Less than a week after United bloodied a 69-year-old doctor while trying to remove him from a full flight, the airline can’t seem to avoid terrible PR optics. This past weekend, the airline removed a couple on their way to get married from a flight out of Houston.
And according to the couple, Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell, United’s reasoning was flimsy.
Hohl and Maxwell—both of whom live in Utah—boarded a flight Saturday that would take them to Costa Rica, where they are set to marry this week. From there, they told KHOU, they arrived at their seats only to find a man stretched out across the entire row and napping. Instead of waking him and asking him to make room, they simply moved up a couple of rows and took vacant seats—which happened to be in an upgraded “economy plus” row.
A flight attendant asked them to move back to their assigned seats, and a few minutes later, according to the couple, a U.S. Marshall approached them and told them to get off the plane.
“We thought [it wasn’t] a big deal, it’s not like we are trying to jump up into a first-class seat,” Hohl told KHOU. “We were simply in an economy row a few rows above our economy seat… They said that we were being disorderly and a hazard to the rest of the flight, to the safety of the other customers.”
The couple, scheduled to get married this Thursday, was rebooked on a flight the next morning.
United said the couple “wouldn’t follow crew instructions” and tried to take an upgraded seat multiple times.
“We’re disappointed anytime a customer has an experience that doesn’t measure up to their expectations,” United said in a statement released Saturday. “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 [Sunday].”
Despite multiple videos going viral of airport security dragging David Dao off a United flight when he refused to deplane just a week ago—leading to the worst airlines public relations fiasco in recent memory—United has yet another PR problem on its hands.
“The way United Airlines handled this was absolutely absurd,” Hohl told KHOU. “They’re going to start losing money if they keep treating their patrons like this.”
The couple also said this would be the last time they’d fly United.