A Nigerian woman is filing a lawsuit against United Airlines, accusing the airline of racial discrimination for kicking her off a flight scheduled to depart Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport because another passenger claimed she had a “pungent” odor.
Queen Obioma filed the federal discrimination suit Friday in a Texas court claiming United Airlines staff forced her and her children to leave a flight bound for San Francisco because a white male passenger claimed she had a “pungent” smell about her, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The mother claimed in the lawsuit that United discriminated against her for being black, African, and Nigerian.
The flight was the second leg of a three-part flight from Lagos, Nigeria, to Ontario, Canada. Obioma had been traveling to Canada because her kids attend school there.
The lawsuit claims Obioma boarded the flight and discovered a white male passenger sitting in her business class seat. Even though Obioma had been assigned that seat, the passenger refused to move. A flight attendant intervened, but failed to resolve the situation as the passenger refused to move to his assigned seat.
Obioma agreed to take his assigned seat to put the confrontation to rest. When she went to the restroom before takeoff, she tried to go back to her seat only to find the man blocking her from returning to her seat for several minutes.
The mother then alleged that a United staffer told her to get off the plane, and another United employee told her the pilot requested she leave because the man who refused to move his seat felt uncomfortable flying with her due to her “pungent” odor.
Obioma, appalled at the situation, requested to have her children deplane as well so the family could be together. The woman and her family made their connection after the five-hour delay.
Obioma is seeking punitive damages of an unspecified amount and legal fees from the airline. United Airlines declined to comment on the situation, citing pending litigation.
“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,” a spokesperson for the airline said in a statement.
United Airlines had dealt with several public relations blunders for their customer service throughout 2017. In December 2017, the airline was accused of evicting a woman from her first-class seat to give it to Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).
The airline also had to deal with a massive public relations blowback in April 2017 when it dispatched security to use physical force to remove a doctor who refused to give up his seat on an overbooked flight.