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Posted at 5:45 AM ET, 02/15/2010

"2 FAT 2 FLY"? Filmmaker Kevin Smith is kicked off flight because of his girth

By Michael Cavna

[NOTE: This report was previously updated at 4:45 and 5:18 a.m.]

THE META-POST:

Southwest Airlines calls itself "The LUV Airline!" Now, Kevin Smith is, in effect, flaming Southwest as The LUV-Handle-Hating Airline.

Girth. Airline "safety" practices. Ranting Tweets. An official airline apology. And the mobilized vitriol of Smith's cult-y fan base. This story might not have wings, but it sure appears that it'll have legs.

At the center of the width-based kerfuffle, pinging its way around the chatosphere, is one question: Is Kevin Smith, occupying a single seat, really "2 fat 2 fly" -- or was Southwest in the wrong and practicing unfair bias?


15ksmith.jpg


The plot: Smith -- the filmmaker, comic-book writer (and Jersey comic-store owner) -- was flying Oakland to Burbank on Saturday night. He reportedly was put on standby after changing his reservation at the last minute -- and according to Southwest, only a single seat was available on the new, full flight.

The plot twist: After boarding the plane and situating himself in his seat, Smith -- judged to be a "Customer of Size" by the airline's policy -- was deemed a "flight risk" and was asked to deboard the plane and take another flight.

The upshot: Smith, taking the not-so-Silent-Bob approach to the events, decides to begin tweeting his outrage.

On Saturday night, the filmmaker ("Clerks," "Chasing Amy," "Mallrats" and "Dogma") tweets: "Wanna tell me I'm too wide for the sky? Totally cool. But fair warning, folks: IF YOU LOOK LIKE ME, YOU MAY BE EJECTED FROM @SOUTHWESTAIR."

That night, Smith also tweets "to Southwest": "Landed in Burbank. Don't worry: wall of the plane was opened & I was airlifted out while Richard Simmons supervised" and "Look how fat I am on your plane! Quick! Throw me off!"

Soon, Southwest is barraged on its Twitter page and, by Sunday, issues an apology on its Web site. The airline also says it has issued Smith a $100 voucher. And Southwest tweets in reply to Smith: "Again, I'm very sorry for the experience you had tonight. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do."


Replying to the airline's apology, Smith, 39 (who characterizes himself as "way fat"), tweets: "In their 'apology' blog, they implied (or flat-out wrote) that I regularly purchase 2 seats. Writing that buttresses their lie: 2 Fat 2 Fly." Followed by: "But, by their own guidelines, I was not, in fact, 2 Fat 2 Fly: the arm rests went down & I could buckle my seat belt w/o an extender. So...?"

And on his podcast with Scott Mosier, "SModcast," Smith reportedly says "terrorists" are able to get on planes, yet he's kicked off for being too fat.

In response, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance is urging fliers to boycott Southwest, encouraging "people of size to seek out and travel airlines that do not have such discriminatory policies."

Southwest wrote on its site: "Our pilots are responsible for the Safety and comfort of all Customers on the aircraft and therefore, made the determination that Mr. Smith needed more than one seat to complete his flight."

Smith, who spoke last week at the Macworld Expo conference in the Bay Area, acknowledged that he purchased two tickets for the flight he was originally booked on; Southwest acknowledged the same.

Smith -- whose extensive writing for comics includes "Daredevil" and "Green Arrow" -- also said that the publicity couldn't hurt: His film "Cop Out," starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, is scheduled to open in two weeks. (The comics writer has said he's also working on "Batman" and "Green Hornet" stories.)

The filmmaker, who is scheduled to speak in Washington in April as part of a national tour, tweeted: "You [messed] with the wrong sedentary processed-foods eater!"

Was either Smith or Southwest in the wrong? If you've got an opinion on the matter, feel free to fire away.



'RIFFS NOTES: A similar scenario played out with Southwest Airlines (at LAX) on the reality show "Airline":

By Michael Cavna  | February 15, 2010; 5:45 AM ET
Categories:  Geek Buzz  | Tags:  Kevin Smith  
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Comments

a Boeing 737,(which is what SW flies) can handle a whole shipload of Kevin Smiths without a problem. (I should know that much...I used to build them)

On Mr. Smith's flight, Southwest also threw off a young woman who didn't meet their "fat" rule, actually shaming her to tears. But if Southwest wants to establish rules, how about a few to keep terrorists of all sizes off their planes, instead of people who fit a larger size than their skinny, nicotine puffing backsides.

Posted by: prettyfunnylady | February 15, 2010 5:08 AM | Report abuse

Kevin Smith is self described as "Way Fat". Southwest airlines has a long standing policy covering the handling of overweight passengers, who can either be asked to buy a second seat, or who can be asked to leave the flight, if they are deemed a safety risk ( too fat ) by the flight attendants. Btw, flight attendants are not there to pass out coffee and pillows, their primary job is passenger safety. But I digress...Kevin Smith was deemed to be a safety concern under the policy. What IS the problem? He needs to keep his fat mouth ( pun intended ) shut. And if he wants to fly Southwest in the future he should either 1) buy two seats ahead of time or 2) call Jenny Craig.

Posted by: geoffreyrhone | February 15, 2010 5:25 AM | Report abuse

How would you like to be the person sitting next to this guy, squeezed into less than your seat area because of his obesity? I bet the airline wouldn't apologize to you. And note he bought two seats but then wanted an earlier flight-- it was his convenience, and he didn't actually have a ticket for that flight. And an organization called "Fat Acceptance"? Just what we need, as Americans are becoming more obese, with a rise in rates of diabetes, heart disease, etc. (higher health insurnace premiums, anyone?). Anti-discimination is one thing. But to accept obesity, whether it's due to a condition they can't control or just plain overeating of the wrong foods? Notice how many people, like Keven, while able to admit they are a bit overweight, can't accept the fact that they may be morbidly obese?

Posted by: Sutter | February 15, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

geoffreyrhone: He DID buy two seats, but changed his reservation at the last minute and was put on standby. Did you not read the beginning of this blog, or do you have a comprehension problem?

Regardless, he and Southwest each share some of the blame here. He shouldn't have boarded the flight once he found out two adjacent seats weren't available. And Southwest should have realized he bought two adjacent seats and not put him on this flight upon finding out they were unavailable.

Posted by: support6 | February 15, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

As I continue to lose weight I am yet still a fatass that needs to buy two seats when I fly because I can't be spilling over onto the person next to me. Airline rules to make sure this doesn't happen "if you can't fit in seat with both arm rests DOWN you must buy a 2nd seat." I only fly SWA as they are great and if the flight is NOT full they have always reimbursed me for one of my two tickets! I don't dare show up late, without a reservation and accept a one-seat purchase knowing I am going to greatly embarrass myself when I board the plane. In 4-5 months, God willing I will only need one seat again for the rest of my life. Health and nutrition education is a blessing.

Posted by: artsnsportz | February 15, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

He reportedly was put on standby after changing his reservation at the last minute -- and according to Southwest, only a SINGLE seat was available on the new, full flight.

Posted by: artsnsportz | February 15, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

The gocomics.com site hasn't been updated for Feb. 15 (at least so far), so the Post's links to strips like "Frazz", "Big Nate", and many others won't work.

Posted by: seismic-2 | February 15, 2010 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Kevin can keep on crying and Tweeting. I hope him and his plus size buddies boycott Southwest as they claim they will. This is a typical Hollywood Director that expects everybody to fall in line and serve his instant needs. I am sick of sitting on planes and having the super fat sit next to me. Last month I sat next to a guy who was so fat that he had to lift our armrest to fit his body into the seat. His hot, sweaty, fat body was up against me after he sat down. I wish I had a Southwest gate agent to toss the whale off who sat next to me.

Posted by: HDTVCAMERA | February 15, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

If you notice the picture he posted, he is extending over into the seat next to him. Even if you can get the armrest down you are still over extending into another passengers space. Quit crying you baby. What about the poor person that would have to sit next to you and have your fat resting on them under the arm rest and your elbows in their sides.

Posted by: HDTVCAMERA | February 15, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

We need to stop crying over rare airline abuses and discuss the real issue here...

Airlines have reduced people to nameless, faceless cargo to be carted from portal to portal like cattle going to slaughter. The name of the game is simple: The more people they can cram on a plane and the more services they can charge for, the more money they make. Period.

I'm 6'1" tall, 230 lbs, and an amateur marathoner and triathlete. I'm no NFL player and I'm by no means fat, but I can't fit in a normal sized seat without occupying the armrest area of both of my adjacent seats. On a recent United flight, the rows were so close together that I could not extend my arm straight forward on the armrest because my forarm was longer than the area between my seat and the reclined seat in the row ahead of me.

We need to stand up and demand reasonable personal space on these flights. Since I don't expect this will ever happen, I'll keep praying for my other impossible dream: A usable nation-wide passanger rail system.

Posted by: wivoter | February 15, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Today's "Tank McNamara" strip was perhaps an unfortunate choice, in light of recent events. Did some papers pull it?

Posted by: seismic-2 | February 15, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I know I'm biased because I'm a fan of Smith's already and read all the info this weekend, but:

If you haven't, I strongly suggest you read the twitter posts, then listen to the Smodcast where he explains that:

A: the stewardess who blamed the pilot ("he said you were a risk") couldn't acknowledge actually speaking to the pilot when confronted by Smith back in the airport

B: he was barely seated (not settled in) when the stewardess came over to him to tell him to get off

C: there was no "check" to see if he could fit - he even put the armrests down to show the stewardess but she wouldn't listen

D: He acknowledges buying two seats sometimes because SW is CHEAP, and he doesn't like being so close to people (and who does?), but NOT because he can't fit a single seat.

And this is where it gets truly offensive:

On the flight he does get on, he's in a 3-seat row, and he's by the window. The middle seat - his 2nd seat - is empty. A woman sits in the aisle, also on the bigger side, and the stewardess of _that_ flight tells her to get up and then procedes to tell her she should "consider buying two seats in the future," and tells her she should ASK Smith if he minds her sitting _two seats away from him_!

Why?! Because she was big, and her size may flow into the EMPTY SEAT BETWEEN THEM.

I'm telling you, Smith jokes about his weight and that may color some of the comments here, but he acknowledges that he would be the first to admit he couldn't fit if that were true, and I believe him.

But SW's lame attempt at apologizing (they very quickly offered that $100 rebate before he even left b/c they realized the PR issue they had), and using his purchase of two tickets as somehow being evidence that he needed it is absurd and deserves all the negativity it's getting.

Posted by: nagatuki | February 15, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Being fat should NEVER be inconvenient! Everyone else should move over/redesign aircraft/pay higher insurance costs so that fat people don't have to change their schedule/have some freaking discipline.
Your baggage is your baggage is *your* baggage: if it doesn't fit in the space you're assigned, buy more space or ditch some baggage. Feel free to shut up about your choice.

Posted by: redlineblue | February 15, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

SouthWest commercials should spend less time promoting "your bags fly free" and use the then available time to explain their "fat passenger" policy.
Bait and switch.

Posted by: jimbo1949 | February 15, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Is it inconvenient to sit next to a larger person? Sure. But where does this sense of entitlement stop? What about a crying baby? Or the fact that someone has a hacking persistent cough/cold but still to travel? What about those people who are wearing perfume you don't like? Or have a bit of an odor?
Shouldn't there be some kindness in the way things are handled by an airline? I'm horrified at the meanness of some of the comments here.

Posted by: MDey | February 15, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Was he offered the option of paying for a second seat?

I agree with the airlines. I mean, come on, just because you're fat doesn't mean you get to sit on my lap. If you don't want to do anything about your weight problem then you have to take the repercussions of your actions/non-actions.

I see no problem with the airline offering him two seats -those handrails come up, you know, and I'm sure two seat belts can accompany someone the size of a Smart Car.

But if he was upset because he was suddenly faced with reality, then he should have stayed quiet, swallowed his large pride and gone on a diet instead of whining.

Posted by: topwriter | February 16, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Southwest is notorious for saying they "luv" all their passengers. But heaven forbid you have a bad experience with them. Then they're response is:

"Well, we're sorry you think you had a bad experience, but frankly we don't see it. But whatever. Here's a way-generous $100 voucher. Shoo now; we need to get back to teaching our flight attendants the important work of making cornball, homespun puns during the safety message. Luv ya!"

Kevin Smith is no saint, but Southwest is not what it pretends to be, either.

And gee, could that apology on Southwest's website be in any smaller type? I should complain as a Customer of Bifocals. That is seriously hard to read.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | February 16, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

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