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SouthWest Airlines Saved By the Video | Media Training

Customer Video Backfires | Media Training

Daniel Podolsky claims that Southwest Airlines kicked him off a plane for wearing a t-shirt that said “Broad Fu#@%ng City.” He specifically alleges that he wasn’t given a chance to remove or cover his shirt and that he would have done so if asked. But just when you think this is a story of a big bully corporation taking advantage of one little customer, things get strange. Podolsky video recorded the confrontation and then showed the footage to a local TV reporter.

Here is a transcript:

(Worker) ”Can you change the shirt?”
(Podolsky) ”Nope.”
(Worker) “Can you put the jacket on and leave it on through the flight?”
(Podolsky) (Inaudible)
(Worker) “Can you put the shirt on inside out?”
(Podolsky) “Nope.”
(Worker) “Is there anything you can do not to display the shirt because at this point we can’t allow you to go.”
(Podolsky) “I have freedom of speech.”
(Worker) “I know you do…”
(Podolsky) “Really it’s not bothering anyone.”
(Worker) “I can show you in our contract of carriage that you can’t wear any shirts that says offensive…”

Huh? Podolsky’s own video proves that he is a liar, rude and ill-informed.

The Southwest employee comes across as reasonable, polite and attempting to come up with a fair solution to a minor problem. Podolsky appears to be just a jerk.

Additionally, it should be pointed out that Podolsky’s attempt to use “freedom of speech” as a defense is weak. If Podolsky were asked to leave a public street or park by a police officer for wearing the shirt, then Podolsky would have a point. But Southwest is a private corporation and can make rules as they please regarding passenger behavior (no nudity, for example).

Southwest also put out a brief, bland statements saying they “rely on our Employees and Customers to use common sense and good judgment.”
Well played Southwest.

An incident like this is a good reminder that not every disagreement between a customer and a big corporation means the company has done something wrong. Sometimes, the customer isn’t always right. Sometimes the customer is a jerk and the company should be applauded for showing restraint in dealing with him.

TJ Walker is a crisis communications counselor and can be reached at Media Training Worldwide 212.764.4955.

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