A Nigerian woman and her two children were kicked off a United Airlines flight due to their race, a new civil rights lawsuit claims.
According to the complaint filed on Friday, the family were removed from the flight on March 4, 2016 after a white male passenger complained about her “pungent” odour, business news site Fortune reported.
Queen Obioma was escorting two of her children from Nigeria to Ontario, Canada for school meetings and boarded a plane in Houston to find a white man sitting in her assigned business-class seat.
She was forced to move to a different seat after the man failed to give up the seat despite a flight attendant asking him to do so.
The same passenger then blocked Ms Obioma’s access to her seat for “several minutes” after a toilet break before she was able to “squeeze” past him to her seat, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit claims a crew member then told Ms Obioma she and her family must leave the plane.
After leaving the aircraft, Ms Obioma was informed by United staff that “the pilot personally requested that Ms Obioma be ejected from the aircraft because the white man sitting around her in the business class cabin was not comfortable flying with her because she was ‘pungent,’” the lawsuit says.
The suit states the incident was racially motivated, stating that United “wrongfully singled out Ms Obioma and her children because they were blacks and punished them publicly because a white man did not want them on the plane.”
United staff also “marched” Ms Obioma’s two children “out of the aircraft like criminals”, the suit claims.
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Obiama says she “sobbed uncontrollably for a long time” due to the embarrassment and trauma she was subjected to.
After their ordeal, the family was not able to get on another flight for five hours, meaning the two children missed their school appointments.
The airline said it was unable to comment on the matter due to pending litigation but did say the airline “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and will investigate this matter.”
The incident comes in a long line of customer service issues, most notably in April 2017 when passenger David Dao was forcibly removed from an aircraft, leaving his face bloodied.
Yahoo7 News has contacted United Airlines for comment on the allegations.