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Airlines: Pushing Customers and Investors to the Brink


Problems in the air have fliers and shareholders asking: Why?

Airlines have been throwing Hail Mary passes for years now, trying to get profitable.

(AMR) is charging $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second. JetBlue (JBLU) is charging seven bucks for the use of a pillow. And Delta (DAL) is adding additional seats to some planes, reducing legroom and increasing the number of passengers it can cram onto each flight.

It's a wonder people are flying at all anymore.

But miraculously, they are. However, the carriers don't seem to realize that treating paying customers like criminals isn't the best way to drum up repeat business.

The most recent example is the case of film director Kevin Smith and his less-than-pleasant experience with Southwest Airlines (LUV).

Smith -- admittedly overweight, but not obese -- says he fit between the two arm rests of his seat, as required by Southwest's "customers of size" policy. Southwest disagreed, telling him that he "needed more than one seat to complete his flight" and was forced off the plane for creating a "safety risk." (The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance is now calling for a Southwest boycott.)

Southwest apparently doesn't only discriminate against "customers of size." It seems to have a problem with "clothing of size" as well.

A couple of years ago, a Southwest flight attendant identified only as "Keith" told 23-year-old Kyla Ebbert that her clothing was too revealing and to change or deplane immediately.

"He told me, 'I'm sorry, but you're going to have to take a later flight. You're dressed inappropriately. This is a family airline,' " Ebbert told the Today show.

Good going, Keith. Families everywhere thank you for shielding their tender eyes from this:

Southwest doesn't seem to take kindly to "customers of small size," either. The airline booted passenger Pamela Root and her two-year-old son Adam off a flight last year because the child was yelling "Go plane, go!" and "I want Daddy!" during the preflight safety announcements that, as we all know, everyone ignores in the first place.

Of course, Southwest isn't alone in treating passengers like dirt. Other airlines excel in this area, too.

After being stuck on the tarmac aboard a Spirit Airlines flight, surgeon Mitchell Roslin requested a cup of water for his wife, who was seven months pregnant, after the cabin began to overheat. Flight attendants duly informed him that beverage service before takeoff was "against corporate policy."

When Roslin objected, he was asked to leave the plane -- along with his wife and their two kids.
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