A bride and groom on their way to Costa Rica for their wedding reported being kicked off their United Airlines flight Saturday after finding their seats taken by a sleeping man and deciding to sit in open seats instead.
“We thought not a big deal, it’s not like we are trying to jump into a first-class seat,” Michael Hohl, the groom flying with his bride-to-be Amber Maxwell, told KHOU-TV radio station. “We were simply in an economy row a few rows above our economy seat.”
Hohl said he and Maxwell had seats in row 24, but when they arrived, they saw a man sleeping in their assigned seats. Since the plane was only half-full and had multiple empty rows, Hohl and Maxwell thought it would not be a problem for them to sit in row 21 instead. As it turns out, they were wrong.
Shortly after the couple sat down, a flight attendant approached them to see their tickets. Seats in row 21, it turns out, are “economy plus,” an upgrade. Hohl said he asked to purchase the seats, but the attendant refused, The Dallas Morning News reported. He and his fiancé then returned to their assigned seats.
But then a U.S. marshal came onto the plane and asked Hohl and Maxwell to get off the plane. “They said that we were being disorderly and a hazard to the rest of the flight, to the safety of the other customers,” the groom recalled.
Hohl said the incident when David Dao was forcibly removed from a United flight scared him and his wife into compliance. They did not want to be treated like Dao.
As before, United issued an apology that seemed only to make matters worse. “We’re disappointed anytime a customer has an experience that doesn’t measure up to their expectations,” the airline declared in a statement. But the officials behind it still blamed Hohl and his bride for the disturbance.
“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 statement alleged, in direct contrast to Hohl’s statements. “We’ve been in touch with them and have rebooked them on flights tomorrow.”
Luckily, the delay did not derail the couple’s wedding plans. Their ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, the Morning News reported. Nevertheless, Hohl said the couple will not be flying United again.
“I think customer service and the airlines has gone real downhill,” the groom said. “The way United Airlines handled this was really absurd.”
Last Monday, Washington D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton brought up Dao’s removal from the United flight on Capitol Hill. “Airline passengers must have protections against such abusive treatment,” Holmes Norton declared. “I am asking our committee for a hearing, which will allow us to question airport police, United Airlines personnel, and airport officials, among others, about whether appropriate procedures were in place in Chicago and are in place across the United States when passengers are asked to leave a flight.”
Great — just what the airlines need, more bureaucracy.