UPDATE #3 (5 p.m.): Blowing the whistle on this one. A full day of potential news coverage and it never burbled to the surface. I'm calling it: PR problem averted.
UPDATE #2 (1:11 p.m.): UPI picked up the story. It's now a breath away from the AP wire. The UPI story, unlike The Consumerist, notes that Southwest offered to refund the man's tickets.
UPDATE #1 (12:20 p.m.): The Consumerist blog has picked up the story. Not good for Southwest. The Consumerist is often a launching point to the national media.
Southwest Airlines is no stranger to PR dust ups. Remember the skirt incident two years ago? A flight attendant asked a female passenger, dressed in a short-short skirt, to wear a blanket during a Southwest flight, presumably so she wouldn’t flash other passengers.
The scantily-clad passenger took her Southwest-bashing all the way to the "Today Show."
Over the weekend, a similar PR headache popped up in the Chicago press. A 65-year-old overweight man was told by a Southwest gate agent—while he was walking down the jet way for a flight from Las Vegas to Chicago—that he needed to buy an extra seat on the flight (at half price), due to his size, according to published reports.
The man, who weighs 350-pounds and stands 6 feet tall, denied that Southwest offered him the second ticket. Instead, he claims an employee told him he wouldn't be flying to Chicago on Southwest that day. He had already flown the airline from Chicago to Vegas.
Another Southwest employee reportedly escorted the man to a United Airlines counter, where he bought two tickets to Chicago at $400 a pop.
As of Tuesday morning, the story hadn’t spread across the wire. But it is simmering in the Chicago media. As one writer for the NBC-affiliate’s Web site noted, “Southwest Airlines is taking a sumo-sized media flogging from a man who says he was refused a seat on one of their flights because he was told he's too fat.”
Well, that’s cute and all, but we’ll have to wait and see what—if any—kind of media flogging Southwest gets—and how the company will react.