Earlier this year Southwest removed Kevin Smith from a flight for being too fat to fly, and now the director has taken to his blog to air his anger with Virgin America.
In a post titled "Virgin shuts its legs, I shut my wallet," Smith writes about how he and his wife missed their flight on Monday, despite arriving at the gate with first class tickets and minutes to spare:
We pleaded with Manny (the unfriendly face of Virgin America JFK working the gate), pointing out the remaining time (there were still 8 minutes before scheduled departure), and pointing out that the jetway was still attached to the plane. Flying as much as I do (usually up at the front of the plane), I know that the jetway only gets pulled back ONCE THE PLANE DOOR IS SECURELY CLOSED. As we tried to get Manny to realize our bags were under the plane and we'd been checked in for an hour, the jetway stayed in place. The plane wouldn't pull back from the gate for another 15 minutes (if you want, I can show you the picture we took of the jetway still attached, with Mewes' phone displaying the time in the foreground; yes, I took that picture; sadly, that's the world we live in now).
Smith insisted his main concern was not missing his flight, but Virgin employees' "petty, lazy, unhelpful" refusal to deplane his luggage, which contained medication his wife needed. According to an update he later posted, the airline made amends.
Unlike Southworst, @VirginAtlantic seems to care: lovely, apologetic email, full refund for flight, free tix offer - all before I've landed. I appreciate the gesture/effort.
Later on Smith posted another update in response to Twitter followers who wondered why he waited until ten minutes before departure to board. He said that his experience with Southwest left him wary of flying, and he hired a concierge to get him onboard at the last minute so that other passengers wouldn't gawk at his size.
After Southwest did it's level-headed best to alienate large passengers everywhere, I was off flying for awhile, sticking strictly to my beloved bus - the last refuge of the oversized traveler with a Jay-and-Silent-Bob-lined bank account. But in order to attend the Walter Gretzky street hockey tournament in Brandtford this summer, I HAD to fly again (we couldn't make it in time driving, due to a previous engagement).
So I bit the bullet and got on another plane, for the first time in months. And when I sat down, the fella next to me smiled and asked "They gonna throw you off this plane too?"
And the next three flights I took, it was the same. Even worse: when you fly first, you board first, sit down... and then EVERYONE files past you. And when you're the Too Fat To Fly guy on a plane? Well, everyone stares. Then the whispering starts. A hundred people look right at you - when you're not on a stage. It kinda blows.
But Affleck told me that when he flies, he uses a concierge service: a company that works with the airport and each airlines. Their job is to get you to the plane on time, but not when boarding begins; that way, you don't have to play the Elephant Man for passengers passing you en route to their seats. Essentially, you board last. The entire service is designed to get you to the plane door shortly before the door closes.
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