“We thought not a big deal, it’s not like we are trying to jump up into a first-class seat”
United may have instituted a new rule claiming that they wouldn’t displace passengers who had already been seated on the plane, but it would seem that just before the rule went into effect, they were going to get in one more high-profile “recommendation” to fan the flames of controversy surrounding the airline.
Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell were en route to Costa Rica for their wedding on a flight from Salt Lake City with a stopover in Houston. Among the last to board the flight in Houston, they found a man laying down across the row that contained both of their seats. Seeing as how the flight wasn’t full, the two, rather than confront the man, seated themselves in a nearby vacant row.
Hohl said to KHOU, a CBS affiliate, “We thought not a big deal, it’s not like we are trying to jump up into a first-class seat. We were simply in an economy row a few rows above our economy seat.”
Prior to taxiing, a flight attendant approached them, asking if they were in their assigned seats. The couple explained their predicament and learned that they were in a row that was considered “economy plus.” They asked if they could get upgraded to the seats that they were currently occupying, but were told to return to their ticketed seats, which they claim they did.
Nothing too scandalous so far, right? Just some confusion over the byzantine methods airlines use to designate “premium” seating in the economy class. But a U.S. Marshal then approached the couple and told them they would need to leave for "being disorderly and a hazard to the rest of the flight."
United issued a statement (which might as well be their primary business activity these days) which read:
"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."
There’s no video account of the incident in question, and it’s possible that opportunistic travelers might be looking to exploit the company’s aversion to further controversy for their own gain, but if the account of the passenger is to be believed, it’s hard to see where the threat to other passengers manifested itself.
The couple was booked on travel the following day and won’t miss any of their scheduled wedding activities. No word on whether or not they got an upgrade this time around.