I’m responsible for much of the hate spewed at my friends Christi Day and Linda Rutherford at Southwest Airlines when a Southwest pilot tossed director Kevin Smith off a flight last week. The aircraft captain decided Smith was too gastronomically challenged to fit into the seat. Smith blogged and Tweeted ( let’s see, what’s a good word for rudely) about being asked to leave the flight which caused the airline no small amount of embarrassment, despite the fact that Rutherford posted a public apology on behalf of Southwest.
All I can say is that I’m really, really sorry to have put my friends in this corner.
I could have prevented this mess if only I’d spoken up about the chunky guy that squished me into a window seat when I climbed aboard a Southwest flight back from San Antonio to Midway through Nashville a few days before. But I didn’t. I was too uncomfortable to ask this guy to move they hell over to his own seat and leave me mine, even with the armrest down. Nope I sat sideways from SAT to BNA with my mouth shut.
And let’s be serious, that’s what this is all about … skinny, wimpy guys like me who don’t want to make a scene because they’re afraid a lunatic chubbo like Smith is going to haul off on them. So we suffer in silence. And we shouldn’t. I’m sorry they’re overweight, but it’s not my fault.
The Southwest people did the right thing by pulling Smith off the flight. Sure they could probably have offered him a free ticket rather than a voucher, but considering Smith’s short fuse, I doubt it would have helped anyway. That’s OK though. As one of my clients told me after the Smith affair, she would never change her mind about Southwest based on the rantings of a guy who had everything to gain for himself – as in free publicity – by going nuts on his blog and Twitter.
That being said, this incident again shows the power of social media on a brand. Ignore it at your peril.
And Christi and Linda. I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t be squished against the window again. I’ll speak up first next time so people like Kevin Smith won’t be able to say that some mean old airline is picking on them. I’ll pick on them first. But I’ll make sure I speak up nicely, using clean persuasive words in case it’s Smith sitting next to me — Rob Mark