Virgin America Airbus A320 and Southwest Boeing 737-300 at Las Vegas

Virgin America Airbus A320 and Southwest Boeing 737-300 at Las Vegas

I couldn’t care less what celebrities do on airplanes. You see them all the time in the news getting in trouble. I hate the idea that I am writing about a celebrity and an airline, but I just can’t help myself. Back in February Director Kevin Smith had a little issue with Southwest Airlines and I managed to not write anything on it, even though I had a lot to say. In case you missed it, Smith was on a full Southwest flight and the flight crew made the call that he was a bit too large for one seat and was asked to leave the plane since there was no second seat available. Smith used his 1.5 million Twitter followers at the time and fame to turn the incident into a huge deal. Southwest tried to work to make him happy, but it only caused him to get more upset. Many were delighted that Southwest stood up against passengers of size and others felt they were being too harsh. I just found it interesting that Smith had a new movie coming out around the same time.

Smith declared he would never fly Southwest again and from what I have heard, he has kept his promise. Yesterday Smith had a flight on Virgin America from New York to Los Angeles and ran into a little trouble. In an open letter to the airline on his blog, Smith stated that he and his guests arrived at the airport an hour before boarding time. Since they were early they headed to the lounge to relax. Boarding for their 11:45am flight started at 11:15am  and they arrived at the gate at 11:35am to find the gate agent was in the process of closing the door. Smith had hired a concierge to make sure he boarded the plane last so people wouldn’t gawk at him being on the aircraft. He states that his concierge does this all the time and boarding 10 minutes before departure is standard procedure for clients.

They pleaded, but the gate agent wouldn’t let Smith’s group board the aircraft. Smith’s main concern was that their bags would already be on the aircraft and his wife needed her medication. Now, why anyone who needed medication  would not keep it in their carry-on, I do not get. The gate agent wouldn’t remove their bags and would not let them board the aircraft and Smith got angry and took his ranting to the web.

On his first rant at 2:00pm, Smith stated that he will be avoiding Virgin America, “like the plague.” It was almost like history repeating when he described how he flies so much and spends so much money and no one he knows will ever fly on Virgin America or Virgin Atlantic again. Of course us airline geeks know they are separate companies with similar branding, so it doesn’t mean too much. By the time he landed in LAX at 5:10pm his tone changed a bit. He stated, “@VirginAtlantic [sic – guessing he meant @VirginAmerica] seems to care: lovely, apologetic email, full refund for flight, free tix offer – all before I’ve landed. I appreciate the gesture/effort.” In another update posted at 5:45pm Smith stated that Virgin America, “did EXACTLY what any corporation/company should do when their customers have issues with their service: they almost instantly self-corrected.

I contacted Virgin America, but the are deciding to stay out of the comment business… which is probably smart. Southwest tried to interact with Smith via their blog in a public format and that only ended up making him more upset and created a bigger national story.

Although Virgin’s contract of carriage clearly states that passengers, “must be at the boarding gate at least fifteen (15) minutes prior to scheduled departure time,” that seems to be a pretty flexible. I know I have been running late and ran on a flight just minutes before departure time. If you look just at the rules, it looks like Virgin America had every right to deny Smith and his party from boarding, but that doesn’t mean it was the right call. I don’t feel that Virgin America just paid off Smith to make him happy; it looks like they did it since a few local gate agents stood by the rules a little too harshly.  However, with Virgin America being on top of social media, they were able to stop this incident before it got any worse.

Image: gTarded

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

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10 Comments

30 minutes before departure IN THE BOARDING AREA and 10 minutes before departure actually ON BOARD and seated is standard protocol. Sounds like he expected different treatment than the rest of the world.

Denver Dan

Now come on.. how hard would it be to allow him on the plane and create goodwill? The guy had first class seats… he was there with 10 minutes to spare… The gate agent should have let them on… Virgin America still being a ‘new’ carrier does not need to start scaring off premium passengers… heck if they could figure a way to siphon more of them the better they would be doing.

A lot goes into a plane pushing back on time weight and balance paper work final fuel load bag loads where waxy person is sitting and takes the last 10 min to complete so if they would have let him on they would have to redo it all over and push back late with fines from the gate space they rent maybe missing there time slot in JFK and haveing a 10 min taxi turn into 45-50 min all the money in fuel crew labor late flights it’s more then just letting him down

This is just a case of celebrity entitlement. I guess his name has not been in the news much and he needed to get it back no matter the cost. If this guy is so successful, and doesn’t want people on an airplane gawking at him, charter a private jet. I’m sure he can afford it.

I say let the big baby cry. Though it might seem like an unfair action to take on “poor” Mr. Smith, I would have felt bad for the other passengers who managed to put their toys away and get in their seats on time if they would have let him and his guests on. Those other guests have a right to get off to their destination on time. I’m sorry, this is a case of squeaky wheel. I’m glad the gate agent stood up for those guest who played by the rules and respected the operation.

The worst part is the crybaby doesn’t get what he wants, and now he tweets it to the world. Hopefully his followers will see he’s not entitled to any more than anyone else.

If I’ve already gotten paperwork finalized, there is no way I let him on, especially in the winter when we have to send planes out to de-ice (guess it’s not a problem at LAX). My real only exceptions to the 10 minute rule is if the jetbridge still has people in it.

Their bags were already on the plane, it was 10 minutes before the flight was to leave… You all sound angry that this person is famous and has money. The fact is he was there 10 minutes before the flight left. They could put them on and the Airline being a service industry depends on paying passengers or they end up closing down. Who hasn’t been on a flight that was held up a few minutes so that people connecting from another flight could make it on? Is that really such a big deal? The flight wasn’t going to be late.. that agent obviously took it on themselves to close the door early.

On my HKG-SIN flight a few weeks ago the inbound flight from SFO or LAX were on a flight delayed by a long time, so we left HKG over an hour late .It is the one UA flight HKG-SIN per day, and it leaves at like 9pm, so they would have to put everyone in a room for a night or two, and a lot of people were on that late flight, so it makes sense. This is totally different than a single celebrity missing the boarding process on a route that is more heavily flown. It’s BS that they gave him such insanely good treatment. I hope other people do the same thing and then they get the same treatment.

Short and sweet: Let him scream all he wants! SWA has done nothing wrong. I don;t care who he is (never heard of him) or what he does. The ‘trend’ in airline policy is that passengers should purchase whatever space is necessary to contain their person, without infringing upon the space purchased by others. In other words, if this self-important jerk is too large (read FAT) to contain himself withing a single SWA seat, then he should purchase two – or even three seats. He did not buy a portion of MY seat, so stay the heck out of it. So, am I mean, nasty and insensitive towawrd ‘Large People?’ No! Not in the slightest. In my view, they are perfectly welcome in/on public spaces and transportation, but they are NOT entitled to any special accommodation that INFRINGES on the use or comfort of others. In other words, if one is TOO FAT to fit within the confines of ONE seat, buy two, or get off the plane!

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