Family forced to sit in vomit on United flight

A Maryland family says they were forced to sit in a vomit-soaked seat during a return flight home after a vacation in Orlando last Sunday.

Scott Shirley had boarded a United Airlines flight with his wife and son when the trio noticed an unusual smell after placing their carry-on bags underneath their seats. After realizing their bags were damp, the family recognized the odor as vomit.

“She [Shirley’s wife] reached down and rubbed the ground and goes “the whole ground is wet,” and then she put it to her nose and goes “Oh my god! This is throw up,” Shirley explained to WUSA9.

Shirley says his wife suffers from mysophobia-- fear of germs-- and she immediately began crying she was so upset. The airline did acknowledge that a passenger seated in that area had become sick on an earlier flight but the family was told it had been cleaned by the cabin crew.

“It was clear that no one had cleaned the area where we were sitting, because there was no evidence of any chemical smell what so ever. This was purely that distinct smell of vomit on our hands and backpacks,” Shirley told the Daily Mail.

United offered the family two unsatisfactory alternatives—fly out the next day or stay in their seats. Since Shirley’s wife, who works at the Food and Drug Administration, had to be at work that Monday, the family opted to stay put and were given trash bags with which to wrap their soiled luggage.

“I was rather shocked that they didn’t offer to at least come in and scrub it down because Lord knows what, ya know, what that vomit contained,” Shirley told WUSA9.

United Airlines has since apologized, and admitted to WUSA9 that the seats were not cleaned as thoroughly as they should have been prior to takeoff. reached out to the airline and spokeswoman Jennifer Dohm released the following statement:

“The situation Mr. Shirley described is certainly one that we wish no customer experiences, as our cleaners did not fully clean the floor in front of the seats prior to departure. We offered them an alternate flight, but they decided to remain onboard. Our agents did the best they could in the short time they had to accommodate Mr. Shirley and keep the flight on time. We’ve apologized to his family and offered a gesture of goodwill for future travel.”

The "gesture of goodwill" included a $150 flight voucher for each member of the Shirley family.