United Airlines Booted a Bride and Groom Off the Plane on the Way to Their Own Wedding

And the flight was half-empty.

Just a week after United forcibly dragged a man off a plane to make room for its own staff members, the airline is at the center of another controversy for kicking people off a flight. KHOU-TV reports that an engaged couple, who were on their way to their own wedding, got kicked off a plane after trying to switch seats—even though the flight was half-empty.


Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell were traveling from Salt Lake City to Costa Rica along with some friends for their destination wedding and had a layover in Houston. They got on their flight at George Bush Intercontinental Airport and noticed that a man was spread across their row taking a nap. So they decided to sit three rows ahead of them instead, because the flight was only about half full.

"We thought not a big deal, it's not like we are trying to jump up into a first-class seat," Hohl told KHOU-TV. "We were simply in an economy row a few rows above our economy seat." But the seat was Economy Plus, and they had only bought Economy tickets. So a flight attendant asked them if they had been upgraded, and when they said no, asked them to return to their assigned seats.


Hohl says he and Maxwell went back to their seats, and then a U.S. Marshal showed up and asked them to get off the plane. (But the TSA's Federal Air Marshal Service told the Houston Chronicle "no Federal Air Marshals were involved in this alleged incident," so perhaps someone else asked them to exit the plane.) The couple cooperated, but they were stuck in Houston overnight while their friends and family were in Costa Rica.

United responded differently, saying they "repeatedly" tried to sit in an upgraded seat and refused to follow instructions. Here's their statement:

"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."

The couple is in Costa Rica now, and said once their new flight took off, a flight attendant announced that all passengers could switch seats if they wanted to.

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Megan Friedman

Megan Friedman is the former managing editor of the Newsroom at Hearst. She's worked at NBC and Time, and is a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.