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Southwest apologizes after director is kicked off flight for being too heavy

http://images.chron.com/blogs/tmi/Premiere_Southland_Tales_LA_CACP107.JPGDirector Kevin Smith has sparked a debate about airline policies toward obese passengers after he says he was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland to Burbank this weekend for being too heavy.

The "Clerks" director sent out a series of Twitter messages detailing the events and expressing outrage that he was told by airline employees to leave the plane even though he insisted that he fit in his seat.

"I know I'm fat, but was [the airline] really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?" he wrote. "I broke no regulation, offered no 'safety risk.' "

Smith said the incident took place Saturday and that he was eventually able to make it to L.A. on another Southwest flight.

Southwest is one of many airlines that require overweight customers to purchase two seats if they cannot comfortably fit into one seat. The airline determines this in part based on a passenger's ability to lower both armrests while sitting on the plane.

Smith insisted he could lower both armrests.

Southwest issued an apology to Smith on its Twitter feed. "We are sincerely sorry for your travel experience on Southwest Airlines," the airline added in a statement.

An organization called the National Assn. to Advance Fat Acceptance has called for a boycott of Southwest.

But Southwest said the weight policy has been in place for 25 years.

"The policy requires passengers that cannot fit safely and comfortably in one seat to purchase an additional seat while traveling," the airline said in a statement. "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."

-- Shelby Grad

Comments () | Archives (197)

I sure am glad southwest airlines had the courage to ask this passenger to get off the plane. Just because he's a director and famous, he thinks he can snowball southwest airlines and other passengers into being exempt from this policy.

Read the policy, they will even refund the second seat if the flight doesn't over sell. Wow!!!

Wow. Kevin smith has gained a lot of weight. Perhaps this incident will help him check himself and cut down the carbs. I think that being the "fat guy who can't sit in an airplane seat" would be the final straw for many of us.

Seems more than fair. If you've ever been crushed by an oversized seat mate, you'd agree. Southwest's policy of refunding the additional fare shows that it's not a money-maker.

Good for Southwest for doing it in the first place. I just wish they hadn't caved in and apologized.

Wake-up Call! Sorry Kevin, your films are great -- but your weight is worrisome to those who love your films and want you around for the long run. It is not about airline policies so don't spend your energy there. It is about letting go of some of that weight that is around your vital organs and will shorten your lifespan considerably. It is not a conspiracy, it is mathematics. More movement and less caloric intake. Take this as a big, fat wake-up call and give the gift of life, yours - to those you love and care about and who love and care about you and your terrific films!

It's not a matter of safety. It's a matter of requiring more than one seat.

If there are adjacent empty seats, there is no problem, but as someone who does fit in her seat and wants use of that entire seat, I would not want to have had to sit next to Smith for even an hour long flight.

I flew next to a hugely obese woman, and the experience was awful. I had the aisle seat, and she sat in the middle. Rolls of flesh poured over the arm rest, and rested on my body. It was embarassing and uncomfortable. I traded my seat for hers, so that she could see the movie screen better. She was very nice and apologetic.
Having some extra space would have helped her greatly.
Sorry dude, but you don't have the right to ruin someone else's trip.

Lose some weight.

I'm disappointed that Southwest felt the need to apologise to this person.

Obviously "charlesinoc" work's for Southwest Airline. Who knows this guy by face? Famous is an overstatement simply because they APOLOGIZED! It wouldn't be the first time the airline was under scrutiny, pal.

Lowered arms onto the arm rests doesn't assure that you're not crushed by shoulders and elbows flowing into your space. I must admit, though, that large or over weight passengers have always tried to politely work things out with me. Let's face it. Flying in coach stinks for everyone, and always has if the plane is very full. We want cheap seats so maybe it's time to stop griping about how the airlines accomplish that.

Oh but it is a matter of saftey, this guy could never get off the plane in an emergency especially the overwing exit.

Perhaps the person seated next to him would disagree that Mr. Smith fit comfortably into one seat.

Additionally, being able to lower the armrests means very little. The average man, heavy or not, cannot fit into his seat comfortably and his shoulders and legs frequently encroach into neighboring space(s). It's time for airlines to do their part and give all passengers the arm and leg room they need. Animals in their crates are given more room than humans on planes. Reconfigure the cabins and raise the rates. And while they're at it, stop the seats from reclining into the passenger behind's lap. If they refuse to do that and people keep flying anyway, then those complaining passengers need to keep their mouths shut. Air travel is down considerable, and I'm happy to see it. Maybe at some point it will sink into airline executives' thick skulls that it's not all about the economy or the security procedures, that perhaps the disastrous on-board experience has something to do with it, too.

Do they apologize to the non-famous fat people as well?

All these reviews written within one hour? Sounds like Southwest public relations department has been busy this morning! Can I have a job faking comments on articles too?

Southwest was right! And it should not have issued any kind of apology for it did nothing wrong!!

Why didn't Mr. Smith purchase another seat...I'm sure he could afford it!

It's not a question if he's comfortable...it is a question of safety and also a question of the passenger who has to sit next to him or any severely obese individual. The severly obese seem to be oblivious that their person overflows to others areas. Other passengers welfare/comfort should also be considered!

Mr. Smith, put your focus toward your work and health!

Southwest - no apology necessary! SW has a well known policy - and in fact if there is an empty seat the money is refunded. I wish other airlines (are you listening AA) would do the same. Just because you can get an arm rest down doesn't mean that you won't spill into the next seat. I heard he 'offered' to go on a TV show sitting in a airline seat with the arms down - ok - Do it with 2 other people sitting on both sides of you..... and make sure it's a 3 hour show. (LAX-Chicago).

Is it true their seats are only 14" wide? How do they determine who is too fat for one seat? Do people know the criteria at the time they make their ticket purchase? It seems like they have an arbitrary decision making process.

The question shouldn't be whether he can sit comfortably, but whether those next to him can. Even if he can force the armrests down, his fat can encroach on others. I had a guy like that on a full flight and I couldn't sit in the middle of my seat, but had to squish over to the opposite side. The guy's fat still touched me the entire trip! Gross!!!

Yes it is about money, people are bigger and taller today. Have you even seen the beds of the 18th and early 19th century. I have several friends over 6'2", in terrific shape and can not fit comfortably in those seats. Can you imagine a pro football team flying commercially coach. More seats in an airplane means more money. The airlines determine the size of the seat completely focused on the number of "average" people they can stuff in an airplane to meet there profit goals. The problem is "average" is different today than it was in 1930. People are out of shape today, some 65% are considered obese. It's a serious problem for the airlines. I feel that obese people and large people should pay a little more to sit in larger seats in a designated area of the plane that is still coach. They should not have to pay double. Would they refund a ticket if two of your kids could fit in one seat. Don't kid youself about the financial sercurity of the airlines today. They are all in serious trouble and trying to make money at every possible opportunity. Maybe there is an opportunity for an airline to emerge and only cater to large or obese people. You would have to be of a certain size to get on the plane.

jaunenito: hey PAL, it's common sense. Read the policy before making a purchase. You don't have to be an airline employee to understand that.

Its odd that he was let on ANOTHER SOUTHWEST plane shortly thereafter. If they are going to have a policy it needs to be a set policy not up to the discretion of a pilot who may have been anti Silent Bob.

@ charlesinoc,
Did you not read the article? He WAS able to lower both armrests, which is the barometer for determining if you can fly without having to buy another seat. I'd bet dollars to donuts (which may be Kevin's weakness lol) that the flight attendant did not apply that policy or he wouldn't have been removed from the flight. They didn't say anything about him having to buy two seats for the flight he did catch later on the same airline.

I spent an hour and a half crushed in my seat because an obese lady was next to me and flowing over to my seat. I'm small and I was squished into a corner and extremely uncomfortable. She completely ignored me and I will admit I didn't have the nerve to confront a woman easily 3 times my weight and considerably taller than me. United did eventually apologize but it was very much an attitude of doing it to get rid of me. I will be flying Southwest after this when I can. Too bad they apologized.

While Southwest should be fined for subjecting passengers to such humiliation, one question still remains.
Why is he flying Southwest in the first place?Isn't he rich enough to fly 1st class?

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