When Michael Hohl and fiancée Amber Maxwell boarded a flight in Houston, Texas Saturday afternoon, they said they expected to be in Costa Rica that evening with friends and family members preparing for their destination wedding.
Instead, the Utah couple found themselves stranded in a layover city after they said a U.S. Marshal asked them to leave the aircraft, several news outlets reported. Their reported deplaning followed a controversial viral video last week which showed police officers dragging a doctor off a United Express flight in Chicago when the flight was overbooked.
In a statement, the airline said 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.”
But the couple denied to several news outlets that they were trying to sit in a better section of the plane.
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Hohl, who said the couple were the last to board the plane, told KHOU that when they got to their ticketed seats in row 24, another passenger was sleeping sprawled across the row. Instead of waking him, the pair decided to sit in some empty seats three rows up in the same economy section of the flight, he said.
“We thought, ‘Not a big deal, it’s not like we are trying to jump up into a first-class seat,’” Hohl told the television station. “We were simply in an economy row a few rows above our economy seat.”
When a flight attendant asked if they were sitting in the right seats, Hohl said he explained there was a sleeping passenger in theirs and asked to have their seats changed to the ones where they were. The attendant instructed them to return to the original row, which they did, he told the station.
But then, according to Hohl, an officer came up and told them to get off the plane.
The airline said that the couple was only asked to leave “by our staff” and that it had rebooked the couple for a flight the next day. But the couple told KUTV the airline made “inconsistent promises about hotels and transportation to hotels,” and that they did not plan to fly United again.
“They said that we were being disorderly and a hazard to the rest of the flight, to the safety of the other customers,” Hohl told KHOU, insisting that he and his fiancée did not cause a scene.
According to KHOU, the wedding is still scheduled to take place on Thursday.
A lawyer for David Dao, the doctor in last week’s publicized incident, said Dao would likely sue the airline for his injuries, which included a concussion, broken nose and lost teeth. The airline, after briefly trying to defend its actions, announced after international outrage that it would not longer have police officers remove passengers from flights and put alternative policies in place for personnel riding United planes.