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Southwest Taking Its Kick in the Nuts Today

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So, let's see ... Larry King now wants Kevin Smith to come on his show to talk about getting booted off a Southwest flight Saturday. Smith would rather go on Jon Stewart with a row of Southwest seats to prove, yeah, he can fit just fine, thanks. Meanwhile, the locally based airline is taking a pounding on its blog -- 841 comments and counting at last peek. (Sample: "So, what you're saying is, 'Sorry, Kev, but you ARE fat.' Sorry, Southwest, but you ARE assholes.")

Meanwhile, ex-WFAA'er David Margulies, now running a local PR firm (he's not just a member, he's a client!), sends word today that Southwest was too even-handed when responding to the filmmaker's "profanity-laced Twitter tirade." If the airline was his client, see, things woulda gone down way different:

In this case, I think the public would have understood if Southwest pointed out that Smith's profanity and overall negative attitude toward the company and its employees would make it a good idea for him to find another mode of travel. ... Southwest has taken a very reasonable and fair approach to dealing with the issue of overweight customers and should be applauded for their actions. This is the time that customers and employees should take to the Internet in defense of the company.

I've got a call into another former Channel 8 anchor, Brad Hawkins, now a Southwest spokesman. But one day, they will teach this as social-networking-PR case study in universities. Book it. Still, this may explain how, last week, Southwest came out on top in the on-time rankings: Its planes carry lighter loads than other airlines.

Update at 6:16 p.m.: Moments ago, Linda Rutherford -- Southwest's veep of Communications and Strategic Outreach and a former Dallas Times Herald reporter -- posted a follow-up on the airline's blog titled "My Conversation with Kevin Smith." Long story short: Southwest is very, very, very, very sorry. A lengthier excerpt:

Now, 48 hours later, after talking to many involved, we know there were several things going on that day and that our Employees were doing their best to get his flight out safely and on time, including finding seats for everyone and trying to accommodate standby passengers. The Captain did not single Kevin out to be removed, but he did ask that the boarding be completed quickly. At that time, our Employees made the decision to remove Kevin after a quick judgment call that he might have needed more than one seat for his comfort and those seated next to him.

Although I'm not here to debate the decision our Employees made, I can tell you that I for one have learned a lot today. The communication among our Employees was not as sharp as it should have been and, it's apparent that Southwest could have handled this situation differently. Thanks, Kevin, for your passion around this topic. You were a reasonable guy during our conversation.

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