A Nigerian woman and her children were removed from a United Airlines flight after a white passenger complained of her “pungent” odor, a federal discrimination lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit, filed in Houston on Friday, alleges that the woman — a member of United’s Star Alliance frequent-flier group — was ejected from the plane during a flight from Houston to San Francisco as part of a three-leg trip on March 4, 2016, from Nigeria to Canada, where her children were going to school, the Houston Chronicle reports.
The woman, identified in court documents as Queen Obioma, claims she boarded a plane at Bush Intercontinental Airport to find a white man sitting in her assigned business class seat. The male passenger refused to move — even after United representatives tried to seat him elsewhere on the plane. Obioma eventually agreed to take the man’s assigned seat nearby, according to the lawsuit.
Obioma then used the restroom before takeoff and was blocked in the aisle by the same passenger as she tried to return to her seat. A United employee identified as Russel H. then ordered Obioma to step off the plane, where she was met by another United staffer who told her the pilot asked for her to be escorted off the plane due to a complaint from the unidentified male passenger, according to the lawsuit.
The man complained that Obioma had a “pungent” smell and said he wasn’t comfortable flying with her. Obioma then told United employees that her children were still on the plane, but she was not allowed back on the aircraft and her children were also removed, according to the lawsuit.
“Ms. Obioma watched her minor children marched out of the aircraft like criminals, confused and perplexed and she slumped,” the lawsuit reads, according to a copy obtained by ABC News. “She sobbed uncontrollably for a long time.”
Five hours later, Obioma and her family were put on another plane to finish their journey, but her children missed scheduled appointments, costing her more money. Obioma, who is seeking punitive damages and attorney fees, claims she was discriminated against because she’s black and accused United employees of singling her out due to her race.
An attorney for Obioma could not be reached for comment, according to the Houston Chronicle.
A spokeswoman for United Airlines, meanwhile, declined comment when reached Monday by The Post, saying it had not yet been served with the lawsuit.
“United does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and will investigate this matter,” spokeswoman Kimberly Gibbs said in a statement to The Post.
Source – Nypost