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Silent Bob makes some noise

Kevin Smith on South West Air

Previous editions of Zeitgeist have touched on how brands should deal with bad news and what happens when brand ambassadors go bad.

The recent hullabaloo regarding film director Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines provides an opportunity to examine what happens when a celebrity suddenly starts badmouthing a brand following a bad experience.

The backstory is that Smith, who had originally purchased two seats to travel to from Oakland to Burbank, changed his travel plans and joined the standby list for a new flight.

Having boarded the new flight, the captain allegedly approached and told him he was considered a safety risk due to his size and he would have to leave the plane.

Clearly, there isn’t an easy way to tell someone they have to get off the plane because they are too fat. Nor would we imagine is it a pleasant experience to be told that you have been judged as being too big to fly, particularly in front of other passengers of acceptable proportions and even more so when you are a semi-famous face.

Everyone knows that you should never send an email in anger or text when drunk but the Clerks and Dogma director couldn’t resist and immediately began tweeting his fury from the airport terminal. His 1.4m followers were soon treated to a flurry of further tweets expressing his indignation including…

Dear @SouthwestAir – I know I’m fat, but was Captain Leysath really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?

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.

Dear @SouthwestAir, I’m on another one of your planes, safely seated & buckled-in again, waiting to be dragged off in front of the normies.

Southwest Airlines didn’t dally and responded with a tweet of their own apologising to Smith for the experience, offering him $100 while also reiterating their policy on their website.

Smith wasn’t placated and continued to express his unhappiness, challenging Southwest to bring a seat onto a talk show so he could demonstrate how he could fit in it without compromising the safety or comfort of other passengers.

Inevitably, such an emotional and personal subject drew polarising comments from other bloggers ranging from outrage that airlines don’t have special seats to accommodate larger fliers to outrage that smaller flyers should be squashed by more corpulent passengers.

In the end a poll on CNN showed that 58% of people sided with the latter group and Smith blogged that he wanted to let the matter die.

As the dust settles, Southwest appear to have ridden the storm while setting out their position while Smith is conveniently back in the headlines a couple of weeks before the release of Cop Out.

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  1. February 24, 2010 at 3:39 pm

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