“Southwest, I appreciate you refunding my airfare. But if you’re not gonna admit I wasn’t Too Fat to Fly, then I’ll cover it.”
That is the latest statement from filmmaker [movieperson id="99135"]Kevin Smith[/movieperson], who started a debate Sunday morning after being ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight, allegedly for being too overweight and posing a safety and security risk. Embarrassed and furious, he immediately began tweeting about his situation to his more than 1.5 million followers.
Smith’s final word on the issue came last night via his blog, on which he responded to what he believes to be an inadequate public apology from the company posted to its own blog. Acknowledging that the Southwest blogger, Linda Rutherford, is the nicest representative of the airline he’s dealt with since the incident, he objected to her ultimate inclusion of the company’s policy regarding passengers who require two seats, inferring that he was still unfit to fly.
“Now I’m gonna carry this Too Fat to Fly sh– around like herpes for the rest of my life, and it was never even true,” Smith wrote.
While the “Cop Out” director might be “running out of gas on this subject” and wishes to devote his Twitter feed to other topics, the story continues, two days after the start of this PR nightmare, and it’s unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Such is the reality for corporate complaints in the age of Twitter, especially when dissatisfaction comes from someone like Smith, who has such a large audience.
This audience first learned of the incident early Valentine’s Day morning, with the initial tweet from Smith (a.k.a. @ThatKevinSmith): “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?”
The tweets continued to come, both as a desire to explain what happened and to clarify further with direct responses to followers’ questions and even sparked a back-and-forth with the Southwest Twitter feed. It was soon evident that the 140 characters allotted per tweet was insufficient to tell the full story.
So Smith went to another of his many public communication platforms. In an “emergency” episode of his podcast, called the Smodcast, he conversed with his wife, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, about the incident for close to 90 minutes in order to provide his timeline of what occurred, as well as some necessary background leading up to his boarding of and subsequent dismissal from the packed California flight from Oakland to Burbank.
“I can fit into a Southwest Airlines seat,” Smith stated in the podcast, defending his size. “This is the important part of the story. If I have to, I can fly one seat on Southwest. I just opt not to, because it’s more comfortable, and I have enough money to do it.”
This was a response to Southwest’s claim that Smith has a history of purchasing more than one seat for himself on the airline’s flights. The filmmaker admitted to this practice yet noted his reasoning, also directed to his critics who believe his celebrity status means he should just go first class or buy a private jet.
“[They] thought I bought two tickets because I’m fat,” he said. “I don’t like people. I don’t like to sit next to people.”
He continued with acknowledgment that he is indeed a fat man, but he doesn’t believe he is so overweight as to be a victim of Southwest’s policy. He’s “not John Candy yet,” he said in the podcast. And he claims to have been able to buckle his seat belt, put down the seat’s arm rests and not disturb the comfort of his neighboring passengers.
Yet his issue was originally more about customer service than policy. He believes the way the incident was handled was humiliating, as he was first allowed onto the plane as a standby but was then removed in front of everyone as if he were a “shoe bomber.”
Smith claimed another passenger on the same flight was more overweight than he is, and he could see in that man’s eyes a shared embarrassment and sudden fearfulness that he was the next to be shamed. On his eventual flight home, the filmmaker sat next to a woman who was also mistreated for her size. “They’re coming for the fatties,” he recalled thinking during the incident. “They’re taking us to Candyland to kill us.”
After being booted, Smith claims to have been lied to, given the runaround, given “PC doublespeak” and other customer-service mistakes. “I’m not saying you gotta respect me because I’m fat, but respect me because I’m a paying customer,” he said.
Southwest Airlines has refunded Smith’s airfare for Sunday’s flight. The filmmaker is looking into other airline options for his future travel.
What do you think about Kevin Smith’s beef with Southwest? Whose side are you on? Let us know below!