Jean-Marie Simon was bumped from first class returning to Washington, D.C. from Guatemala on December 18 so Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee could get extra elbow room, the Houston Chronicle apparently first reported.
United Airlines swore the 63-year-old private school teacher and attorney cancelled her seat on flight 788 from Houston to D.C. after a 50-minute weather delay was announced.
[Sort of like how University of California–Irvine scrambled to cut down on enrollments after they underestimated who would accept admission by adjusting the facts of individuals’ applications.]
Simon noted there was no cancellation on the mobile app United claimed she used to relinquish seat 1A. (United could only respond that Simon ended up on the flight, so obviously the cancellation was struck from the record.)
Another nugget surfaced on Yahoo!:
[A] man identifying himself as a Texas congressman sat down next to [Simon in economy]. [She] claims the man told her that he was glad she had made it on the flight and that Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee was the reason she’d been bumped.
According to Simon, the congressman said, “Jackson Lee gives us all a bad name; it’s shameful,” and pointed out that the airport is in Jackson Lee’s district, Texas’s 18th Congressional District. Up until that conversation[,] Simon said, she didn’t know who Jackson Lee was.
[Who is the mystery man???]
She proceeded to put photo evidence of Jackson Lee on social media with the following explanation:
As a United customer for a decade (Gold Elite) and a reader of the Washington Post for 20 years, I never thought I’d be posting this: the WP killed the story because they thought it was “too much ambiguity about exactly what happened,” despite the fact that I sent them copies of my boarding pass, my original receipt, my letter to United CEO Óscar Muñoz, and the photo of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. So they got suckered by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and the absurd claim that a passenger headed for home in DC would cancel the second segment of her flight. Moreover, as the WP was killing the story, I received three voicemails from United customer service, with “apologies” for what happened and asking me to get in touch with them.
Here is the photo of Jackson Lee in my seat, the one I paid for, on United flight #788, sitting next to the man who apologized to me for her behavior.
Does anyone recognize the gentleman next to Jackson Lee? He may be a congressman.
Please share this story: although I want an apology from United, this is really more about how this kind of behavior by an airline continues to go unchallenged.
Scroll below for a copy of the letter I sent on December 21st to CEO Óscar Muñoz.
The flight reportedly had many empty seats, but it is unclear if they were first class seats.
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On Christmas Day, United issued Simon a $500 travel voucher and apology for her treatment. Simon told New York Post United claimed to have offered this settlement and apology earlier. Simon put on her elitist hat momentarily and countered that a “low ranking employee” [sic] merely offered a phone apology six days earlier, after Simon declined a $300 voucher offered with her new “economy plus” seat at the gate.
Jackson Lee, a Democrat representing Texas’s 18th district in and around Houston, told the press she was targeted by Simon for the clandestine photo and “disruptive” claims to a 140,000-mile first class ticket because of Jackson Lee’s race.
“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.”
She denied any special treatment and layered fake beneficence, a tact our employees use to cast themselves as victims:
“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, whose race is unclear, told NYP that United threatened to remove her from the flight for taking the photo.
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Thanks to our sources: