You have probably heard or are somewhat aware of the Kevin Smith / Southwest Airlines dust up over the past few days. If you haven’t then you are missing an online reputation monitoring and management real life case study unfold right before your eyes.
The main player is screenwriter, film producer, and director Kevin Smith. Smith is famous for his movies Clerks, Dogma, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. If you have seen any of these movies you know where his sense of humor lies. Let’s just say it’s not family fare. His has developed a loyal following and that following has moved to Twitter where he has nearly 1.7 million followers. When you get to numbers like that and the person who has those numbers is a genuine influencer (not some spammer) there can be genuine power involved.
The other side is Southwest Airlines. Southwest is known for its own irreverent take on flying and has become a strong social media player as well. For those who follow these things, Southwest recently had a changing of the guard in their social media team when Paula Berg left the company. She spent 10 years building Southwest’s blogs and Twitter presence along with managing all reputation issues.
Long story short. Kevin Smith is a large man. As a result, due to a flight change on Saturday flying from Oakland to Burbank Smith was told he had to leave a flight because he did not have two seats to sit in since he apparently cannot meet the single seat standard for Southwest. Then the fur started to fly.
The LA Times reports
The pilot reportedly said Smith was a “safety risk” because he was unable to put down the armrest.
Smith, 39, responded with a barrage of profanity-laced Twitter posts, saying he was treated worse than a terrorist.
“I know I’m fat, but was (the pilot) really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?” he tweeted.
“I broke no regulation, offered no ‘safety risk’ (what, was I gonna roll on a fellow passenger?). I saw someone bigger than me on THAT flight! But I wasn’t about to throw a fellow Fatty under the plane as I’m being profiled. But he & I made eye contact, & he was like ‘Please don’t tell…'”
Smith called the incident embarrassing and vowed to continue tweeting about the airline for telling him he’s “too wide for the sky.”
Southwest responded with
Southwest officials said in a statement that as soon as they became aware of the Twitter posts, they called Smith to offer their “heartfelt apologies,” but also said his removal was for the “safety and comfort of all customers.”
“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,” Southwest said.
Southwest said its “customers of size” policy has been in effect for 25 years and that most airlines have similar rules, but few carriers enforce them.
The airline said it offered Smith a $100 flight voucher, which he said he refused. Smith eventually got on another Southwest flight.
It appears as if Smith and ready to call it a day with this last tweet
So how was this handled on both sides of the ledger? Well, it would be interesting to see what your thoughts are. Companies have policies and sometimes those policies are inconvenient. Customers have rights (and feelings) and have more ways than ever to express their discontent in any situation. This kind of situation is volatile enough but put a celebrity of Smith’s stature (pun intended) in the mix and you have tossed the proverbial gas on the fire.
How would you have handled it? Did Smith overstep his bounds or did Southwest screw up royally? Let’s get your “expert” opinion.