Still recovering from what was likely an avoidable public relations debacle, United Airlines is again making headlines after two passengers – a couple traveling to their own wedding – said they were kicked off their flight.
Michael Hohl and his fiancee, Amber Maxwell, had planned on flying Saturday from Salt Lake City to Costa Rica, with a layover at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Hohl told KHOU.
But he said they were unable to leave Texas that day because flight crews told them to deplane before takeoff.
A United spokeswoman, Maggie Schmerin, said that the passengers “repeatedly attempted” to sit in upgraded seating they didn’t pay for and did not follow instructions from crews to go back to their assigned seats. The two were then asked to leave the plane, she said.
Hohl’s account of what happened is quite different.
He told KHOU that he and Maxwell moved to two vacant seats because a sleeping passenger was sprawled across their seats a few rows away. After airline personnel told them to go back to their assigned seats, they complied, Hohl said; still, he said, law enforcement officers came in minutes later and escorted them off the plane.
“We did politely, quietly and without incident,” Hohl said. “We got to the gate and asked why, and they said because we were in the wrong seat and being disruptive.”
According to United, the seats Hohl and Maxwell had moved to were considered Economy Plus, an upgrade from the ones they had paid for. Schmerin, the United spokeswoman, said the airline asked the couple if they wanted to pay the difference in fare, but that they declined. United offered them a discounted rate at a hotel for Saturday night and rebooked them for a Sunday morning flight.
Michael McCarthy, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, said that neither federal air marshals nor TSA officers were involved in the incident.
The Washington Post was unable to reach Hohl and Maxwell on Monday. Their wedding is scheduled for Thursday, according to KHOU.
The incident came just days after a paying passenger was violently dragged off an overbooked United flight for refusing to give up his seat for an off-duty crew member.