United apologizes for giving 1st class seat to House rep

United Airlines apologized to a woman who accused the company of taking the first class seat she paid for on a flight and giving it instead to a member of Congress.

The airline also announced on Monday that it would reimburse Jean-Marie Simon with a $500 voucher, according to the New York Daily News.

Earlier this week, Simon, a school teacher from Washington, DC, accused United Airlines of evicting her from her first-class seat and giving it to senior Democratic congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

Simon, 63, was preparing to board her final flight home from George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston on December 18 after an hour-long weather delay when she was told by the gate attendant that her ticket was not in the system.  

When the attendant asked her if she had canceled her ticket, Simon replied: ‘No. I just want to go home.’ 

Simon, who was on the second leg of her return flight from Guatemala, was then told that the seat she had purchased, 1A, was taken. 

The airline compensated her with a $500 voucher and another ticket for that flight in Economy Plus. 

Jean-Marie Simon, 63, was flying home on December 18, having boarded a flight in Houston bound for the capital. She said the airline denied her a seat she paid for in first class and instead gave it to Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (seen in the seat near the window)

Jean-Marie Simon, 63, was flying home on December 18, having boarded a flight in Houston bound for the capital. She said the airline denied her a seat she paid for in first class and instead gave it to Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (seen in the seat near the window)

Jean-Marie Simon, 63, was flying home on December 18, having boarded a flight in Houston bound for the capital. She said the airline denied her a seat she paid for in first class and instead gave it to Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (seen in the seat near the window)

Simon (above), a school teacher from Washington, DC, says United Airlines evicted her from her first-class seat and gave it to the Democratic congresswoman

Simon (above), a school teacher from Washington, DC, says United Airlines evicted her from her first-class seat and gave it to the Democratic congresswoman

Simon (above), a school teacher from Washington, DC, says United Airlines evicted her from her first-class seat and gave it to the Democratic congresswoman

Upon boarding the plane, Simon noticed that her seat was taken by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the congresswoman from Houston.

Simon believes that she was removed from her seat by United in order to accommodate the Congresswoman.

The airline, however, denies this.

‘After thoroughly examining our electronic records, we found that upon receiving a notification that Flight 788 was delayed due to weather, the customer appears to have canceled her flight from Houston to Washington, DC within the United mobile app,’ United said in a statement.

‘As part of the normal pre-boarding process, gate agents began clearing standby and upgrade customers, including the first customer on the waitlist for an upgrade.’

Simon denies the airline’s claim that she canceled her ticket and claims United staff threatened to remove her from the flight for complaining and for taking a photo of Lee in her seat. 

The teacher said she has screenshots of her United app that shows a canceled flight to Houston in August during Hurricane Harvey when she was supposed to visit her daughter, according to the Houston Chronicle

Simon believes that she was removed from her seat by United in order to accommodate Lee. The airline, however, denies this

Simon believes that she was removed from her seat by United in order to accommodate Lee. The airline, however, denies this

Simon believes that she was removed from her seat by United in order to accommodate Lee. The airline, however, denies this

United says the screenshot wouldn’t show the December 18 flight as canceled because Simon did eventually end up taking the flight.

Simon said that she saw Jackson Lee board with plane with a flight attendant before all of the other passengers but wasn’t aware of who she was at the time. 

After she was seated, she was told by another passenger that her original seat was occupied by a congresswoman and that he had seen her do it twice before.

Simon denied the airline's claim that she canceled her ticket, leading to the mix-up

Simon denied the airline's claim that she canceled her ticket, leading to the mix-up

Simon denied the airline’s claim that she canceled her ticket, leading to the mix-up

Other people on the flight claim they have witnessed the congresswoman carry out similar behavior at least three times before. 

‘I’ve seen Lee and IAH cutting in line and rudely taking advantage of her status before. United knows she will play the race card if she isn’t treated like royalty so they just give in. They don’t care about a hard working teacher vs a privileged idiot,’ one person tweeted.  

Simon said before take off the plane was delayed for nearly an hour due to mechanical problems. During this time Simon said she went to the front of the plane and snapped a picture of Jackson Lee in her seat.

She then told a flight attendant she believed she was bumped from her seat by the airline out of favoritism toward a senior politician.

In a statement on Saturday, Jackson Lee said: ‘I asked for nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary and received nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary.’ 

Jackson Lee said Simon, who is white, confronted a black flight attendant about the perceived slight. 

The congresswoman suggested that her grievance may have something to do with the fact that she is an African American. 

Jackson Lee (seen above giving a speech in Washington, DC on September 20) suggested that Simon, who is white, complained to the airline because she and one of the flight attendants are African American women, thus making them easy targets

Jackson Lee (seen above giving a speech in Washington, DC on September 20) suggested that Simon, who is white, complained to the airline because she and one of the flight attendants are African American women, thus making them easy targets

Jackson Lee (seen above giving a speech in Washington, DC on September 20) suggested that Simon, who is white, complained to the airline because she and one of the flight attendants are African American women, thus making them easy targets

‘Since this was not any fault of mine, the way the individual continued to act appeared to be, upon reflection, because I was an African American woman, seemingly an easy target along with the African American flight attendant who was very, very nice,’ Jackson Lee said in the statement.

SHEILA’S ALLEGED PAST BEHAVIOR:

Simon claims she was told by another passenger that her original seat was occupied by Sheila Jackson Lee and that he had seen her do it twice before.

Other people on the flight claim they have witnessed the congresswoman carry out similar behavior at least three times before.

One person said he had witnessed Lee ‘cutting in line and rudely taking advantage of her status before’. He claimed that United knows Lee would play the race card if ‘she isn’t treated like royalty’.

Reports from back in 1995 when Lee first came to Washington allege that she was routinely chauffeured just one block to work in a government car at the taxpayers’ expense, The Weekly Standard reports.  

 

‘This saddens me, especially at this time of year given all of the things we have to work on to help people.

‘But in the spirit of this season and out of the sincerity of my heart, if it is perceived that I had anything to do with this, I am kind enough to simply say sorry.’  

Simon denied any suggestions she was a racist.

‘I had no idea who was in my seat when I complained at the gate that my seat had been given to someone else,’ she said.

‘There is no way you can see who is in a seat from inside the terminal.’ 

Simon said that five minutes after she snapped the photo of Jackson Lee, another flight attendant sat next to her and asked her if she ‘was going to be a problem.’

The teacher said she was so distraught by how the airline treated her that after she arrived home she wrote a letter to the CEO, Oscar Munoz, and posted it on social media.

An airline representative contacted her last Saturday morning and repeatedly apologized.

Simon has asked for a formal, written apology.

‘It’s just impossible to suspend disbelief and swallow that story that I cancelled my flight,’ she said said. 

United Airlines has experienced a number of public relations headaches in the past year related to its customer service. On April 9, Dr David Dao (above) was violently dragged off a flight just before take off in Chicago because the airline needed to make room for crew

United Airlines has experienced a number of public relations headaches in the past year related to its customer service. On April 9, Dr David Dao (above) was violently dragged off a flight just before take off in Chicago because the airline needed to make room for crew

United Airlines has experienced a number of public relations headaches in the past year related to its customer service. On April 9, Dr David Dao (above) was violently dragged off a flight just before take off in Chicago because the airline needed to make room for crew

United Airlines has experienced a number of public relations headaches in the past year related to its customer service. On April 9, Dr David Dao (above) was violently dragged off a flight just before take off in Chicago because the airline needed to make room for crew

United Airlines has experienced a number of public relations headaches in the past year related to its customer service. On April 9, Dr David Dao (above) was violently dragged off a flight just before take off in Chicago because the airline needed to make room for crew 

United Airlines has experienced a number of public relations headaches in the past year related to its customer service. 

The most notorious case was that of Dr David Dao.

On April 9, just before a United flight was set to take off from Chicago to Louisville, security personnel forcibly dragged Dao off a plane to make room for United crew members.

Dao refused to give up his seat and was left bloodied by the experience, which was filmed on cellphone video and posted to social media.

The viral backlash was a black eye for United, which apologized. The airline and Dao reached a financial settlement for an undisclosed sum of money.  

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