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Passenger Demands $100,000 From United Airlines in Lunchbox Dispute That Saw Him Booted From Flight And Banned From Airline

Passenger Demands $100,000 From United Airlines in Lunchbox Dispute That Saw Him Booted From Flight And Banned From Airline

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A frequent United Airlines flyer has demanded $100,000 from the Chicago-based carrier for the ‘mental anguish’ he suffered as a result of a lunchbox dispute that saw him booted from a flight and then temporarily banned from flying United over allegations he inappropriately touched a flight attendant.

Yubo Miao, who is a U.S. citizen of Chinese descent, claims United Airlines racially discriminated against him because a flight attendant asked him to remove his lunchbox from the overhead bin after he had already put two other suitcases in the locker above his seat.

In a civil complaint filed in a Chicago district court last week, Miao claims that a flight attendant marched up and yelled at him to place his lunchbox underneath the seat in front of him as passengers were still boarding the San Diego-bound plane on June 1, 2023.

Miao says he initially placed the lunchbox on an empty adjacent seat and told the flight attendant he would move it to the floor once the passenger who was booked in that seat showed up.

The flight attendant, however, allegedly threatened to inform the Captain if he didn’t move the lunchbox to the floor, so Miao says he immediately complied. A short time later, a United Airlines supervisor ordered Miao off the plane, telling him that the flight attendant had claimed he hit her.

Miao says he submitted a complaint of racial discrimination to United, noting that white passengers had placed a similar amount of luggage into the overhead bins but had not been confronted by the flight attendants to remove any of their belongings.

United’s in-house ‘Passenger Incident Review Committee’ initially banned Miao from flying the airline while it reviewed the complaint, and a month later, it concluded that Miao had, in fact, made ‘unwanted physical contact’ with the flight attendant.

Despite the finding, the ban was rescinded, and Miao was allowed to fly United again, although not without being stopped by agents who asked him if he was willing to comply with federal regulations – an example of retaliation, Miao alleges.

“It is clear that United intended to discriminate against Miao on the basis of his race and national origin as other non-Asian passengers were not treated in a similar manner or were removed from the flight despite having similar bags that the United flight attendant took issue with,” the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint continued: “The conduct was so outrageous an award for compensatory damages is inadequate, and punitive damages should be awarded to punish United for its misconduct.”

United permits passengers to have one carry-on bag that can be placed in the overhead bin and one ‘personal item’ like a handbag, rucksack or even a lunchbox that is to be placed under the seat in front of you.

In practice, many passengers get away with taking more luggage than they are technically permitted and in many cases, people ignore the rule of placing the ‘personal item’ underneath the seat in front.

Miao doesn’t argue that he should have been allowed to store more luggage in the overhead locker than is technically permitted but that flight attendants singled him out while caucasian passengers weren’t challenged for exceeding their luggage allowance.

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