United Airlines reportedly threatened to cuff a man who was already seated and on his flight back to Los Angeles, after he refused to give up his first-class seat to another passenger considered “high priority.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that United Airlines passenger Geoff Fearns, 51, paid a $1,000 upgrade for a first-class ticket to get back to Los Angeles early last week. He’s the president of the California-based investment firm, TriPacific Capital Advisors, and after a business trip to Hawaii, he was hoping to land early for work.
Fearns was already seated and had a glass of orange juice in hand when a United employee rushed over to him and told him he needed to give up his seat. Apparently, someone who flew more than Fearns and had more mile points, booked a flight at the last minute and wanted a first-class seat.
— Stanley Levy (@Blackmanthinkin) April 12, 2017
Similar to the physician seen in viral footage earlier this week, Fearns refused.
“That’s when they told me they needed the seat for somebody more important who came at the last minute. They said they have a priority list and this other person was higher on the list than me.”
Earlier that day, United Airlines experienced mechanical issues with the plane that Fearns was to originally board. Passengers were placed on a smaller airline, resulting in a shortage of first-class seats. Fearns told the LA Times that he understood that problems happen and seat shortages occur, but what he didn’t understand was why they allowed him to board and get settled in before making him give up his seat.
“I understand you might bump people because a flight is full. But they didn’t say anything at the gate. I was already in the seat. And now they were telling me I had no choice. They said they’d put me in cuffs if they had to.”
When Fearns refused to give his first-class seat, an employee offered him a seat in the economy section, between a man and woman who were arguing with each other. He took the seat reluctantly.
“They argued the whole way back. Nearly six hours. It was a lot of fun.”
Once he got back to California, Fearns spoke to an attorney, who advised him to ask for a full flight refund and a donation of $25,000 to a chosen charity. United Airlines allegedly refused both requests.
Fearns is now considering a lawsuit against the airline. In the meantime, he’s vowed to never fly United again.