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Lawsuit: Nigerian woman removed from United flight for being 'pungent'

A woman from Nigeria filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against United Airlines on Friday, charging that she and her children were removed from a flight because of her “pungent” odor, the Houston Chronicle reported.

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Queen Obioma said she and her children suffered unnecessary embarrassment when a white passenger complained he was uncomfortable flying on the same plane with her, according to the lawsuit. The suit, filed in federal court in Houston, seeks damages in excess of $75,000, ABC News reported.

In the lawsuit, Obioma said that on March 4, 2016, she was taking her two children to the Canadian province of Ontario to enroll them in a school, ABC News reported. They had boarded a flight from Houston to San Francisco -- the second leg of a journey that originated in Lagos, Nigeria -- when they were taken off the plane, according to the suit.

According to court documents, Obioma said she went to her assigned business seat and found a white man sitting there, the New York Post reported. The man refused to move, even after United representatives tried to seat him elsewhere, the Chronicle reported. Obioma then agreed to take the man’s assigned seat.

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Obioma used the restroom before takeoff and was blocked in the aisle by the same passenger as she tried to return to her seat, the Chronicle reported. A United employee identified as Russel H. then ordered Obioma to step off the plane, where she was met by another United staffer who said the pilot asked for her to be escorted off the plane due to a complaint from the unidentified male passenger, according to the lawsuit. Her children were also removed from the plane, the Chronicle reported.

After a five-hour delay, Obioma and her children boarded another flight, the Post reported. However, her children missed scheduled appointments, costing her more money, according to the complaint.

"Ms. Obioma watched her minor children marched out of the aircraft like criminals, confused and perplexed and she slumped," the lawsuit charges. "She sobbed uncontrollably for a long time." 

"United has no legitimate reason or justification to remove (Obioma) from the flight but for racial prejudice and insulted (her) by stating that Ms. Obioma stank," according to the lawsuit.

United Airlines representatives said they had no comment.

“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 said in an emailed statement to ABC News.

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