Mr. Smith – the independent filmmaker known for his foul-mouthed comedies – took to Twitter to express his outrage to his 1.6 million followers, saying he “passed the stinkin’ armrest test” but was forced to leave the plane anyway. (Southwest, as well as other airlines, maintain that a passenger must buy a second seat if he or she can’t fit with the armrests down without encroaching on seatmates.) Smith had purchased two seats for a later flight, but was flying standby and there were no additional seats available. (On Twitter, Smith said he bought the two seats not because of his size, but because he prefers privacy while flying.)
On Monday, Southwest Airlines responded with a lengthy explanation on its website, saying “First and foremost, to Mr. Smith; we would like to echo our Tweets and again offer our heartfelt apologies to you.” (Who else would like to see a Miss Manners ruling as to whether an apology actually qualifies as heartfelt if issued via Twitter?) The airline's response was titled “Not So Silent Bob,” in reference to Smith’s famous on-camera incarnation. Southwest said its “customer of size” policy has been in force for 25 years, and when seats are available, these customers receive refunds for the extra seat or are relocated free of charge. Air France, JetBlue, and American Airlines have the same refund policy.
Airlines' policy of charging overweight customers for a second seat has been much-debated through the years. Last year, Southwest Airlines made headlines for causing a 400-pound California man to miss his uncle’s funeral. On the other side of the argument, a picture of an obese flier aboard an American Airlines flight that circulated the Internet raised safety concerns.
But Smith, whose new movie "Cop Out" comes out Friday, may well be the most high-profile person ever deemed “too fat to fly.” Southwest said he was issued a $100 certificate, received an apology by phone, and was accommodated on a later plane.
After arriving in Burbank on the later flight, Smith tweeted: "Hey @SouthwestAir! I've landed in Burbank. Don't worry: wall of the plane was opened & I was airlifted out while Richard Simmons supervised."
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