At this point, it’d be more shocking to read a positive headline about United Airlines.
A bride and groom heading to Costa Rica for their wedding were kicked off a United flight out of Houston this weekend, KHOU-TV first reported.
The couple said they simply moved into other economy-class seats after finding a passenger sleeping in their assigned row. United said the betrothed were sitting in upgraded seating they hadn’t paid for and refused to return their assigned seats when asked.
However it went down, it certainly doesn’t bode well for United’s image problem.
A week after David Dao was violently dragged off an overbooked United flight out of Chicago, the negative stories keep flowing like complimentary wine.
A passenger on a flight from Kauai to Los Angeles said he was threatened with handcuffs for refusing to give up his $1,000 seat to “somebody more important.” A man on a flight from Houston to Calgary was stung by a scorpion after it fell on his head. Competing airlines trolled United, and Saturday Night Live made fun of it, too.
Dao was forcibly removed to make room for United crew members. This weekend, the airline said it changed a company policy and will no longer allow crew members to displace customers who are already aboard the plane.
But United is hardly done putting out PR fires.
Enter Amber Maxwell and Michael Hohl of Park City, Utah.
On Saturday, the couple had flown from Salt Lake City to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, where they boarded a connecting flight to Liberia, Costa Rica.
The bride and groom said they were the last to board the plane, which was half-full. As they walked down the aisle, they noticed a man was sprawled across their seats in row 24, Hohl told KHOU-TV. Not wanting to wake the napping passenger, they decided to grab seats in row 21.
“We thought, ‘not a big deal,’ it’s not like we are trying to jump up into a first-class seat,” he told the news station. “We were simply in an economy row a few rows above our economy seat.”
Hohl said a flight attendant approached them, and the couple explained they weren’t in their assigned seats and asked to get an upgrade. The flight attendant told them to return to their assigned seats, and they did. Then a U.S. marshal came onto the plane and asked them to get off.
“They said that we were being disorderly and a hazard to the rest of the flight, to the safety of the other customers,” the groom told KHOU-TV.
A United spokeswoman offered a different version of Saturday’s events.
She said Hohl and Maxwell “repeatedly attempted” to sit in Economy Plus, a seating zone that costs extra for passengers. The couple was offered the chance to pay the difference in fare but declined, 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,” spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin said in an email. She added that no air marshal or authorities were involved, and that the passengers followed crews’ instructions to exit the aircraft.
Despite the headache, the story ended well for the Utah couple, if not for United.
The spokeswoman said United offered the couple a discounted hotel rate for Saturday evening, and rebooked them on a flight Sunday morning. Their wedding is still planned for Thursday.