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Not So Silent Bob

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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. We are responsible for the Safety and comfort of all Customers on the aircraft and therefore, we made a judgment call 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.

1,760 Comments

  1. if i was big enough to be “redirected” to a different seat i would sue all of these airlines who apparently have these two-seat rules that no one knows about because btw, i HAVEN’T read about these situations before. and all of you “skinny” people who think that you are so tiny you aren’t hogging the armrest… THINK AGAIN!! regardless of weight, people are just flat out clueless and incosiderate at the same time.

  2. This just happened to me. When I was approached by Maggie at SMF today and she said the flight was booked and my stature is larger than the seats. Her option was I could buy another seat. HELLO your flight is booked, tell me how I can get my left and right side of my body on the same plane to the same location if you are booked.

    SWA will never see my money and I will TELL EVERYONE of your random clause as you chose to enforce when you feel is necessary.

    I want to see RULE 91, where screaming and kicking kids need their own flight.

    Maybe SWA needs to add a box to their online sales.

  3. have tried repeatedly to get credit for past flights taken by family members.
    one member is 90 years old and has flown SW a few times. I’m beginning to sense possible age discrimination since there is no response to requests. other family members (myself and spouse) have received some of their requested flight credits.

    I was disappointed to hear we booked travel plans with SW and not UNITED since UNITED has preferred FF program

    another fly in the ointment

  4. All this back and forth is ridiculous. No one has really offered a solution. Why doesn’t the airline just take 2 rows of seats and take out the middle seat and put 2 larger sized seats. Then the only way to book these seats if you are a larger sized person and you pay a little more for your ticket. If no one books these then they could offer it to smaller people as an upgrade for a nominal fee.

    This way there is no embarrasment and the airline still makes the money for the missing seat. It may not always be perfect but it shows that the airline is thinking outside the box in trying to accomadate all different types of passengers.

  5. Well I was in the same situation in september 2011…except I had purchased my ticket(s) well in advance. I boarded the flight, and by the time I found a space in the overhead bend for my carry-on bag and went to sit down, there was only one seat available. There was no way in the world was I going to seat in-between to obese men. I pointed this out to the flight attendents that were in the back of the plan, and they walked the aisle to the front to see if there was another emply seat and there was not. But in the mean time, the people with boarding passes had already boarded and taken the seats in the front. They never mentioned to me that they would deboard the guys or anyone, so I left to plan to wait on the next flight. (which will never happen again, I will stand if I have to). So I wait a couple of hours or so on the next flight and when I finally get to my destination, my luggage (just purchased two days prior) is destroyed. I spent more than 2.5 hrs at the airport getting the runaround from swa employees (there at the airport and on the telephone) telling me how they do not have control over what happens to the customers luggage, and that I should have stayed on the flight. I am to assume because there is not a fee for checking bags in, that your luggage is fair game. My luggage was destroy on purpose…there is no way that luggage would be scratched from one side to the other (on the top). Someone literally picked my luggage up from the bottom and dragged it. This is too bad, because at one time swa was a top notch airline. The leaders at swa has to come to the realization the their employees do not care about the customers, because if they did, they would not try to hassle us or makeup some lame excuse of why something happened. It is too bad….

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  7. ok so if you would take the time to listen to mr. smiths podcast about the situation. he didn’t have a chance to buckle his seat belt let alone show the attendant that the arm rest would go down. He said that he also & tweeted that he fit fine in ONE seat on the next fight & the attendant said he was a secuiuty risk. I am personally bigger than mr. smith & have never been booted off a southwest flight! so what do you make of that?

  8. People are funny, when a large person is told not to go on a ride because they are huge and its a safety concern and they put up a huge stink about it and then they are let on and end up dying because they fell out from being fat,everybody puts up a stink because they allowed this to happen. God forbid Southwest let all overweight people shove themselves in a small seat and an accident happens to where people are trapped because of the overweight person-then they will start saying “why did southwest even let that person occupy just one seat, they should have known better”. People are never satisfied- he knew the rules he should have followed them-case closed!