A Nigerian woman is in court against the United Airlines, claiming the carrier racially discriminated against her in removing her from her flight at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport following a complaint by a fellow passenger that she had a “pungent” odour.
Hearing the federal discrimination suit filed by Queen Obioma is a court in Texas.
The plaintiff said she and her children were wrongfully kicked off a flight headed to San Francisco on March 4, 2016, the second leg of a three-flight trip from Lagos to Ontario, Canada, where her kids attend school.
According to the lawsuit, Obioma boarded the plane and found a white male passenger sitting in her assigned business class seat, from which he refused to move. When a flight attendant failed to resolve the conflict as the man continued to refuse to move to his own assigned seat, Obioma agreed to take his spot.
Obioma went to the restroom before takeoff and returned to find the man blocking her from accessing the seat for several minutes.
She said that a United staffer, identified as Russel H., instructed her to step off the plane, where she was informed by another United agent that the pilot requested that she exit as the man causing trouble complained that she was “pungent” and did not feel comfortable flying with her.
Shaken, Obioma had her children removed from the flight as well, and the family made their connection five hours later. A frequent flyer member of United’s Star Alliance programme, Obioma said the airline discriminated against her because she is black, African and Nigerian.
United responding to an inquiry on the issue by the Houston Chronicle said:
“We have not yet been served with this suit and due to the pending litigation involved in this matter; we’re unable to provide further comment.”
Obioma seeks punitive damages and legal fees.