Not a week has passed since their last major scandal, and United Airlines is already involved in another one.
Michael Hohl and Amber Maxell were a young couple who was en route from Houston, Texas to Costa Rica to schedule a wedding and spend their honey moon together. They were the last to board United Airlines flight 1737 in Houston. They began searching for their seats, only to find a man lying across a whole row.
They decided not to wake him and instead found another pair of seats in the front section of the plane which were not taken. “We thought it was okay, we were still in the economy class, we never crossed into the business class section of the cabin”, Michael told the press.
However, what they didn’t know at the time is that seats in that particular row were classified as “economy + class”. These seats are usually somewhat more expensive than others, as they provide more leg room for passengers. Just when Michael and Amber got comfortable with their new seats and thought their journey can begin, they were approached by a stewardess who asked them why they are not in their own seats. They explained that they didn’t want to disturb the man and had to move. They also asked if they can pay some extra fee to remain in their current seats.
But the stewardess declined and asked them to get back to their original seats, which they did. However, the moment they did that, an airport police officer came and ordered them out of the plane. “The police officers told us that we were disturbing other passengers and jeopardizing their safety. It was ridiculous”, Michael explains. The couple cooperated and left the plane without any incidents, but they were infuriated by the event and protested the airline’s decision once questioned by police.
United Airlines issued a statement on Saturday saying they are “always disappointed when a customer has an experience that doesn’t measure up to their expectations”, explaining that what lead to the incident was the couple’s alleged “attempt to sit in an upgraded seating which they did not purchase and they would not follow crew instructions to return to their assigned seats”.
However, United management decided to contact the passengers and compensate them for their loss by booking them new seats on a new flight.
United Airlines has been under heavy criticism lately, after a series of scandals and incidents caused its reputation and image to drop. Last week, an elderly Vietnamese doctor was dragged of a United flight at the Chicago O’Hare airport after he refused to give up his seat and take the next flight just so that United crew flight could board the plane. Dr. David Dao threatened to sue the company and launch a campaign against it.
After the incident, United Chief Executive Oscar Munoz apologized to Dao, his family and the company’s customers saying that the airline will try to improve its policies and procedures and that airport law enforcement agencies will not be hired again to remove passengers from overbooked flights.