A couple traveling from the US city of Houston to Costa Rica for their wedding were removed from a United Airlines flight due to a seating issue.
The incident took place on Saturday in United Airlines Flight 1737 which was headed from Houston to Liberia in Costa Rica as Michael Hohl, the groom and his fiancé, Amber Maxwell, said they were the last people to board the plane.
According to Hohl, the couple had noticed a man who was napping spread across their row when they approached their seats, 24 B and C. They decided to sit three rows up in seats 21 B and C, not wanting to wake the man.
He added they did not think it would be a problem because the flight was half full with several 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.”
United Airlines considers Row 21 “economy plus,” an upgrade, in airplanes like the one the couple had boarded on.
A flight attendant then asked the couple if they were in the right seats. The couple was asked to return to their original seats after first requesting an upgrade.
Hohl said the couple agreed to the requests of the flight attendant, but a US marshal requested the couple leave 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 said.
In a statement on Saturday, United Airlines said it is “disappointed” when 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,” the statement said. “We’ve been in touch with them and have re-booked them on flights tomorrow.”
Hohl said that the incident showed “customer service and the airlines has gone real downhill.”
“The way United Airlines handled this was really absurd,” he added.
The airline came under harsh criticism earlier this month after a video released on social media showed a Chinese man being forcibly taken off a flight at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.
The airline said the 69-year-old man, identified as Dr. David Dao, had been asked to give up his seat on an overbooked flight from Chicago to Louisville in the US state of Kentucky, but he refused to cooperate.