An African woman and her children were kicked off a United Airlines flight after a fellow passenger complained that she had a “pungent” odor, according to a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against the company.
The incident involving the passenger, a white male, happened two years ago, when Queen Obioma, a Nigerian citizen, and her two children were boarding a flight from Houston to San Francisco. The family had flown from Lagos, Nigeria, and were on the second leg of a three-flight journey to Ontario, Canada.
Obioma saw that the other passenger had sat in her assigned seat in the business-class cabin, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Friday in federal court in Houston. The passenger refused to move, so a flight crew member, instead, asked Obioma to sit elsewhere in business class.
Later, before takeoff, Obioma went to use the bathroom. On her way back to her seat, the same passenger was standing in the aisle and blocking her from getting to her seat, the lawsuit says. She said “excuse me” three times, but was ignored. After several minutes, Obioma managed to squeeze her way to her seat.
But just after she sat down, a crew member told Obioma to go outside the aircraft, where another employee told her that she would be removed from the flight. The lawsuit says the pilot had personally requested that she be removed because the male passenger, who was not identified, had complained that her smell was “pungent” and that he was not comfortable flying with her.
“At that point Ms. Obioma was lost, confused and disoriented. Her mind went blank and she was utterly befuddled,” according to the complaint