A bride and groom headed to Costa Rica for a wedding ceremony with friends never made it on the originally planned flight, after allegedly getting kicked off the half-full flight on Saturday for sitting in the wrong seats.
United Flight 1737 out of George Bush International in Houston was booked at half capacity on a route that eventually was to bring the couple to Costa Rica. According to KHOU.com, the bride and groom, along with a group of friends from Salt Lake City, boarded the plane after a layover in Houston and were headed to the wedding ceremony.
Groom Michael Hohl, said he and his fiancé, Amber Maxwell, were the last two to board the flight. According to his account, he noticed a man sleeping across the row that included their hearts, 24 B and 24 C.
Hohl said rather than waking the man, he decided to pick another pair of open seats three rows up, taking 21 B and 21 C. He said he though nothing of it because there were so many open seats onboard.
“We thought not a big deal, it’s not like we are trying to jump up into a first-class seat,” Hohl told the reporter. “We were simply in an economy row a few rows above our economy seat.”
Unfortunately, the station reports the couple was flying onboard a Boeing 737-800 and United considers Row 21 on that airplane an “economy plus” seat, requiring an upgrade charge.
It was not soon after taking their seats that a United flight attendant approached and asked if the couple was sitting in their tickets seats. Hohl says they admitted to not being in their booked seat, and asked if he could simply get an upgrade. The flight attendant supposedly told him, “no” and asked the couple to return to their proper seats.
Hohl claims he complied with the order, but was then confronted by a U.S. Marshal who had boarded the plane and asked them to exit with him. He claims they cooperated and left the plane, but they still do not understand why it all happened.
Hohl said,”They said that we were being disorderly and a hazard to the rest of the flight, to the safety of the other customers.”
The embattled airline, however, sees things a lot differently. In a statement issued on Saturday to the news station, United Airlines wrote:
“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.”
Although the airline says the couple “would not follow crew instructions to return to their assigned seats,” they were still rebooked for a flight the following day.
And the couple still plans to get married on Thursday. Nonetheless, Hohl continues to blame United and called the situation “quite strange” and suggested United’s customer’s service had really “gone downhill.” He said he would not be flying United again because it was all so “absurd.”
LawNewz did reach out to United in an effort to see how the alleged use of a U.S. Marshal to remove this couple fits with the policy announced last week on national television by CEO Oscar Munoz that United would no longer use law enforcement personnel to remove unruly passengers who were booked and ticketed.
”We are not going to put a law enforcement official to take them off the aircraft,” Munoz said, “To remove a booked, paid, seating passenger? We can’t do that.”
We will update this story when we get a response.
A United Airlines spokesperson issued the following statement to LawNewz:
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. They were asked to leave the plane by our staff and complied. We offered them a discounted hotel rate for last evening and rebooked them on a flight this morning.
No air marshal or authorities were involved. The passengers followed our crews’ instruction to leave the plane. . . .
The passengers were ticketed in Economy and attempted to move up to Economy Plus. They were offered the opportunity to pay the difference in fare, they declined, and would not follow crew member instructions to return to their assigned seats.
United strongly denies that any law enforcement personnel entered the plane and says the couple exited pursuant to crew instructions. Furthermore, they say the couple was offered the chance to pay the upgrade fee, but declined.
A TSA spokesman also confirmed to LawNewz that no law enforcement personnel were involved in the incident.
[image via sceengrab]