HOUSTON – A bride and groom headed to Costa Rica for their wedding got kicked off their United flight out of Houston Saturday afternoon, reports CBS Houston affiliate KHOU-TV.
This, in the wake of United coming under intense fire for the contentious removal of a doctor from a plane in Chicago last week, which was caught on video that went viral.
The latest incident took place on United Airlines Flight 1737. The couple, along with friends, were flying from Salt Lake City and had a layover at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Michael Hohl, the groom, told KHOU he and his fiancé, Amber Maxwell, were the last to board the plane.
According to Hohl, they noticed a man was spread across their row napping when they approached their seats, 24 B and C.
Not wanting to wake the man, Hohl said, they decided to sit a three rows up, in seats 21 B and C. He said they didn’t think it would matter because the flight was half full with multiple empty rows.
“We thought ‘not a big deal,’ it’s not like we are trying to jump up into a first-class seat,” said Hohl. “We were simply in an economy row a few rows above our economy seat.”
In a Boeing 737-800 like the one the couple was on, United considers Row 21 “economy plus,” an upgrade.
After sitting, Hohl said a flight attendant approached and asked if they were in their ticketed seats. The couple tells KHOU they explained they weren’t and asked if they could get an upgrade, but instead were told they needed to return to their assigned seats.
Hohl said after complying with the flight attendant’s demand, a U.S. marshal came onto the plane and asked them to get off.
Hohl said they cooperated and got off the plane without incident, but they still don’t understand why.
“They said that we were being disorderly and a hazard to the rest of the flight, to the safety of the other customers,” said Hohl.
United has a different version of what happened. The carrier issued a statement Saturday saying, “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.”
The Reuters news agency reports that the airline, in a statement issued Sunday, denied that a marshal or any other authorities were involved, saying simply, “They were asked to leave the plane by our staff and complied.”
The bride and groom were rebooked for another flight the next morning, but Hohl said they won’t be flying United again and described the whole situation as “quite strange.”
“I think customer service and the airlines has gone real downhill,” said Hohl. “The way United Airlines handled this was really absurd.”
Despite their flight delay, their wedding is still planned for Thursday.