United Airlines in fresh trouble: Passenger sues air carrier over removal from business class seat

New York: A 24-year-old woman has sued the United Airlines for being forced out of her business class seat and escorted to the rear of the plane without an explanation, the latest public relations nightmare for the American airline.

Karen Shiboleth, a Columbia graduate whose friends include first daughter Tiffany Trump, claims she was forced out of her business class seat during a flight to London from Newark, New Jersey, last September and escorted to the rear of the plane without an explanation.

She sued the airline on Monday, claiming $150,000 in punitive damages "to deter such behaviour in the future", the New York Daily news reported.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Shiboleth, who was moving to London last year for her graduation school at Kings College, boarded a United Airlines flight to Heathrow Airport. After several upgrades, Shiboleth ultimately sprung for a 'BusinessFirst' class seat, which cost $3,146 and 60,000 American Express rewards miles.

"The upgraded BusinessFirst ticket was to ease the burden of her move, improve the care and safety of her personal belongings, and provide convenience from the stresses that accompany moving — especially moving to a new country nearly halfway across the world," according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court.

After Shiboleth had boarded the plane, she noticed there were multiple empty BusinessFirst seats. Ten minutes before takeoff, however, a United Airlines gate attendant got on the plane and "without explanation" demanded that she vacate her seat in the United BusinessFirst and move to the back of the plane, the suit alleged.

While Shiboleth asked for an explanation, nobody would tell her why she had to move or why she could not just go to an empty BusinessFirst seat, the suit claims. Even though Shiboleth showed them that her assigned seat was 1B in the BusinessFirst cabin, the staffer took Shiboleth's arm "without consent and forced" her to a middle seat in the back of the plane, the report said.

The employee, "who was not even a flight attendant — evidently boarded the plane for the sole purpose of harassing, humiliating, embarrassing and physically accosting" Shiboleth in front of other passengers, the suit states. While the employee was hauling her to the back, she also abused her in front of other passengers, the lawsuit claims.

United Airlines, in a statement said, "Our goal is to provide all of our customers with a great travel experience." "We are aware of the filing and reviewing it, but due to pending litigation we are unable to comment further," it was quoted as saying.

United Airlines recently made headlines and remains under scrutiny following its treatment to the Vietnamese-American passenger, David Dao, who was physically dragged off an "overbooked" flight when he refused to give up his seat for United crew members on a flight from Chicago to Louisville.

Just days after the incident, it emerged that a bride and groom headed for their wedding were booted from a United Airlines flight here after they relocated to empty seats three rows up without permission.

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Updated Date: Apr 25, 2017 16:05:03 IST

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