by Will Worley, The Independent, April 17, 2017
Just a week after United Airlines caused outrage by forcibly removing a passenger from a flight, the carrier has been accused of unfairly removing a couple travelling to their wedding.
Michael Hohl and his fiancée, Amber Maxwell, said they were escorted from their Houston-Costa Rica flight by a federal marshal after a seating error.
The couple told local media they were last to board the Boeing 737-800 and found a man sleeping in their allocated economy seats. They said they decided not to disturb the man and to move several rows up, as there were “plenty of empty rows”.
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“We thought not a big deal, it’s not like we are trying to jump up into a first-class seat," Mr Hohl told KHOU. “We were simply in an economy row a few rows above our economy seat.”
However, the rows the couple chose to sit in are sold as ‘economy plus’ by United.
The couple were asked to return to their seats by a stewardess, which they claimed to do.
But they added that a US air marshall came on board soon after and asked them to get off the plane, and they complied. This made them late to their own wedding celebrations.
However, United’s version of events differs from Mr Hohl’s.
A statement released by the carrier said: “We’re disappointed anytime a customer has an experience that doesn’t measure up to their expectations.
“These passengers repeatedly attempted to sit in upgraded seating which they did not purchase and they would not follow crew instructions to return to their assigned seats. We’ve been in touch with them and have rebooked them on flights tomorrow.”
But Mr Hohl said the affair was “quite strange” and the way United handled it was “absolutely absurd”.
The company has come under massive scrutiny in the last week over its treatment of 69-year-old Dr David Dao.
A video of him being dragged from a flight by security officers went viral and caused a severe public relations crisis for United.
United chief executive Oscar Munoz later issued an apology but Dr Dao is likely to sue, his lawyer said.