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Southwest Declares Kevin Smith Too Fat To Fly 940

Posted by timothy
from the operable-armrest-should-be-the-practical-test dept.
theodp writes "Kevin Smith is not a happy Southwest customer. The director was thrown off a flight from Oakland to Burbank, after being deemed too fat to fly. He later wound up on another Southwest flight, but has declared It's On and taken his rants to Twitter. 'Dear @SouthwestAir — I know I'm fat, but was Captain Leysath really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?' he began. He also let the airline know he'd made it to his destination. 'Hey @SouthwestAir! I've landed in Burbank. Don't worry: wall of the plane was opened & I was airlifted out while Richard Simmons supervised.'"
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Southwest Declares Kevin Smith Too Fat To Fly

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  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @03:43PM (#31136244)

    I'll bet Southwest will wish he really was Silent Bob.

    • by jra (5600) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @04:17PM (#31136540)

      Perhaps.

      Here's their blog response: http://www.blogsouthwest.com/blog/not-so-silent-bob

      • by crazycheetah (1416001) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @04:31PM (#31136698)

        Did blogsouthwest just get slashdotted?

        • by HybridJeff (717521) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @06:49PM (#31137934) Homepage
          Copied from the google cache.

          Many of you reached out to us via Twitter last night and today regarding a situation a Customer Twittered about that occurred on a Southwest flight. It is not our customary method of Customer Relations to be so public in how we work through these situations, but with so many people involved in the occurrence, you also should be involved in the solution. First and foremost, to Mr. Smith; we would like to echo our Tweets and again offer our heartfelt apologies to you. We are sincerely sorry for your travel experience on Southwest Airlines.

          As soon as we saw the first Tweet from Mr. Smith, we contacted him personally to apologize for his experience and to address his concerns on both Twitter and with a personal phone call. Since the situation has received a lot of public attention, we'd like to take the opportunity to address a few of the specifics here as well. Mr. Smith originally purchased two Southwest seats on a flight from Oakland to Burbank - as he's been known to do when traveling on Southwest. He decided to change his plans and board an earlier flight to Burbank, which technically means flying standby. As you may know, airlines are not able to clear standby passengers until all Customers are boarded. When the time came to board Mr. Smith, we had only a single seat available for him to occupy. Our pilots are responsible for the Safety and comfort of all Customers on the aircraft and therefore, made the determination that Mr. Smith needed more than one seat to complete his flight. Our Employees explained why the decision was made, accommodated Mr. Smith on a later flight, and issued him a $100 Southwest travel voucher for his inconvenience.

          You've read about these situations before. Southwest instituted our Customer of Size policy more than 25 years ago. The policy requires passengers that can not fit safely and comfortably in one seat to purchase an additional seat while traveling. This policy is not unique to Southwest Airlines and it is not a revenue generator. Most, if not all, carriers have similar policies, but unique to Southwest is the refunding of the second seat purchased (if the flight does not oversell) which is greater than any revenue made (full policy can be found here). The spirit of this policy is based solely on Customer comfort and Safety. As a Company committed to serving our Customers in Safety and comfort, we feel the definitive boundary between seats is the armrest. If a Customer cannot comfortably lower the armrest and infringes on a portion of another seat, a Customer seated adjacent would be very uncomfortable and a timely exit from the aircraft in the event of an emergency might be compromised if we allow a cramped, restricted seating arrangement.

      • Here's the text:

        Not So Silent Bob
        Sun, 02/14/2010 - 14:57 — Christi Day

        Many of you reached out to us via Twitter last night and today regarding a situation a Customer Twittered about that occurred on a Southwest flight. It is not our customary method of Customer Relations to be so public in how we work through these situations, but with so many people involved in the occurrence, you also should be involved in the solution. First and foremost, to Mr. Smith; we would like to echo our Tweets and again of

        • Customer of Size? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Comboman (895500) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:51PM (#31137448)
          "Customer of Size"? Is that like "People of Color"? Has political correctness come so far that you can't even call someone a fatass any more? I'm with Southwest on this one. Brilliant director or not, if I had to spend an "Evening with Kevin Smith" squished up against him in a coach-class seat, I would not be happy and would be demanding my ticket price back. They tried to accommodate his special request to fly early and couldn't. He should graciously accept their apology (it's more than he would have gotten from me).
          • by Rich0 (548339) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @06:17PM (#31137660) Homepage

            At work they had a big article about "differently abled persons" recently. I just don't get it? How is it derogatory to call somebody disabled? Am I "differently abled" if I can juggle?

            There is no need to use slurs like "fatass" or whatever. You can just call them overweight, or oversized - kind of like luggage. It is hardly unusual to charge a different rate when shipping a piano when compared to shipping a book. Will amazon.com start a "products of size" shipping policy soon?

            • by a whoabot (706122) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @11:12PM (#31140168)

              I saw a job offer that said, in the small print, something along the lines of: "We are committed in our hiring and operating practises not to discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, race, ethnicity, or ability."

              We can see what they wanted to say: They wanted to say "disability" (which itself would read strangely except that by now it has taken on a particular meaning in these situations which is broadly recognised), but because that word is not politically correct they were brought into saying something which reads as if it were patently absurd: That they actually don't take the abilities of the applicants into consideration when they hire. So...what, they cut open a bird and look at the entrails for divine signs?

              Much like how every university is now fully committed to diversity, which reads strange every time I see some such statement on the matter.

          • by laughingcoyote (762272) <barghesthowl&excite,com> on Sunday February 14, 2010 @06:30PM (#31137770) Journal

            I've got to agree here, even though I'm not at all a fan of Southwest after my own recent experiences with them. First off, there's no guarantees when you're flying standby that you'll get any seats. No room really to complain if you don't. In this guy's case, however, he needs two seats. I'm entirely with that, and it applies in this case-he takes up both the space and the weight of at least two passengers.

            If you are severely obese, there will be certain physical limitations as to what you can do. If you would prefer not to have those limitations, your option is to lose the weight. Even those with legitimate medical conditions can do so under a doctor's supervision, and generally the "medical condition" is "Eats too much, exercises too little".

            It is of course one's decision whether to continue to overeat and not exercise, but it is then one's responsibility to live with the consequences of that decision. If you don't want the limitations that come with being fat, get to work on losing the weight. If you'd rather not, then yes, you need to buy two seats if that's what it takes to accommodate you. I wish more places would work up the nerve to plainly state that you need to buy as many seats as you overflow into.

          • Re:Customer of Size? (Score:4, Informative)

            by palinurus (111359) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @07:10PM (#31138106)

            insightful, really?

            you certainly can call someone a "fatass". there is no law against it. you can call someone anything you want, but in return someone might call you an "asshole", and they might be right.

            is there a line between political correctness and politeness? or do you think we need to get rid of that too?

            and fwiw, I agree, smith wasn't exactly forthcoming with the details of the case (he was switching flights, only single seat available, etc) and SW has acquitted themselves pretty well from a PR perspective. i think the man just got a little stung by a humiliating experience and wanted to rant a little.

        • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:59PM (#31137518)

          Well that pretty much deflates the whole issue. Plus Southwest's policy is pretty generous, and giving him $100 because he couldn't get a seat on standby was totally unnecessary.

          I was skeptical about the headline anyway. If you can't be accommodated safely due to your size, then you cannot fly. There's no outrage fuel here.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 14, 2010 @04:45PM (#31136826)

      Twitter: "For people too fat to fly or type more than 140 characters."

  • by sycodon (149926) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @03:45PM (#31136254)

    Even if they can get their butts between the armrests, the rest of them overflows into the next seat.

    They should have required him to buy two seats, since he takes up two seats and twice the gas as a normal person.

    • by jaymz666 (34050) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @03:49PM (#31136296)

      They should kick the people off who are jerks, to smell, too. Those are even more offensive

      • by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Sunday February 14, 2010 @06:23PM (#31137728) Homepage Journal

        And the women who wear way too much perfume or hairspray and make my eyes water the entire trip.

        • by joocemann (1273720) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @08:11PM (#31138684)

          And the women who wear way too much perfume or hairspray and make my eyes water the entire trip.

          And the dialect of some of the southerners is just appalling.

          And the way the chinese people talk to each other just sounds annoying and I can't even think when they are talking!

          And the old people constantly talking about what they ate just kills me.

          And the smell of baby powder on the baby next to me is really gonna ruin my meal.

          And the mothers breast feeding babies just grosses me out.

          And the midgets being seated with the rest of us is just ridiculous.

          And the dreadlocks on that rasta guy is disgusting.

          And that kid with a cold is ridiculous and he should not be flying with me!

          ------------ (that was all sarcasm)

          Ever stop to think that someone doesn't like you, either? Maybe they don't always feel the need to tell you why you're bugging them, but I'm sure there are plenty of 'reasons' to be overly sensitive over.

          I'm not saying you complained about the kid with a cold, but I would bet people that have been upset about it have taken flights with contagious diseases of their own as well.

          Life isn't so shitty if you learn to like it.

    • by Courageous (228506) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @04:07PM (#31136454)

      IIRC, airline regulations require that a passenger be in THEIR seat. If you're sitting next to a morbidly obese person, and they annoy you, just ask them to stay in their space. If they cannot, and it bothers you a lot, call a stewardess and explain that you understand your rights, and wish her to enforce them. At this point, the person who cannot remain in their seat will either be assigned a new one or forced to deplane. If you're fat, and upset by this--suck it up. You did not pay for the space the other passenger is in. THEY did.

      C//

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Idiomatick (976696)
      Kevin smith is fat but he's not one of those huge guys... He looks to be around 235lbs. That is no where near some of the people that have gotten on the plane I'm sure.

      Average weight is over 190 lbs (http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/healthcare/a/tallbutfat.htm). In places like Mississippi (1/3rd of the population is obese) it is likely near 220.

      So throwing him off the plane seems pointed for whatever reason. Were he 350 or 400 then I'd get it.
    • by DeadboltX (751907) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @04:22PM (#31136604)

      This will take quite some time to take off.

      Even when there are proper justifications for discrimination, the feel-gooders will still fight for the right for everyone to be treated equally, despite not being equal.

    • Even if they can get their butts between the armrests, the rest of them overflows into the next seat.

      And that's exactly what Southwest requires. He could certainly have afforded the second ticket. From the LA Times:

      Southwest Airlines measures whether a customers too large to fly based on the passenger's ability to lower both armrests while sitting on the plane. If the passenger cannot lower one or both armrests, the carrier typically requires the passenger to purchase an additional seat or make arrangements on other flights that may accommodate for extra space.

      So why didn't he?

      There is a segment of the hideously obese population that thinks there is nothing wrong with it, and society should accept it. That's fine for the most part, but clearly if a fat guy takes up two seats, the fat guy should pay for two seats. And THIS fat guy can certainly afford it.

      • by VShael (62735) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:34PM (#31137292) Journal

        So why didn't he?

        Well, if you'd read the article (I know, slashdot, why would you read the article?) you'd know that he did buy an additional seat. But when he asked to be flown out on an earlier flight, you go onto standby. And *that* flight only had one spare seat available, so he tried to take it.

        So it's not that he thinks he's hideously obese and society should accept it.
        Look at his tweets. He's pissed that they waited until he was in the seat, to tell him "sorry, you need the second seat after all"

        • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @06:11PM (#31137630)

          Well, if you'd read the article (I know, slashdot, why would you read the article?) you'd know that he did buy an additional seat. But when he asked to be flown out on an earlier flight, you go onto standby. And *that* flight only had one spare seat available, so he tried to take it.

          So in fact he *DIDN'T* have a second ticket for the flight he *actually* took. SO WHAT IS HE BITCHING ABOUT?

  • by TinBromide (921574) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @03:48PM (#31136286)
    I still think its awesome, but let's keep this next celebrity rivalry off of slashdot. Slashdot didn't cover trump vs o'donnel, and it doesn't cover paris hilton, so while Kevin Smith is a nerd celeb, let's not report on every twitter update in this matter? Mmmkay?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 14, 2010 @04:03PM (#31136416)

      I still think its awesome, but let's keep this next celebrity rivalry off of slashdot. Slashdot didn't cover trump vs o'donnel, and it doesn't cover paris hilton, so while Kevin Smith is a nerd celeb, let's not report on every twitter update in this matter? Mmmkay?

      It's an excuse for a massive flamewar between the obese nerds munching on pizza and the excessively skinny nerds sucking down sugar-free caffeine drinks. Anything to take our minds off the fact that it is February 14th again and Natalie Portman still hasn't turned up at our door covered in hot grits and bearing a court order reversing the previous decision and allowing us to communicate with her again.... sigh.....

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @03:48PM (#31136290) Journal
    ........but somehow the only thing I can feel about this is "Yay Southwest!" Hello schadenfreude. I am an asshole.
  • by horatio (127595) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @03:54PM (#31136348)
    Southwest Airlines was aware of the situation last night, and is working to remedy it. Nothing to see here, move along rubber neckers. From @SouthwestAir:

    I've read the tweets all night from @thatkevinsmith - He'll be getting a call at home from our Customer Relations VP tonight.

    So why is this posted as a story on /.?

    • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @04:03PM (#31136414)
      The only reason they're working to resolve it is because of Kevin Smith. If it was a nobody with no platform to mention this from, Southwest would've cared much less.
      • by JustNilt (984644) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @04:21PM (#31136584) Homepage

        The only reason they're working to resolve it is because of Kevin Smith. If it was a nobody with no platform to mention this from, Southwest would've cared much less.

        Actually, I suspect it's mostly because it's on Twitter that they reacted at all. Random average Joes have had similar responses from other corporations as well. They tend to be scared to death of bad publicity and Twitter especially seems to make them nervous.

        Of course, the fact that it's a celebrity, however minor (sorry Kevin; I love your films but ...) on Twitter doesn't exactly hurt.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 14, 2010 @04:02PM (#31136406)
    I'm about 135 pounds. Why the fuck do I get charged extra if my bag is 55 pounds, when the fat bastard behind me has 150 pounds on me, and his bag is slightly less? Like somebody mentioned above, yes, I DO think they should weigh people before they get on. The nominal reason for this is fuel charges, right? Can I get a discount because I'm not toting my giant bloated belly around?
    </rant>
  • by codeonezero (540302) * on Sunday February 14, 2010 @04:11PM (#31136494)

    According to http://www.southwest.com/travel_center/cos_qa.html [southwest.com]

    It sounds like the determination is made if you can not fit within the confines of a standard seat with the arm rests down on both sides. I wonder if they don't have a test airplane seat you can sit in before hand at the terminal before trying to board or set of measurements you can take at home before buying your ticket/boarding to reduce the potential for embarrassment of being forced off the plane once you try to seat onboard.

    From the link above:
    "I am a large person and use a seatbelt extension, but I fit in one aircraft seat. Do I have to purchase two seats? Our policy does not focus on weight, and the seatbelt extension is not the determining factor. We use the ability to lower the armrests as the gauge, as the armrests are truly the definitive boundary between each seat."

    Another interesting tidibt from the link:
    Are all overweight people subject to the policy?
    Many Americans are "overweight" or "clinically obese." A number of overweight or obese people occupy only one seat. In fact, many Customers may use a seatbelt extension but occupy only one seat, and these Customers would not be asked to reserve a second seat. If a Customer cannot lower the armrest (and is unable to comfortably travel with it in the down position), he/she is required to pay for the additional seat occupied. Again, we will offer a refund if the flight does not oversell.

    • Our policy does not focus on weight, and the seatbelt extension is not the determining factor. We use the ability to lower the armrests as the gauge, as the armrests are truly the definitive boundary between each seat.

      From: TFA Link [popeater.com]
      "why wait til my bag is up, and I'm seated WITH ARM RESTS DOWN. In front of a packed plane with a bunch of folks who'd already I.d.ed me as 'Silent Bob,"

      Irrelevant of all the other slashdot members complaining that "being fat is disgusting", the fact remains that Southwest Airlines went against their OWN policies, and they didn't go about this in the right way at all. If he was already seated comfortably, wasn't blocking the aisle and no other customers complained, then what the hell is their problem?!

  • Here's what really happened.

    The pilot, a registered Republican, woke up from his nap (pilots cat-nap as much as they can because of the new budget-saving schedules), saw the guy, and mistook him for Michael Moore.

  • Yuh Huh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @04:15PM (#31136526) Homepage Journal
    As someone who's flown several times with some fat fuck overlapping into the seat I paid for, I really wish they'd do that more often.

    If you take up two seats, pay for two seats. And not one here and one 4 aisles back.

  • by jeko (179919) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:43PM (#31137380)

    Airlines have overcrammed more seats into each plane than the original designers would have believed possible. When people complain, they respond with "You're freakishly tall," or "You're mbidly obese," when the real answer is "The airlines are so greedy they're cramming so many people into their cargo hold it would make a slave trader of old boggle."

    My 5'2", 100lb mother-in-law complains that they've made the seats too small to be comfortable, and she's been flying for 50 years. Do we really think the problem is Kevin Smith is too husky?

    How about this for an answer? Let's make airline seats the same size and legroom as movie theater seats and see if the problem goes away.

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