A Nigerian woman is suing United Airlines after she says she and her two children were booted from a flight after a white passenger complained about her “pungent” smell.
In a federal discrimination lawsuit filed in Houston on Friday, Queen Obioma said she and family were boarding a San Francisco-bound flight on March 4, 2016, when her encounter with white male passenger resulted in her being kicked off the plane by United employees. The family was on the second leg of a three-flight journey from Lagos, Nigeria to Canada, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Obioma said the drama unfolded when she and her two children boarded the plane at Bush Intercontinental Airport to find a white man sitting in one of their assigned seats. The man allegedly refused to move, according to the lawsuit, after which a flight attendant became involved in an effort to resolve the dispute.
The man made it clear he wasn’t going anywhere, however, so Obioma agreed to sit in his originally assigned seat, which was close by.
Before takeoff, the mother said she went to use the restroom. When she tried to return to her seat, however, Obioma said the same white passenger tried to block her from her seat. Moments later, an airline employee informed her she would not be able to fly that day and asked her to step off the plane.
That’s when another United Worker told her she was removed because the white passenger seated nearby complained to the pilot that she stank. According to the suit, Oboioma said she was told the man was not comfortable flying with her because she was “pungent.” The mother said she was also barred from returning on the fight.
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. It took another 5 hours before they boarded another flight.
The woman alleges she was discriminated against by the airline because she’s Black, African and Nigerian, The Houston Chronicle reported. She’s seeking punitive damages and coverage of her attorney’s fees.
United Airlines has declined to comment on the lawsuit.
“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 spokesman for the airline told the newspaper via email.