Southwest Struggles With Weight ... Again

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Southwest Airlines (Stock Quote: LUV) is experiencing another public relations nightmare after a Sacramento woman said she was booted off of a flight to accommodate a larger passenger who needed two seats instead of one.

The woman, who was flying standby last week, had bought the last ticket on a flight out of Las Vegas to Sacramento, when a larger teenager’s late arrival led to her removal from the plane. The tardy passenger had purchased one seat, which was still empty, but needed two due to her size.

"It didn't seem right that I should have to leave to accommodate someone who had only paid for one seat," the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Sacramento Bee on Monday. She added that it was all “small potatoes, in the scheme of things," as she flew to Sacramento on the next available flight and was given credit for a flight in the future. However, she was upset with how the situation was handled, alleging that Southwest personnel berated her when she took issue with being booted from the plane.

Southwest acknowledged the incident to both the Sacramento Bee and KDAF-TV, a local news station in Dallas, saying that the company planned to apologize to the woman. According to its spokespersons, Southwest normally asks for volunteers when bumping passengers for a variety of reasons. However, they did not do so in this instance primarily to protect the 14-year-old passenger from embarrassment. Additionally, this passenger (whose name was also not released) was given priority due to her age, not her weight.   

"The passenger in question was a minor who was traveling alone," Southwest Airlines spokesman Paul Flannigan told KDAF-TV. "Normally if the passenger were an adult, she would be required to purchase an extra ticket, but we did not want to leave the 14-year-old stranded."

Southwest’s latest incident might have flown under the radar if the airline hadn’t bumped passengers over weight issues before. Earlier this year, director Kevin Smith was removed from a plane after his girth allegedly made him a safety risk. Smith had purchased only one seat, but was told that he needed two.

"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?" Smith tweeted following the incident. Similarly, Smith was given a $100 Southwest voucher and flown out on a later flight.

Want to hear more about airlines behaving badly? Check out this MainStreet article to learn how airlines continue to epically fail. Or if you’re flying sometime soon, check out this piece about how to boost your chances of getting bumped to first class.

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