It’s been a bad week for United Airlines. After a video of a passenger being violently removed from a plane by police went viral, you’d think the airline would be trying to stay out of the headlines.
In the latest passenger-PR nightmare, a couple flying United to their destination wedding in Costa Rica were booted from their plane on Saturday. Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell were traveling with family and friends when confusion over seating landed them back in the terminal.
The wedding, planned for Thursday, will still happen, but the couple are — quite understandably — not happy with how United handled the situation. “We thought not a big deal, it’s not like we are trying to jump up into a first-class seat,” Hohl told News13, an ABC affiliate. “We were simply in an economy row a few rows above our economy seat.”
The couple had flown into Houston from Salt Lake City. After a layover at George Bush Intercontinental airport, they boarded United Flight 1737 bound for Liberia, Costa Rica. When they went to sit down, they found a man stretched out and sleeping in their row.
According to the couple, they jumped up a few rows on the mostly empty plane and didn’t think much of it. When a flight attendant asked them why they weren’t in their assigned seats, the trouble started.
The airline and the couple have two different versions of events. According to the couple, they tried to explain there was someone sleeping in their assigned seats. Even after they complied with the flight crew and woke the sleeping man, an air marshal approached them and told them they had to get off the plane.
United Airlines in a statement 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.”
Hohl and Maxwell deny they were being disorderly. “I think customer service and the airlines have gone real downhill,” said Hohl. “The way United Airlines handled this was really absurd.”
The stepfather of the bride to be, Michael Gallagher, told KUTV 2News Utah in an interview: “Truthfully, we all worried that maybe something would happen in Costa Rica, and we were willing to deal with that. Never in our wildest dreams did we think United was going to screw it up in Houston, Texas.”