You'd think United Airlines would be a little more sensitive and careful about the decision to kick passengers off a flight after becoming the laughingstock of the country for dragging a doctor off a plane last week.
But United's PR team is already back to explaining why a couple on their way to their wedding was removed from a flight at George Bush Intercontinental Airport for seemingly innocuous reasons.
As reported by KHOU, Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell were flying from their home in Salt Lake City to their wedding in Costa Rica, with a layover in Houston, and were the last passengers to board the Houston flight. When they arrived to their seats in row 24, there was a man lying across their seats, sleeping. So instead of trying to wake him, the couple took two vacant seats in row 21 — the plane was not nearly full, they told KHOU.
"We thought not a big deal, it's not like we are trying to jump up into a first-class seat," Hohl told the station. "We were simply in an economy row a few rows above our economy seat."
But according to United Airlines, seats in row 21 are where upgraded "economy plus" seats begin and are therefore more expensive than row 24. When a flight attendant saw the couple slip in, she asked them if they were in their assigned seats, then told them to go back. They complied and returned after asking for a seat upgrade and being told no, they said.
Nevertheless, two U.S. Marshals climbed aboard the plane to tell Hohl and Maxwell to get off.
Not in the mood to get physically dragged and assaulted by the officers, the couple complied without incident, telling another Texas TV station that what happened to Dr. David Dao was fresh in their minds.
There is unfortunately no viral video footage to show what happened, but United's excuse for kicking them off was that they were not following instructions. The couple says United staff told them they were being "disorderly" and "a hazard to the rest of the flight." In a statement, United said:
"We’re disappointed anytime a customer has an experience that doesn’t measure up to their expectations. 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 tomorrow."
Last week, police broke Dr. David Dao's nose and his two front teeth and gave him a concussion after pulling him from his seat and dragging him down the aisle, his attorney has said. United chose to remove Dao at random after no other passengers volunteered to get off the overbooked flight so a United staff member could take the seat. Dao was on his way to see patients who needed treatment.