Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hey Everybody! Let's Boycott Southwest! (or not)

Southwest Airlines: Headed towards a boycott?

Flying is common thing nowadays. It maybe expensive, but it’s not just for the upper-class. That’s why they have The Great Curtain separating First Class and Coach, right?

So, in a world that screams for equality among people, why would a major airline choose to single out its customers— and celebrities, at that? In 2010, actor and director Kevin Smith was kicked off a flight for being too large to sit safely in his seat. Recently, Billie Joe Armstrong, of Green Day, claimed to be kicked off a flight because his pants were “sagging” too low.

I totally get safety. Perhaps for larger passengers, they should require the purchase of two seats. If they had seats with the flip-up armrests like in those comfy movie theaters, it wouldn’t be that much of an issue. I remember flying to Rio de Janeiro a few years back. Once we were well underway, I moved a few rows back and laid down. There were no armrests to prevent me from sleeping a good 8 hours. I wonder if Southwest has considered these seats for their larger customers, especially in a country where the number of obese citizens are on the rise.

I wasn’t on the flight with Billie Joe, but short of inappropriate body parts showing, there should be no reason that they should ask him to leave the flight due to a distasteful wardrobe. We live in a country with the freedom to wear what we want- even if it does offend people. Southwest Airlines has a policy on attire that states that customers should dress for the safety and comfort of all their passengers. They also have the right to refuse business from people that are wearing offensive clothing. But, sagging pants? Really? Tell him to go to the Duty Free and buy a belt. That is a fixable offense, which probably is more humorous to other passengers than upsetting. With Billie Joe’s instance, the issue turned out to be his reaction to the flight attendant. He challenged them by stating that they had better things to do that worry about what he was wearing.

The new offense? This week, Southwest confronted actress Leisha Hailey and her girlfriend for kissing on the plane. Note: the use of the present progressive form of “kiss” indicates that it was an ongoing act. Not just a peck, or an innocent kiss. The conversation became escalated, and the confrontation was taken off the plane (meaning the actress was escorted off the plane), and she began her twitter rant accusing the airline of employing homophobic staff.

In this case, I believe the actress overreacted. I cannot see a flight attendant saying, “You are not allowed to kiss on this flight because you are gay.” But, how she took it was that she was discriminated against. We don’t know that. That flight attendant chose to make a judgment call and try to end the PDA- possibly because they worried about passengers’ comfort with PDA, or maybe because a passenger asked them to.

I am all about gay rights, straight rights, religious rights, gender equality. But saying that an entire airline doesn’t like gays (which she tweeted) is such a dramatic statement to make, given that this was one instance with one person. My advice to Leisha: get over yourself. You are not a victim of a hate crime. You were asked to stop kissing in public, which a lot of people actually aren’t comfortable with anyways- regardless of sexual orientation.

On this topic, Jodi Picoult, author, tweeted, “Hugely disappointed in @Southwest Air. I’ve sat beside straight couples making out on their flights, who aren’t booted.” I agree that this would be disappointing. But, I believe that if those couples were on this flight, with this attendant and crew, they probably would have been told to cool it.

It’s all in the reaction. Billie Joe refused to adjust his pants, which probably upset the attendant. He should have just covered up. But, he didn’t. So, he was asked to leave. Leisha felt targeted, probably because of past issues, and became defensive. They weren’t asked to leave the flight because they were kissing. They were asked to leave the flight because of the commotion it was causing.

What would you do if you were their flight attendant? Should they have been asked to leave the plane? Do you think it’s a coincidence that all these people are celebrities?

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