Southwest Air & Kevin: Social Responsibility

By now, most the social web and even mainstream media have read the story about Southwest Airlines and filmmaker Kevin Smith, removing him from a flight because he was ‘too fat’ and a safety concern. Let me state this from the get go, I realize that SWA was in the wrong with their actions and don’t agree with what they did.

I was glad though to see that Southwest responded quickly and even more than once (whether to people’s liking or not) – but I want to tackle an even deeper issue than that:

Social Responsibility

It’s no secret that the social web allows us to interact with businesses more closely and under a larger microscope than ever before. But when does one draw the line from expecting rapid communication to an issue, to going overboard and abusing your ‘social power’ for the benefit of yourself and to balloon a story even larger than it needs to be?

On one side I see Kevin Smith, a filmmaker who has more followers than Southwest Airlines themselves. A guy who was definitely wronged by the company and used his influence to voice his displeasure. On the flip side, I see a guy who continues to berate and badger SWA all over Twitter and IMO, abusing the social responsibility that we all really have in this space. For what? To truly push the message that SWA did wrong or to USE the social web to continue one’s own agenda?

We EXPECT, DEMAND, WANT big and small from companies online – but when it comes to us, the consumer, we apparently get a free pass when it comes to RESPECT, UNDERSTANDING and RESPONSIBILITY online.

Next time you want to flip the script and go Kevin Smith or Motrin Moms on a company, sit back and think about the openness of this space and the responsibility that comes along with it. Even more so, think to yourself if you’d truly do the same in-person if this situation were to happen at a brick & mortar.

But enough of my side, what do you think of this story? Is Kevin right in his continued messages against SWA? Or did Southwest drop the ball far enough to deserve this amount of ridicule?

45 comments On Southwest Air & Kevin: Social Responsibility

  • I think Kevin was absolutely correct. He was signaled out, bullied and embarrased. He had the right to use ‘his voice’ in any way he wanted. How totally annoying travel is, and to finally be seated on a plane getting ready for take-off and be removed. If I were him I would do more than harnass social media to have my story told.

  • You raise an excellent point, Sonny. It seems that nowadays, there’s a fine line between using social media to hold a company accountable — and using it to bully them into giving us our way.
    From the sounds of it, Southwest screwed up and should make an appropriate amends. The sooner, the better.
    As for Kevin Smith, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

  • I couldn’t agree more with your thought that if I’m going to say it on Twitter, you bet your butt I’d say it to your or anyone’s face. I *live* (online) by that rule. Absolutely live by it.

    However, humiliating someone in public, who obviously didn’t deserve it (he’s NOT that fat), is a much worse crime than leveraging your community against it. I followed it very closely and even listened to Kevin Smith’s “SModcast” in which he gave his version of the story…. I tell you this, you are wrong when you hint to him trying to further an agenda.
    The man was embarrassed, he’s now pissed off about it, and he wants them to admit that he wasn’t too fat to fly. SWA won’t do it, and so he’s now nervous that this will follow him for the rest of his life. Is that agenda? Not the way you implied.

    I hope this is the new media… treat someone improperly and hear about it. The medium itself (and people’s judgement of it) filters out the truth from the garbage.

    • Matthew,

      I get that he didn’t deserve to be treated this way, nobody does – whether you’re ‘big’ or not. But clearly with his tone of his numerous messages on Twitter, he was out to do more than *just* get his message across.

      I respect your choice to back him up, but after so much hoopla, messages flying back and forth, he said/she said – I think the real message has been diluted and put to the sidelines in favor of a media fiasco, which IMO Kevin fueled to its limits.

  • Agree, Sonny. He said it was his responsibility to take to his platform and he was fortunate to have a large audience. However, isn’t it also his responsibility not to go completely overblown? At this point, it’s tasteless and I’m beginning to lean toward Southwest’s side.

    It was an unfortunate situation, you told your story. But why continue to use vulgarity, why continue to use the tone? Suddenly, it’s gone to being a celebrity taking advantage of his status and coming off like a complete jackarse.

  • I love love love this post. I actually wanted to write one saying pretty much the same thing, but you already took care of it 🙂

    I can’t agree more, and not to sound like a cliche, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I have been growing extremely annoyed with the Kevin Smith rants that don’t subside. He had every right to be pissed, but after repeated apologies, I think his behavior is, in so many words, badgering, and is getting annoying.

    I hate to bring up the issue of audience size into discussion again, but it’s hard to avoid on this one. I feel like if no one was listening and reinforcing as much as they are now, he wouldn’t keep fanning the flames. But with so many followers, and so many people agreeing with this behavior, it becomes a dangerous power game and tug of war.

    I think this behavior is childish, and when the child keeps getting acknowledged, he keeps whining. If we, as collective social media brain, stop condoning this kind of behavior, it wouldn’t be as attractive. Part of the onus is on us to speak up against these abuses of power.

    In social media, the golden rule still applies: do onto others. At the end of the day, I think this behavior will catch up to people. It’s not too long before someone launches a similar attack against @thatkevinsmith or another “celeb” overstepping boundaries.

    • Very well said, Maria!

      You make a very valid point about the power game within social media and regardless of how this industry grows within the next few years, there will always be this part of the space that will never subside. Sure, Kevin (or anyone for that matter), doesn’t deserve to be treated like this by SWA or any other company in any negative manner – but when did we forget to stop acting like human beings and decide to get giddy with ‘social power’ and abuse this space – beating a dead horse, over and over and over.

      • I don’t see how could get annoyed with Kevin Smith rants. I don’t even know who he is. I did hear something about a fat guy causing a ruckus on Southwest Air. I don’t know any details but SWA always seems to treat me better than any other airline ever. So I’d have to assume it was the fat guy. My view is that if there’s a fire and only half of the passengers are going to get out, is he between me and the wing exit? Can he fit through the wing exit? Am I supposed to die so he can be fat and fly? If I’m ever on a flight and there’s someone sitting in the exit row who won’t get out and take us with him, I’m the one who will raise a ruckus. They have devices to check the size of your carry on, maybe we need to check the size of the person too. This is really something that the FAA should fix.

        The great thing about the medium is you can turn it off and go skiing or diving or something. It’s not like they’ve strapped you to a chair and sewed your eyes open….

  • I disagree with those saying it is getting annoying. Southwest Airlines lied about the situation (claiming he always buys two seats), offered him “$100” for his trouble after they realized they messed up (what an insult – humiliation can be rectified with small amounts of cash?) and yet they continue to not admit they were wrong in saying he was too big for the chair. All he wants is for them to admit they are wrong and not do this to others. He is not asking for money.

    Airlines do this a lot. Don’t you remember the song about United breaking guitars? They wouldn’t admit they were at fault either. It isn’t until they were made to look like fools online that they tried to save face.

    Being in a wheelchair and a bit heavier, this worries me. What if they did this to me? I could get stuck without my wheelchair and have to be carried off the plane (not to mention the fact that most airlines break wheelchairs when loading them, but that’s another story). Kevin Smith is standing up for all of us “fatties”. When we pay as much as we do for airline tickets, it is our right to complain until a satisfactory resolution is reached.

    • I understand your concern, D and have talked to friends who would be worried for their own friends or family if they were to go through a similar ordeal.

      But that’s the thing Dominick, who the heck is even right or wrong now? After this much bickering, cursing, dozens of tweets, back and forth from both sides. Did it really accomplish anything? We can sit here and continue to blame one party or another, but I think Kevin’s ‘campaign’ against SWA really adversely effected his stance.

  • @Maria
    They are apologizing on Twitter, while they are spewing lies about the situation on their blog. It’s a bit hypocritical. It’d be like apologizing to someone to their face then skipping over to their family and calling them bad names and lying about why an apology was necessary.

    Hollow apologizes fall deaf on informed ears.

  • Sonny,

    Great post – you echo a lot of the same thoughts I’ve battled with while following this story over the past couple days.

    Southwest obviously screwed up – bad. But the whole thing has escalated in to such an extreme he said, she said, who can blog faster, who can talk louder on the Web, who gets the most votes in the online poll etc… that my sympathy is starting to wane. The real issue has been so obscured that I think a lot of it has been lost.

    Fantastically, social media has given consumers a powerful voice we haven’t enjoyed before. Companies have to listen and respond because our growing communities are paying attention. But we need to be responsible with our new power and use it wisely, because if we don’t than companies will eventually stop taking serious situations seriously.

    Good thoughts.

    Rachel Kay

    • You make a great point about what social responsibility really ties into. How companies perceive this online playground and whether they really should be spending their marketing budgets, man-power and time in a space that will basically get them ridiculed vs. a fair ‘fight’ in the world of issue/crisis communication.

      Maybe not everyone sees it in this light, but it’s an important factor for those of us who are helping companies integrate these digital strategies within their business. Will they see the increasing need/benefit for communication on these channels or will they think it’s becoming a place where messages are being amplified to the Nth degree at *fault* of these channels and communities?

      Thanks for the great thoughts, Rachel!

  • Southwest screwed up, then made misleading statements in their first “apology”. They threw him off the plane even after he demonstrated that he fit into the seat in accordance with the policy. Later, on the flight he was allowed to take, they threatened to charge the woman in his aisle for the same empty seat that they were already charging him for.

    While trying to cover their tracks, Southwest has made Kevin out to be a flouter of the rules (which he wasn’t), claimed to have given him a voucher (they offered, he refused, they still claim he got it), and by misrepresenting the issue have whipped up a good amount of “anti-fatty” sentiment. If you’ve reviewed the comments sections on the news sites covering this story, you’ve seen how vile people can be.

    Kevin Smith has a right to his gripe. More importantly, Kevin Smith has an audience. Unlike most folks, when he tweets people listen. Southwest failed to uphold their end of the social responsibility bargain and this time they got caught by someone with the means and the determination to let people know about it.

    Southwest will be changing things as a result of this, and it will be for the better. Some of the changes would not have occured if this event didn’t happen. It’s people like Kevin Smith who help make sure that people like you and I are less likely to be put in this kind of predicament in the future.

    • As for social responsibility goes, sure Southwest didn’t handle the initial reply via post that well and I think they realize that, but Kevin’s continued response to the issue wasn’t one just to get his voice heard, it was constant badgering of the issue at hand.

      Because he or anyone else has a large following doesn’t give him/her the right to beat up on a company after the fact. Kevin even admitted that it was getting old and that the story basically run its course. Then I ask the question – would this message really not have been heard if he didn’t go about it the way he did? Couldn’t I (or anyone, for that matter), who has a few thousand followers, gotten that message across as well? I’m confident we could.

      I just think it could’ve been done in a more meaningful way vs. the shock & awe of public banter against a company. Do we as consumers in this open online world have the right to do as we please against companies? Companies who are here to listen and engage their communities because it’s where communications/marketing/PR/etc has evolved to? Not so sure about that.

      Regardless of viewpoints, I’m glad you shared your perspective here.

  • I think you raise some interesting points. I think there are a couple of reasons that it has turned into such a huge issue. One, Mr. Smith indicates Southwest Airlines lied, and there seems to be numerous people coming forward saying they have been victimized by their inconsistent policy administration. Secondly, the humiliation he experienced, struck a chord with many larger people, myself included. I can buckle my belt and put the armrests comfortably down, but you would likely wonder by my appearance if that were true. His experience invoked a huge fear in me that even if I satisfy their rule I may be subjected to humiliation at the hands of a big corporate entity.

    While some may be sick of hearing from Mr. Smith, I was one of many people who sent Mr. Smith a huge thank you for being a voice for everyone who doesn’t have such a loud voice.

  • Two very interesting developments came out recently:

    From Southwest:

    And from Kevin Smith:

    Southwest admits in quiet to being very wrong, but not so much in public. To their credit, in their mea sorta culpa, they acknowledged being wrong enough to incur scorn.

    Sonny, if you are complaining about the tone of Kevin’s tweets, you probably stopped reading them while the event was still unfolding and he was still being actively insulted by the airlines. I would also guess that you didn’t listen to his full review of what occured.

    As for him talking so much about this issue, don’t forget that we was responding to thousands of people … it does take time to answer that many questions.

    Like I said before, Southwest is going to make some changes as a result of this fiasco that wouldn’t have happened if someone like Kevin hadn’t shown the passion he showed. In the end, there will be people who will be treated better than they would have been.

  • I’m not even sure how a guy Kevin Smith’s size can fit into a standard airplane seat these days. Be that as it may, the truth is that even if he can squeeze into a seat the person next to him is doubly inconvenienced. Why is that fair? Buy a second seat, brother, and cut out the dairy when you get home.

    • Albion – that’s far from the real issue at hand and pretty inconsiderate to assume that of Kevin and his life..

      • The question of social responsibility in social media is a good one, but needs to also be applied to SWA’s blog. The comments section of both the original and second post on SWA’s blog site are filled with hate toward overweight people (“Kill the fatties,” “shut your fat pieholes you fat pukes,” etc.). This is in contrast to the usage guidelines that clearly indicate that type of commentary won’t be tolerated or posted. So is SWA failing its social responsibility by allowing its social space to become a forum for hate speach? I would argue so.

        • Great point, Seth, and glad you touched on this.

          I have seen the insensitivity and hate of the open (and anonymous) social space that this issue has created. I’m quite surprised that Southwest allowed all of those messages to come into their own corporate platform.

          Unfortunately enough, it’s the sad state of the online world and how anonymity gives people the gall to spew this sorta hate. A post, all in its own.

  • Great reminder for both sides of any perceived wrong doing to have temperance. There is a point when people go too far on social media platforms in singling people out when they are emotional and going on perceptions.

  • Kevin is one person, albeit a powerful voice. I wonder how many people were responsible for the SWA replies? One, or more? More would explain a difference in tone and/or substance.

    Apart from the incident itself, I applaud your bringing a different point of view to the analysis and making a good point about responsibility, regardless of whether KS crossed that line or not.

    Making people think in the pilot-fish world Twitter has become is a major accomplishment.

  • Southwest screwed up. Period. And then compounded it by blogging about it with inaccuracies. Then tweeted about it with a different version of what happened. Is Kevin pissed? Yes. Has he tweeted a lot about it? Yes. Has he tweeted perhaps too much about it? Well, that is possible. However you also have to keep in mind this: if you follow Kevin on Twitter you know that he has a habit of responding to almost all of his @ replies. And that is what was happening most of the weekend: he was responding to things that others were tweeting to him. There sure were a lot of them! Perhaps he should have, at one point said, “okay, enough! Not going to talk about this any more. Let’s all move on.” And we really should move on.

    Still, the situation shows just how fast an issue can mobilize folks, be they for or against.

    Does anyone know if Southwest ever really called Kevin? They kept saying they had, while he was saying that he was still waiting to hear from them. Just wondering.

    • Reading your comment makes me look at this issue even more as a ‘he said/she said’. Aside from social responsibility, I think many of us question the company before we question a consumer.

      This is more of an overall assessment of the social landscape and how much pressure companies really have when they make their way into this space. Sure they know they put themselves out there, there WILL be missteps, but can their voice still be heard over thousands of consumers, if they are in fact trying to make amends?

      Digital media makes it ‘easier’ in the sense of getting the message out, but has also made it that much harder for that message to truly resonate with the people.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Katherine.

  • Not a single person here has commented that “Southwest Airlines” is NOT A PERSON. It’s thousands of people who work very hard to run what seems to be a great airline. If Kevin Smith’s incessant whining hits Southwest’s revenue, how many people completely unconnected to asking an overweight loudmouth to get off of a flight will be affected. The fact is that “Southwest Airlines” did not lie to anyone. “Southwest Airlines” did not throw anyone off a plane. It was individual employees. Did they do the right thing? Who knows? No one outside of Southwest Airlines has likely asked them their side. (And just as likely they are prevented from being able to speak up on their own as a matter of company policy.) So we really don’t know what happened other than the truth as filtered through Kevin Smith. But Kevin Smith would look like an ass if he went after them. He’d look like a bully. So it’s easier for him to go after some faceless corporation.

    Kevin Smith is no hero. He’s not fighting a battle for fat people. He deserves no thanks. Check out his Twitter page background. It’s plugging his new movie. He’s getting thousands of hits on that page a day and is he using that real estate to do anything for the overweight or downtrodden? No.

    The fact is that Kevin Smith is an embarrassed little man with a fragile ego. Sadly, he’s also a famous embarrassed little man, so this event gets breathless coverage. I used to like Kevin Smith, but I unfollowed him months ago because his tweets were often scatological or about masturbating. This whole thing has just reinforced my opinion that Kevin Smith is about one thing: Kevin Smith.

  • I completely disagree with your premise that Southwest was wrong in this.

    If Kevin Smith can’t fit in an airline seat, Southwest shouldn’t have to accommodate him at the last second when he decides to change flights.

    This is a guy who was called morbidly obese by his Doctor, and broke a toilet seat by sitting on it

    If he fits between the armrests, but hangs over like the muffins at Starbucks hang over the paper cone, I wouldn’t want to be sitting beside him for the flight, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be sitting beside him during an emergency.

    Lastly, the way he takes it to Twitter isn’t a fair fight, because Southwest can’t fight as vociferously. If I had time, I’d fight more for them.

    Thanks for fighting for the rights of the passenger beside Kevin Smith, Southwest.

  • It’s interesting to me how main stream media picks up on the attention social media – and those who have social media influence – and seems to create their own velocity around it. It sort of becomes the story within the story.

    My gut tells me after hearing about the issue and seeing it re-broadcast over and over adnauseum (sp?) that Kevin was taking it too far…like enough already…you made your point, now let’s move on.

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  • Others have already nitpicked and pointed out that you, like most of the media, have chosen to ride the “too fat to fly!” angle, instead of SWA employees’ abuse of power. Let me go further.

    Smith was already seated, he was fit to fly by SWA’s own standards, and he was apparently targeted by a frazzled employee who wanted to spread his misery to a convenient target; a SWA rep admitted up front that it was absolutely wrong for him to have been pulled from the flight.

    Smith made his complaint in the flesh at the counter. Employees originally refused to give him any answers on why he was removed, or identifying information on who ordered him removed. He didn’t simply turn to his army of angry flying monkeys–he talked to someone face to face and got no answers, much less respect.

    The same abuse of power was demonstrated in front of Smith later when an overweight flyer seated in his row was pulled aside and hassled for NO reason–she was fit to fly by their own posted standards, she was not encroaching on anyone’s seat space, and the attendant KNEW the seat next to her was empty. If I understood correctly (he was understandably upset during the recording of his podcast) Smith says the girl was told she’d have to ask HIM, as the ‘owner’ of said empty seat, for permission to stay on the plane.

    It was pure and blatant bullying of an acceptable target. It was abuse of power, not by Smith, but by the SWA employees.

    And Southwest’s original answer was a blog post that shared private customer information in an attempt to further that media’s assumption that Smith was just too fat to fly. It has not addressed the uneven application of its policies toward customers, and it hasn’t addressed the abusive behavior of its employees.

    And you want to lecture him on social responsibility, while making a post like this which take advantage of Smith’s current newsworthy status for hits?

    • Kristen – I think you’re a bit confused if you think I’ve chosen the ‘too fat to fly’ SWA angle because if you read the first paragraph, I clearly stated that “I realize that SWA was in the wrong with their actions and don’t agree with what they did.”

      Call it a lecture, but this goes for Kevin and anyone who IMO overly abuses their social ‘influence’ to continually push a message against a company.

      Lastly, I’m not sure which media/blog/news outlets you read, but I’m confident trending and newsworthy topics are discussed on the constant. As for my post and my blog, I’m tackling an issue that I feel is an important one to address, while everyone else jumps on the bandwagon of Team Kevin or Team Southwest (I’m not completely for or against either).

      Now, if I were to take advantage of Kevin’s ‘newsworthy status’ for hits, I’d badger the hell out of him to get a response, but I’m not. I’m looking to you guys and gals for thoughts, on both ends of the spectrum, to further the discussion on a RELEVANT topic. So, call it what you want.

  • “With great power comes great responsibility.”

    We, as individuals have a right and obligation to stick up for ourselves. Mr. Smith had every right to voice his opinions about his treatment by Southwest Air.

    However, once an overture of peace/recompense has been made, Mr. Smith had the opportunity to accept it and move on.

    Using social media as a platform to cyber bully is not cool. With the voice and platform that Mr. Smith had, he could have used the opportunity to bring an awareness, solve a problem and then set policy moving forward.

    Instead, overkill generates ill will in the immediate and also weakens the social media platform eventually.

    Thanks for the forum.

    Best, M.

    • Molly – thanks for articulating this whole mess into one concise comment.

      You hit the nail on the head that instead of the constant badgering: ‘He could have used the opportunity to bring an awareness, solve a problem and then set policy moving forward.’

      I’m not telling Kevin to not have a voice at all, it’s the demeanor in which he did that, though will create change in Southwest policies, has created this great divide between two parties.

      Thanks again for the great comment!

      • My sincere apologies if I wasn’t clear about Mr. Smith’s obligation to honor his voice. I didn’t mean to imply that you didn’t think he had that right/obligation.

        Mr. Smith does have a lot of power, though, due to the strength of his brand. For the record, SWA has great responsibility in this case as well.

        The silver lining in this sad situation is that it is an example of how *not* to do something.

        Thanks again for opening the forum and giving folks an opportunity to comment. Best, M.

  • Nope.. He hasn’t said enough on this. He hasn’t made his point because as of Tuesday Feb 16th at 9:30 am central time.. Southwest has simply failed to back down their “he’s fat, that’s why he was removed” stance.

    If a corporation sets a standard for anything, be it serving size, height of employee for a given job description, size of luggage that can be carried on vs checked, then that corporation needs to follow that standard or be prepared to be ridiculed and held to public view until such time as they acknowledge their failure and indicate how they will rectify that.

    If a large percentage of the viewing/reading public gets tired of hearing about the issue in the mean time, then they can change the channel, read another article or just turn off the screen and go outside for a while.

    This issue will not die quietly, whether Mr. Smith stops talking about the issue or not.

  • Sonny,
    Great post. I started following the story after I saw some people on my stream talk about it and was very sympathetic toward Mr. Smith’s problem. Then I started to read his tweets and his RT’s of people’s responses to him. I lost interest quickly. While I understand his anger, the more vulgarity I heard, the more I started to lose sympathy. In my opinion, he used his “voice” in a mob mentality rather than having a voice of reason and getting the issues addressed. As someone above stated – the fights on Twitter aren’t fair. We, as consumers, feel righteous in bashing these brands but they can’t come back and hit us the same way.

    I, for one, am done reading about the SWA/KS ordeal. Yours was the last post I’ll read on it. 😉


  • Very interesting. I understand the point about the shock and awe techniques that Kevin Smith used, however, that’s not unique to this situation. That’s his approach to every situation. Taking away his celebrity status, you see a hurt, embarrassed, humiliated human being. A company made a mistake and instead of apologizing, they post rude blogs that aren’t even fact based – isn’t that a poor reflection of the company itself? The title of the first blog was rude and condescending – I wonder if somebody besides just the blog writer read that before publishing? The comments on the blogs were astonishing – the hate that this situation stirred up is frightening. I feel that perhaps in Kevin’s case there are better ways to present your point (without vulgarity), but it doesn’t negate the value of his point. His responses were to the comments made by SWA and to the many followers on Twitter who continued to question him. I think he continued only in defense of himself, a man just wanting to be heard. People keep pushing the “he should follow the rules” card, when he did, in fact, do so. So he continues his crusade because people continue to question him. He must have been that deeply hurt by the situation if he felt compelled to defend himself to people he doesn’t know. I think from his recent blog he has decided he can’t keep arguing the same point, people hear what they want to hear regardless of the facts. I think its hard to focus on social responsibility when someone is very emotionally involved. Dealing with humiliation is hard, and I’d argue not everybody can deal with those emotions in a socially responsible way. I do wish, however, that if SWA really told him that he was ejected not because of his weight, that they’d just come out and say it and apologize and retain some dignity. This has gotten pretty nasty. SWA’s replies make me question their practices as a company – people make mistakes, I don’t expect perfection, but ownership of those mistakes goes a long way. I hope SWA figures out how to fairly practice their policies and how to renew faith in their company.

    • Jenny – really appreciate your thoughts.

      I respect his side of the story and being humiliated, publicly, by SWA employees. Even more so, and something I just commented on above to Seth, is Southwest’s responsibility on the web and their lack of judgment when it comes to their blog post to Kevin (which I’ve publicly stated I disagreed with) and their treating (or lack thereof) of their comments, which many are riddled with hate.

      In the end, I’m not Kevin. I don’t know his feelings and how he’s doing emotionally with this situation. I’m sticking with my guns to this post on responsibility, but I agree SWA could have done a better job in their communication and handling of this situation.

      Thanks again for sharing your views. Very well said!

  • The fact is that both Kevin Smith & Southwest Airlines are at fault here and this media uproar will have long-term negative PR and marketing affects on both brands (Yes, Kevin Smith is a brand).

    There isn’t ever a clear winner in these types of PR nightmares; both parties may have a small victory (battle) but ultimately the (war) outcome is a draw. No winner, no loser, just LOSS.

    • It seems that way doesn’t it? We obviously have numerous viewpoints on this issue that either side or don’t side with each party. Unfortunately, it does feel like a draw when looking at the entire situation. But at the least, hopefully SWA tightens up their policies and employee training so something like this doesn’t happen again.

  • Obesity has not been a huge issue on the several dozen flights a year I fly on SWA. And when it is, things get a little tight. It is not unusual for every seat to be sold, and then things can get really tight.

    When I buy a ticket, I pay for space.

    When a fellow passenger spills into my space, SWA cannot deliver what I purchased. It is a form of overbooking.

    Now, if passengers do not want the opinion of a flight attendant to determine their allowable girth, perhaps a simple tailor’s tape measure would help. Publish how many inches of girth are allowed, and outfit each plane with a tape measure. How hard can be be?

    No doubt some government reg may come into play … to which I say, there should be a national standard, fairly and unambiguously administered.

    Ironically, SWA just email me a promotion on cheap tickets as I was writing this … Always trying to fill every seat!

  • Sonny, great debate going on here and these comments are so good.

    @jameswebster makes an excellent point, the SWA is not one person. Many people share responsibility here, from the staff on the plane, the bloggers and the Tweeters at corporate, and those who hired/trained them.

    @gregelwell Loved your comment about the “story within the story.” This is a social media case study unfolding, with events happening real time, LIVE for the world to watch.

    But it goes past observation; turn a light on something, you change it. All the back and forth between the viewers has certainly added fuel to the fire, changed the story into something more.

    I agree with lots of folks here that SM power should be used responsibly, and that both parties share fault for this situation. FWIW.

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  • Christian Lisogorsky

    I agree with you. With social media exposure, comes social responsibility. Some people abuse their power and online status to go overboard and exaggerate the situation for their own benefit.

    It is true that Southwest Airlines failed when approaching Kevin Smith and asked him to leave, but at the same time Kevin Smith failed on his social responsibility to voice his complaint outside of proportions and, knowingly of his power and status, take it to other media outlets taking advantage of the situation.

    The difference is that Southwest Airlines failed him as a customer and later fixed it providing him with another flight and a comp for his frustation. But Kevin Smith failed his followers -those who follow him because he adds value to their lives- as a public figure and he is not compensating any of them for the time he stole from them when ramping against Southwest Airlines.

    We are experiencing a shift in communications that we haven’t realized yet. The social networks are only tools and mediums through which we communicate with each other. They might be here today and might not tomorrow, but the relationships we build thru them will stay forever and we have to value them and respect them.

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