Since the viral rant of "United Airlines Breaks Guitars" hit the airwaves last year, no other airline has caught as much negative press in Twitterville. That was prior to the boarding of a plane by the heavy-weight director Kevin Smith of "Clerks" and "Dogma" fame. With his frenzied condemnation of Southwest Airlines this past weekend, once again it shows how an airline brand can be demonized with a few simple tweets (well maybe not "a few," because as a result of this controversial director's girth, he has tweeted close to a hundred times in the last 24 hours).
Southwest, known for its economy pricing, ease of check-in and surviving the economic down-turn better than most other airlines might have rethought its customer service techniques during its recent short hop from Oakland to Burbank.
Being "too wide to fly" is a delicate matter that many airlines grapple with, much to the embarrassment of some of its weight-challenged passengers. Seat-belt extenders and charging for two seats instead of one are just a few of the methods to address the issue. But perhaps Captain Leysath should have taken a few extra classes in diplomacy before he had his flight attendant deem the famed director a "safety risk."
To which Smith tweeted back in indignation
And then similar to the infamous Dave Carroll's "United Airlines Breaks Guitars" model of criticizing a well-known brand, Smith has announced his decision to mount a Twitter campaign to expose the shortcomings daily on Twitterville's tarmac for all to see.
Jay & Silent Bob
Southwest, in turn trying to mitigate damages offered Smith a "heartfelt apology" on its Nuts about Southwest blog, with an entry titled "Not So Silent Bob,"in reference to the mute character Smith has made popular in several of his movies.
Obviously the $100 voucher was too little too late to abate further outrage from Mr. Smith, but from the airlines' perspective their policy is such that "if a timely exit from the aircraft (is required) in the event of an emergency, (the airline) might be compromised if they allow a cramped, restricted seating arrangement." (The airlines full policy on "Customer of Size" can be found here).
Some find it a little coincidental that this incident has been blown out of proportion right around the time that Smith is releasing his new movie "Cop Out" starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. Might this be a publicity stunt at the expense of the airlines? Smith has already shown what some have called his 'unhealthy' addiction to Twitter in the past. Last Fall, @ThatKevinSmith on September 7th announced that he would tweet for 24 consecutive hours, in an attempt to draw attention to his latest book,"Shootin' the Sh*t with Kevin Smith."
According to the press release issued at the time, Smith noted: “This is not news at all. In fact, it’s kinda stupid. But I wanna see if I can do it. I’ve been training for this my whole life, simply by being a lazy fat-ass who’d rather stare at a screen than better himself with a brisk constitutional. Someone asked what my training regiment is gonna be, and I told them I’ve already stockpiled lots of Count Chocula.”
So while his new movie hits theaters soon, Smith's next career move is to secure a few guest spots on a couple of talk shows, the likes of Jon Stewart. Once that gig is booked, he will challenge Southwest to bring a row of seats on to the TV show for him to prove he can fit into them.
So...next move is your Southwest Airlines!
If United Airlines is any case study to follow, my suggestion is that the Southwest crew move swiftly to counter the attacks made against them. Otherwise, taking off from the Twitterville tarmac runway in the future might not be flying with as many passengers...at least not those that are packing the lbs.