Rob's Rambling

Southwest Airlines are idiots

Posted by Rob March 10, 2010, under Nothing Much, Personal | 2 Comments

Almost everyone has heard about the controversy surrounding the Kevin Smith/South West Airlines debacle but just in case you haven't, here's the skinny:

Kevin Smith (a large lad) had booked two seats on a South West flight - he changed his flight and SWA seated him in a single (because there wasn't space) and then very publicly ejected for being too fat with the reason cited that "he would not be comfortable occupying just one seat" and that he was a safety risk.

Goddess of PR, Gini Dietrich, drew my attention to it with a Blog post and while I hadn't thought about it in a PR sense before, I certainly have now.

Now look - I'm a fairly regular guy. I don't enjoy sitting next to gigantic people on a plane either but it's not something that's going to ruin my life. And since the policy that South West was enforcing is about people not being able to put down their armrests (which Smith could).

Anyway, SWA issued a backhanded apology to Smith on their public blog which didn't go down so well. You know the sort - "Well I'm sincerely sorry but you're a fatty and we have rules!"

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As if that wasn't bad enough PR for the almost terminally stupid airline, it turns out that SWA simply lied through their teeth about the whole thing. A nice lady phoned Smith on Feb. 15th and told him that absolutely all of it was pretty much random profiling. There was no protocol, just a "Oooh there's a fat one, kick him off so we can leave."

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For all of you keeping score, that's a cockup of monumental proportions for a company.

Whoever the PR folks are should be chucked - this whole thing could have been sorted out at the check-in desk, reasonably explained and SWA would sail the skies unmolested by a furious army of Smith fans.

Idiots.

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Currently have 2 Comments

  1. I think there are two problems with this crisis: 1) The way Smith was handled on-flight and 2) The person they have handling their Twitter account, as smart as is, is really young and inexperienced. This is why I always tell clients (and talk about A LOT of my blog) that you should not let people without business experience be the face of your brand. You wouldn't let them pitch a big piece of business or present to the board until they're ready. Why would you let them handle communication, branding, customer service, and sales all bundled into one Twitter handle?

    • Chances are good that like most businesses Twitter is just a small and useless sideline to SWA. They've embraced it (and blogging) because it's a buzzword rather than because it has the potential to change some of the perceptions their client base has of them.

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