Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why Kevin Smith's Problem is My Problem Too

Next month I'll be taking what I hope is my last flight on Southwest Airlines. By now most people have heard about filmmaker Kevin Smith and how he was kicked off a recent Southwest flight because of his weight.

At first glance, this seems to be a clear-cut issue: if a person's size extends beyond the parameters of their seat, then they should purchase a second seat to accommodate them. Southwest states clearly that the definitive question is whether or not the armrests can be fully lowered. Seems fair.

But then it gets a little dicey. . .

You see, despite saying that the armrests are the "definitive gauge," they go on to say that they should always question cramped, unsafe seating arrangements even if the person in question is able to put down the arm rests.

And that's where the problem is.

Where is the line drawn? Clearly Southwest thinks the line can be drawn as they see fit. That is their right, but as the mother of a disabled person, I begin to wonder.

Will my child's wheelchair be a problem for someone one day? Will his drool make someone uncomfortable? The comfort of other passengers was one of the stated reasons for ejecting Kevin Smith from his flight. Will my son's lack of mobility create "unsafe seating arrangements?" Where is the line drawn? Unfortunately, with Southwest Airlines, it's unclear and that is where I take issue. Can these same policies be applied to the elderly? Might they pose a "safety risk" with their slow gait?

My issue is not with the policy. Companies have the right to whatever policies they like. My issue is with the enforcement. I prefer to know in advance if I'm going to have any complications. Flying is hard enough without added hassle and stress. For me, Southwest has just become an unsafe bet. If they can't be trusted to stick to their own guidelines, then I'll have to fly with someone else. They can do what they like, but they'll be doing it without me until I feel confident that their policies aren't subject to the whims of flight attendants.