ADOTAS – Airlines have been notoriously slow to pick up on social media cues to respond to extreme failures in customer service — it seems ludicrous that “United Breaks Guitars” became as popular as it did before the airline responded.
But Southwest Airlines — which tends to be a good and reliable airline, as strange that may sound — responded to a PR crisis via Twitter that made its competitors look like amateurs.
Film director Kevin Smith, the man behind raunchy classics such as “Clerks” and “Dogma” and no small boy himself, was tossed off a Southwest flight for being “too fat to fly.” Southwest has long had a “Customer of Size” policy — and such policies have been getting more attention since this photo appeared.
Smith was quite upset as he felt he complied with Southwest’s standards of fitting between the arm rests. And in contrast to the Silent Bob character he has depicted in his own films, Smith is pretty loquacious and spread his rancor immediately using Twitter.
“The @SouthwestAir Diet. How it works: you’re publicly shamed into a slimmer figure. Crying the weight right off has never been easier!” Also, “Hey @SouthwestAir! I’ve landed in Burbank. Don’t worry: wall of the plane was opened & I was airlifted out while Richard Simmons supervised.”
Southwest replied nearly immediately on Twitter: “I’ve read the tweets all night from @thatkevinsmith – He’ll be getting a call at home from our Customer Relations VP tonight.” They followed up with several other posts, even trying to find the right number so they could deliver a personal apology as Smith claimed he received none.
Southwest illuminated the situation and its policies “Customers of Size” on its blog not days afterward, but the afternoon following the incident — on a Sunday no less.
Smith is still griping and the braindead megaphone known as the mass media is blowing some smoke, but this incident will blow over fast. It may linger a little as Smith has a new movie called “Cop Out” coming out in a few weeks and publicity is publicity, but Southwest has esxemplified how damage control is done in the social mediascape. Hope you other airlines were watching.