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Suck it Southwest Airlines | Manolo for the Big Girl

Suck it Southwest Airlines

So filmmaker Kevin Smith got kicked off a Southwest Airlines plane for being too fat.

He was able to get his buckle done, but he couldn’t put the armrest down beside him, so the pilot said no go.

He’s a big dude, but he’s not like, Richard-Simmons-Crying-in-Patriotic-Hot-Pants big. He’s about 5’8″ -5’9″ and looks what, maybe 250-300?

Kevin Smith, Too Fat to Fly?

That is not the sort of big that I associate with getting kicked off commercial flights.

His story:

I was told 5:20 flight was packed, but I could go Standby. They sent me to gate. Told lady whole story, and she said there wouldn’t be two seats on that earlier flight. I said I only needed one seat & that I didn’t buy an extra seat because I’m fat (which I am), but because I’m anti-social and didn’t want to sit next to someone & possibly have to make convo (in person, I’m very shy). She said she understood. I was issued the solo ticket. I get on the plane: open seat in the front row. Put my bag away, the sit between two ladies. As I’m about to buckle my extender-less seatbelt, the woman who issued the ticket to me appeared in the doorway of the plane, came over to me and said the Captain said I wasn’t going to be allowed to sit there because I was a safety risk. I asked for clarification and was given none (also asked “Please don’t do this” but that, too, fell on deaf ears.

Ladies on either side said I wasn’t a problem. SWA-lady said arm-rests the decider. Arm-rests come down, and voila! I’m legit! I’ve passed the stinkin’ arm-rest-test. And still, the lady asks me to get up and come with her off the plane. I get up without a fuss at all, quietly grab my bag, make eye contact with a fellow Fatty who was praying he’d pass, and leave. You think I wanna f— around on an airplane? I was right: I fit in that seat. But I can’t risk not complying: I’m more afraid of AirFeds. (via Twitter)

Yeah.

I can’t even tell you the anxiety I got when I read that. I don’t fly much, because I much prefer driving (your pal Plummy here loves nothing more than Seeing America. I’m totally that person who, if I was your dad, would make you stop at The World’s Largest Collection of Ear Wax Scupltures In The Shape of Abe Lincoln) but when I was doing quite a bit of air travel, I would always pray and magically think myself thin enough to fit in the seat.

As I’ve said before, I’m 5’10 and a size 20/22. That’s big, but again, not the sort of big I’d associate with getting kicked off planes.

Also, I’m curious as to what exact safety risk not being able to put your armrest down entails. I’m serious.  Will your little mask thing not drop down? Will your under-seat flotation device not dislodge? I really want to know.

I never flew Southwest that often to begin with but you can damn well be sure that Southwest won’t get the chance to do to me what they did to Kevin Smith (who, fun story, burned a hole in the carpet of my first apartment in 1997).  The only money they’ll EVER get from me is the cost of a postage stamp because I’ve got a nice letter brewing.

Perhaps you’d like the address too?

Southwest Airlines
P.O. Box 36647 – 1CR
Dallas, Texas 75235-1647

39 Responses to “Suck it Southwest Airlines”

  1. gemdiva February 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

    On the eyes of my sainted mother, I do solemnly swear here and now never to fly Southwest even if they give me a free trip to Hawaii and a pair of Christian Lous to wear when I get there! Long live SIlent Bob! ( she stands proudly with raised fist)!

  2. Mifty February 15, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    I don’t know if I have a size in mind that I would envision getting kicked off airplanes, but since I am 5’3″ and wear size 22 jeans, I would guess that I’m in that range. But I decided some time ago that Southwest never even gets a shot at my business, given its long-running policy of harassing fat people for fun and profit.

    What perhaps cheeses me off most about this situation is that Smith has gotten apologies and a $100 voucher from Southwest — both of which he has rejected with contempt, or so I understand. I do not believe Southwest has felt the need to apologize or send travel vouchers to the thousands of other fat people who have been pulled off planes or forced to buy extra seats over the years.

    What Southwest Airlines is really sorry about is that someone mistook a famous person for just another fat nobody they could bully and embarrass with impunity.

  3. marjorie February 15, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    dude, he COULD put the armrest down! that’s what takes this from iffy into nutella territory.

  4. Bubbles_Brule February 15, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    Southwest will never, ever, ever, ever EVER get my business – did I mention ever? And, as shy as he is, I would be more than happy to snuggle up in the seat next to Kevin Smith, okay?

  5. Sue February 15, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

    Here is Southwest’s public “apology” to Kevin Smith, entitled “Not-So-Silent-Bob” (apparently they thought that humor was appropriate to the situation):

    http://www.blogsouthwest.com/blog/not-so-silent-bob

    BTW, Smith says that he has not yet received a call from anyone at Southwest.

    Because I travel constantly for business, I have upper-level frequent flyer status on several airlines, including Southwest. I will not fly them again. And yes, they’ve heard from me. Please make your opinions known either by writing to them at the address given here or by comment to their blog post above.

    Sue (5’9″, 290 lbs., armrests down, extender seat belt (I carry my weight in the belly), and ever in fear that this is going to happen to me and that I’m going to get carried off a plane in handcuffs by TSA officers if I react with anything but abject humilation)

  6. klee February 15, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

    Is there a website we could email, Plum?

  7. dangster February 15, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

    I’m with Southwest Airlines on this one. He made the decision to go standby on a fully-booked flight, with the knowledge that this airline’s policy is that if he cannot comfortably fit into a single seat, he will be required to buy 2 seats (the 2nd seat refunded if it’s NOT a full flight), and if there are no 2 seats available, then he cannot board.

    I think the key word here is “comfortably”. Yes, he says he was able to put down the armrest, but how? Did he have to force it down? His flight neighbors said they were fine, but to be terribly honest, would anyone complain if Kevin Smith was sitting next to them?

  8. Plumcake February 15, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    Klee, there is, but I don’t believe in email protest efficacy.

  9. Mrs. Hendricks February 15, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    Dangster, I think you’re assuming that the “ladies” (as they were referred to in Mr. Smith’s Tweet) knew he was Kevin Smith. Although I’m a fan of his, I’m not sure a whole lot of people would recognize Mr. Smith out of the context of his films. Are you saying that they wanted to sit next to Mr. Smith, or that they didn’t have the balls to say, “I don’t want this fat f— sitting next to me”?

  10. graciela February 15, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    I heard about this on the radio this morning and my first reaction was like yours, that he doesn’t seem that big. How small are these seats? Geez.

    And I can’t think of a single reason the arm rest needs to be down. I’ve been on many planes going all over the country and I don’t always put the arm rest down. Its bothersome at times and just gets in the way if you’re sitting with a friend or significant other. And no one has ever told me to put it down for safety reasons. This is just bogus.

  11. gemdiva February 15, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    Mrs. Hendricks, I agree 100% with everything you said. I AM a fan of Kevin SMith and I’m not sure that I would recognize him out and about in the real world. Nice try dangster, but I’m afraid your reasoning, much like Southwest’s policy, is seriously flawed.

  12. Mrs. Hendricks February 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    Graciela, You’re right: Mr. Hendricks and I never have the armrest down when we fly together, and no one has told us to put it down, for “safety” or other reasons.

    And thanks, Gemdiva.

    Plumcake, letter sent.

  13. Jane February 15, 2010 at 8:11 pm #

    Plumcake, that is a masterful summary under a perfect headline. Thank you.

  14. Mrs. Drapeau February 15, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    I’m a huge fan of Kevin Smith and was appalled when I read his twitter feed. What I’d like to know is if an Arnold-like guy gets on the plane who’s arms are so wide that the person sitting next to him has to stand up just to look for his seatbelt buried under one of his monstrous thighs. Would this man who’s, let’s say, 6’1 and 300 lbs of muscle be subject to the same humiliation and ridicule? Will he have to pass a does-the-arm-rest-come-up test? Is he forced to purchase to seats-one for him and one for his fanny pack?

  15. Lisa February 15, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    Here’s what I don’t get, dangster: he DID buy two seats, up front. If they didn’t want him on the full flight, they should have told him so before they put him on the plane and jerked him around. He took a downgrade, basically; he accepted one seat when he bought two. If nobody was unhappy with him in the middle seat, that should have been end of it.

    Southwest has gotten away with treating large men and women like crap for a long time. They finally bullied the wrong chubby guy, one with like a million twitter followers. No, sweeties at Southewest Airlines, not all large people are willing to silently suck up bad treatment.

  16. Susan February 15, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

    So, on SouthWest Airlines my options would be to purchase two tickets as a precaution or submit to a seated on board butt check, with a high risk of getting me and my disqualifying derierre walked off the plane by a flight attendant — Oh No indeed, SouthWest Airlines has lost me as a customer due to this policy.

    Their seats are only 17″ wide, almost 2 inches less than a movie theater seat, so while I would have no problem with the arm rest as a size 18/20 Petite fitting seat and upper thighs within that width would be a highly questionable. The pitch of the seat would not be uncomfortable for me but to anyone over about 5’3″ I imagine it would be.

    For unrelated reasons, I tend to choose American Airlines when flying domestic and have not personally flown SouthWest in more than 20 years (and 80+ lbs). However, I have paid for plenty of fares on SouthWest as gifts for the young ones in my family, who travel more than I do. Never again.

  17. that redhead February 15, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    5″9 1/2 & a size 20/22 (depending on mfr) pant.

    I live on the West Coast and fly the CA N/S routes frequently. I’ve been concerned about SWA ever since news reports started reporting of kicking ‘fat’ people off flights. At my current weight I’ve never needed a belt extender. I carry my weight in my butt…however, I’ve never had much problem putting down an arm rest.

    Still…why risk the embarrassment or provide revenue to an airline that lets their staff embarass people who actually FIT IN THEIR SEATS.

    Why the focus on butts? I’ve had shoulder crowding on seats! Let’s toss off anyone who’s shoulders impinge on their neighbors…oh, wait….I’m guilty there, too…

  18. ChaChaHeels February 15, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

    See, that’s the thing about Southwest that people like to overlook (or deny, depending on their fat hatred): Southwest removed normal seats from their planes to retrofit them with much smaller seats, and more of them. Their motive is pure profit–and if people complain that the seat is too small, they can simply be forced to buy two and told they’re too fat. The laughable pretense of extra fatties posing a safety risk comes in handy here.

    But if safety were the real concern, Southwest would be forced to restore a saner number of normal sized, not “small sized” seats: this would lessen the overall weight of the combined passengers because fewer passengers would be seated in the plane. Who cares about an extra weight passenger when the combined weight of 30 or 40 extra passengers have been shoved in to the cabin of a plane designed and built to carry less? The “safety” argument doesn’t cut it.

    So Southwest not only looks greedy despite the need for real concerns for passenger safety and comfort, it looks downright despicable for capitalizing on behaviour we know is still considered discriminatory, yet acceptable (because fatties should stop coming near all of us with their cooties, as all the “doctors” and “scientiests” say).

    They’ll never get a penny from me, and it makes me happy to know that if anyone can force Southwest to stop this longstanding practice of hatred, it will be Kevin Smith.

  19. Lisa February 16, 2010 at 1:08 am #

    That’s the other part that makes me mad, ChaChaHeels. I’m sick of the specious “security” and “safety” rationale given for stupid polices that are there just because the airlines and airport businesses want something to happen. No, no, you mustn’t mustn’t bring any water through security, but we’ll sell you a $5 bottle of water four feet on the other side of security! and No, No, you mustn’t mustn’t carry anything on the plane that’s this or that or this or that, but if you CHECK your luggage we’ll charge you for that, too!

    The airlines just blow. It’s not just Southwest, though I’ve refused to fly them for years. One of the first things I did when I got into some money is that I started to flying first class.

    And guess-y what-y? Fat people in first class aren’t the slightest safety or security risk. Not in like in coach where one fat person could simply wreck the whoooooole plane and cause it to fall out of the sky.

    It reminds me of how when I was coming up foster care, I didn’t know a single kid who needed braces. Not one. Not a single one. Out of the 100+ teens I encountered in group homes. But now that I move among higher income groups, every single kid “needs” them. Absolutely “needs” braces. And not just for a short time. A long time, with lots of knobs and whistles.

    Anything to get into people’s pockets. I swear.

    Ok, that sounded like my mother. But, still.

  20. Debs February 16, 2010 at 1:20 am #

    So, Southwest thinks that being seated to someone of Mr. Smith’s size could impede evacuation. So, I can complain that if the person seated next to me isn’t as fit or young or thin as I am (in theory), my potential evacuation right have been infringed. And now I have these rights? I only want to be seated next to me who could move really fast? Agesism, etc. comes into play

  21. TeleriB February 16, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    Oh, phooey. Southwest is one of the government contract flights out of my nearest hub – I almost always have to take them when I travel business. I’m allowed to pick other flights only if they don’t get me to where I need to be on-time or the like… “Southwest is run by schmucks” is not considered a good enough reasons to spend five more of your tax dollars on another airline. :(

  22. notred February 16, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    “He was able to get his buckle done, but he couldn’t put the armrest down beside him, so the pilot said no go.”

    NO, NO NO. That’s wrong. He did get the armrest down; that’s a key point. They still dragged him off the plane after he demonstrated that the armrest could go down. You have his quote right there!

  23. gemdiva February 16, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    Good point debs. I have sat next to disabled passengers many times who occupied aisle seats and had to be assisted off the plane in specially designed narrow wheel chairs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects them and forces the airline to make reasonable accommodation for them. Now, as I understand it, the ADA also protects those folks who are “perceived” as disabled. So, if Southwest “perceived Kevin Smith as being “disabled” in a safety sensitive situation, does it not have to make ‘reasonable accommodation” for him that would allow him to fly? Is there a lawyer in the house and can anyone spell class action?

  24. Lisa February 16, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    Debs–not just age. Children impede evacuation, too, as they need to be carried or they move more slowly/erratically. Still not buying the safety argument.

  25. mdegraffen February 16, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    I have to side with Southwest on this one. As a 25 year veteran of the airline industry, I know that weights and balances are an important safety issues. If the plane was balanced for a certain weight and someone got the last seat who should have been counted as getting 2 seats, this could cause problems. I am sorry that Mr Smith saw this as weight discrimination. I’d rather be safe and have the plane stay in the air. And yes, I am overweight too.

  26. mdegraffen February 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    Also, even though children are not taking up seats, their average weights are still added into the equation. A reservation is made for Adult plus child, with the child’s age recorded in the booking. This is a safety issue that has been made into something else.

  27. Cat February 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    notred is correct; Smith says that he put both of the armrests down and was still removed from the flight, proving that Southwest violated its own policy in removing him. Southwest claims the “armrest test” is the deciding factor, and Smith passed it. He has even challenged Southwest to take that same row of seats to The Daily Show so that he can prove that he was able to fit in the seat, buckle his seatbelt, and put the armrests down.

  28. sabrina February 16, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    If you think the story here is bad, listen to the SModcast — Kevin Smith’s podcast. The smodcast about this incident is about 90 minutes, completely NSFW due to language, and talks about the other people he has encountered, like the bigger guy on the flight he was removed from (he elected not to “throw a fellow fatty under the bus” and didn’t ask why that guy could stay when he was a “safety risk”), and a big girl Southwest harrassed and badgered about how she should have bought a second seat… when they were seated with KS’s second, empty seat between them.

    http://smodcast.com/

  29. Mifty February 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    I have to side with Southwest on this one. As a 25 year veteran of the airline industry, I know that weights and balances are an important safety issues. If the plane was balanced for a certain weight and someone got the last seat who should have been counted as getting 2 seats, this could cause problems.

    Nonsense.

    Commercial airliners are not so delicately balanced that having one fat passenger’s weight distributed over one seat instead of two is going to make any appreciable difference. Nor is an “extra” passenger who flies because a fat person is in a single seat instead of two going to cause a problem. If planes were that delicate, we’d see airlines carefully arranging their passengers for optimum weight distribution and recalculating and rearranging when a last-minute passenger or two gets on board. Obviously, this does not happen.

    Even Southwest itself is not making this argument. It makes its judgment on the passenger’s width, not his or her weight. The stated criterion is being able to put the armrests down (which Smith says he was able to do). A 270-pound but narrow-hipped athlete would have precisely the same effect on “weights and balances,” but this issue would not have arisen.

    More to the point, no other major airline regularly demands that fat people buy two seats. Yet there is no rain of unbalanced airplanes falling from the sky. Unless Southwest has uniquely fragile aircraft, this is a specious argument.

  30. gemdiva February 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    @mdegraffen, I’m sorry to inform you that your argument quite literally doesn’t fly. The day that one overweight passenger on a jet aircraft places it in jeopardy, is the day the airline industry and aircraft manufacturers need to be overhauled by a congressional committee. Weights and balances are far more of an issue on small aircraft like say a Beech 19 seater, and of even greater concern is wheteher or not the checked baggage on any aircraft is properly stowed. For that matter, I have never heard of anyone being denied the privilege of checking overweight bags as long as they were willing to pay the hefty checked bag fees. Let’s face it it’s all about the money!

  31. Twister February 16, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    I’m about your size, Plummy and am 2 weeks away from a flight and I have to say, this made me super nervous. I’ve never had an issue on a plane due to my size and I’m not flying Southwest, but it makes me think twice… and it’s sad that I have to. :/

  32. mdegraffen February 16, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    So I guess safety is not important and all of you know more about weights and balances than professonals. Do you thnk those calculations are not done on big planes? You would be wrong. You choose to take offense and that is your choice.

  33. Mary February 16, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    Now, here is my way to get back with this ‘fat policy’. As it stands, I buy two tickets…for my comfort as well as the next guys. This purchase puts me in the ‘board first’ group…like the handicapped and those traveling with small children. As a result, I get great seats and ample overhead storage if I need it. Soooooo, my suggestion, when ever you can…travel with a partner, split the cost of the middle seat…get early boarding for one, with the partner ‘holding’ the other seat for the other guy. Comfort for both at a small increase in cost…early boarding…stick it to South West and all others with those too small seats.

  34. All Women Stalker February 17, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    Give them hell Ms. Plumcake!

  35. Mifty February 17, 2010 at 3:05 am #

    So I guess safety is not important and all of you know more about weights and balances than professonals.

    This, of course, is no answer at all — amounting, as it does, to “Is too!” No surprise there.

  36. mdegraffen February 17, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    Mifty, you don’t know me and I do not appreciate your statement that I gave no answer. I worked for a major airline for 13 years and have been in the travel business for 25. I made my statements from knowledge. No suprise there? How dare you.

  37. Howard February 17, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    @mdegraffen

    Um… MD… I work “in the industry” too, at a manufacturer of large aircraft. You are full of crap. Weight and balance on a commercial aircraft of any size from CRJ100 on up to A380 is NOT going to be affected by one passenger, even if s/he is 300 lbs. Maybe if s/he was 1000 lbs. then maybe, but not even then. Hell, the difference of 150 lbs in pax weight isn’t even compensatable it’s far too small to be of any kind of significance. You need another argument.

  38. CassieM March 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

    Okay so here’s the thing… I am a size 20, weighing in @ 240. While I understand his humiliation… at the end of the day, SW didn’t do anything wrong. Not really. Was it overly harsh? Probably. But they are well within their rights to boot someone for any perceived risk to other passengers. I don’t dislike Kevin Smith, and I feel bad for the situation… but I always, ALWAYS fly SW. I’ve never been on a different airline. I can no longer buckle myself in (so I hide the belt under my hoodies) and I have NEVER been able to get the arm rest down over my hips, it always pops back up, even when i was a size 16. Therefore, with no intention to be an ass… I highly doubt Smith was able to buckle himself OR put the arm rest completely, since he is clearly bigger than myself, and my girlfriend, who can’t buckle the belts or drop the arm rests all the way.

    I’m not saying SW handled this right, but I can’t find a reason to be genuinely mad at them or boycott them.