Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Nigerian Family Sues Airlines After Being Kicked Off Flight for 'Smell'

Nigerian Family Sues Airlines After Being Kicked Off Flight for 'Smell'

It was after she had sat down that a crew member told her to go outside the aircraft, and another United employee told her she was getting kicked out of the plane.

Obioma and her two children were flying from Nigeria to Ontario, Canada on March 4 2016, when Obioma found that her seat had been taken by a white male passenger during their stop in Houston, the lawsuit states. "She sobbed uncontrollably for a long time", the complaint says, according to the Washington Post. After several minutes, Obioma managed to squeeze her way to her seat. According to a report by The Post, the lawsuit claims the pilot personally requested Obioma be removed since the white male passenger accused her of having a "pungent" odor and that he was uncomfortable flying with her.

After Obioma used the bathroom before the plane took off, the man refused to let her occupy her seat when she returned.

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When her flight left Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Obioma came back to her business class seat where a white passenger had been occupying it, court documents said. "Her mind went blank and she was utterly befuddled", according to the complaint.

The lawsuit, which seeks punitive damages, accuses United Airlines of discriminating against Obioma and her children that day because they were black.

Shocked and distraught, Obioma, a frequent flier member on the United's Star Alliance, said she informed airline personnel that her two kids were still on the plane, after which United staffers kicked them off the aircraft as well. While the events laid out in the suit are just allegations at this point, the picture they paint is disturbing, particularly because of the direct involvement of a United pilot.

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United Airlines refused to comment when contacted by the Houston Chronicle, saying: "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". United agents removed the children from the flight as well, and they made their connection five hours later.

Obioma and children were also taken off the plane.

"United has no legitimate reason or justification to remove [Obioma] from the flight but for racial prejudice and insulted [her] by stating that Ms. Obioma stank", the suit states. So she sat in the next seat, which was where he was supposed to be sitting. More recently, in March, a passenger's dog suffocated to death after a flight attendant forced the owner to place the dog in an overhead compartment.

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