A bride and groom flying to Costa Rica for their wedding were removed from a United Airlines flight Saturday, shortly after last week’s incident in which a passenger was dragged from an overbooked United plane so that crew members could fly.
There are conflicting reports as to why the couple was removed from the plane. The bride and groom told KHOU in Houston that they were the last to board and found a man napping in their seats. Not wanting to wake him, the couple sat in different seats, which were classes as Economy Plus. When a flight attendant approached the couple to ask if they were in their ticketed seats, they explained they weren’t and asked for an upgrade. Instead, the flight attendant told them to return to their assigned seats. The couple said that after they complied with the flight attendant’s demand, a U.S. Marshal came on the plane and asked them to get off. The couple cooperated and left the plane without incident.
"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 told KHOU.
In a statement provided to Reuters, United said that the couple “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.” United also said that they were asked to leave by staff, not a U.S. Marshal, and complied. United offered the couple a discounted hotel rate for the night and rebooked them on a flight the next morning.
The incident comes as the airline is trying to repair its reputation after Monday’s incident in which a viral Facebook video showed a passenger being dragged from an overbooked United plane, prompting outrage and calls for reform.
According to NPR, shares of United’s parent company, United Continental Holdings, were down 2 percent as of Thursday. (Markets were closed on Friday.) The company is scheduled to report earnings Monday after the markets close.
In a study released today by Morning Consult, 40 percent of travelers participating in an airline booking simulation chose to fly American Airlines over United, even when they had to pay more for the flight.
United has promised that it will conduct a review of the actions that led to Monday’s incident and communicate the results by April 30. In the latest statement on its website, the airline committed to not asking law enforcement officers to remove passengers from flights unless it is a matter of safety and security. The airline said it has started a review of its policies governing crew movement, incentivizing volunteers on overbooked flights, how the airline handles overbooked flights and how it works with airport authorities and local law enforcement.
Others, however, have called for stricter regulations to protect travelers. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is promoting a new Airline Passenger Bill of Rights that would, in part, restore airline passengers’ right to sue airlines for unfair or deceptive practices or unfair methods of competition.
“Last week’s mother of all customer service meltdowns was decades in the making,” the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) said in a statement supporting the legislation. “It is a deeply rooted cultural problem that has greatly worsened in recent years and that the major U.S. network airlines neither can nor want to solve.”