Just as the outrage over the way a United passenger was dragged from a flight lat week started dying down, United Airlines is now facing a new public relations mess as a couple is claiming they were unfairly kicked off a flight en route to their wedding. The couple was flying with their friends from Salt Lake City to Costa Rica with a layover in Houston.
Michael Hohl claims he and his fiancée, Amber Maxwell, were the last to board a flight in Houston when they found a man laying down across their assigned seats. Rather than wake the man, Hohl said they decided to sit three rows ahead, thinking it wouldn’t matter since the plane was rather empty anyway. “We thought not a big deal, it’s not like we are trying to jump up into a first-class seat," Hohl told local CBS affiliate KHOU.“We were simply in an economy row a few rows above our economy seat.”
That’s when a flight attendant apparently approached them and asked if they were in their assigned seats. The couple explained what happened and asked if they could get an upgrade but were told they needed to get into their assigned seats. Hohl insists the couple did as they were told but then a U.S. Marshal came on board and asked the pair to leave the plane because they were "being disorderly and a hazard to the rest of the flight." Hohl and Maxwell were rebooked for a flight the next morning but found the whole thing "quite strange."
The airline disputes the account, saying the couple tried to get upgraded and wouldn’t follow instructions. “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,” United Airlines said in a statement.
The move comes as United instituted a new rule that states crew members will not be able to displace passengers who are already aboard the plane. The change means that a crew member must have any “must-ride booking” in place at least 60 minutes before a plane leaves. The move “ensures situations like flight 3411 never happen again,” a United spokesperson said, referring to the now-infamous flight where a passenger was dragged off the plane. “This is one of our initial steps in a review of our policies in order to deliver the best customer experience.”