(NEW YORK) — A New Jersey bookstore manager claims he was kicked off his United Airlines flight on Tuesday for being overweight.
Errol Narvaez, who weighs 385 pounds, says he had never been told he is too big to fly in a single airline seat because of his size. Indeed, Narvaez says, he flew United in the past week for business from Newark, New Jersey to Orlando, Florida, Orlando to Houston and Houston to Las Vegas without any issues.
But when he sat down to fly home from Las Vegas, a fellow passenger complained about sitting next to him, after which he says he was asked to get off the plane.
“It was like a ‘Wow’ moment,” Narvaez told ABC News. “Like, ‘Wow, really?’”
Narvaez, 31, says he booked an aisle seat but was told because of a change in aircraft model, he was reassigned by the airline to a middle seat on the five-hour flight.
He claims a United Airlines supervisor told him to collect his belongings and to follow her off the plane even though there were open seats available. He said he offered to pay for a second seat or pay to upgrade to first class but was told that was not possible on the flight. He says he was told he needed to exit the plane.
“She said she couldn’t accommodate me,” he says.
Once off the plane, Narvaez says, he was first told he could pay $117 to buy a second seat on a flight six hours later. But United then gave him a second seat, free of charge, on that later flight.
He recognizes that he is overweight but believes the airline could have handled the situation with more tact, like approaching him before he had to carry his belongings off in front of a plane full of passengers.
After the ordeal, Narvaez says, he requested that United refund his baggage fees and the extra charge he paid for Premier Access to board early. But he says the request was denied, and that he was told if he wanted to complain to do so on the company’s website.
“The supervisor actually said it was not her fault or the company’s fault,” Narvaez says. “It was my fault, basically, for being overweight.”
United confirms it did ask Narvaez to leave his seat. “We made the decision because of other customers in the row and considering their comfort,” a company representative said.
The airline says such requests are made of customers if they are encroaching on the space of other passengers.
United claims it gave Narvaez the option of buying a second seat on his original flight but that he opted not to make a scene and got off the plane with the supervisor. Narvaez, though, says there was never an option for him to stay on his original flight and his only option was to take a later flight.
He says he typically flies JetBlue and will go back to that airline after the experience with United Airlines.
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