he began voicing his outrage at the airline via Twitter.
Smith purchased two seats on his next flight to Burbank. Ironically, a woman who was seated in the aisle seat of his row was pulled aside by a flight attendant, suggesting that she consider buying two seats in the future. Further enraged, Smith continued covering the topic on Twitter and on his podcast entitled, “Go F#*& Yourself, Southwest.”
Other “customer of size” policies: Obese and Disabled Passengers on Canadian Airlines to be Tested to Qualify for Free Seat.
Although some have chalked this up to nothing more than a celebrity diva temper tantrum, especially considering that Smith’s latest movie, Cop Out, will be in theaters on February 26, Smith says that he’s making a stand against an unfair policy.
According to Smith, no paying customer, celebrity or otherwise, should have to go through the humiliation of being evicted from a plane—especially when they meet the guidelines for “passengers of size.”
The issue of whether or not to charge overweight passengers for two seats has been hotly debated in recent years.
But of equal concern in this story—if Smith’s claims are true—is Southwest’s seemingly arbitrary enforcement of its policy.
What do you think? Is Southwest’s “customers of size” policy fair? Should Southwest accept Smith’s challenge and test the seats on national television?
By Dan Bence for PeterGreenberg.com.
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