United Airlines accused of reassigning passenger's first-class seat to politician


Jean-Marie Simon, a 63-year old attorney and school teacher, was moved from her first-class seat to coach class over the weekend on United Flight 788 from Houston to Washington, D.C., to make room for the lawmaker.

Both were attempting to take a December 18 flight from Houston, Texas, to Washington, D.C. Jackson Lee's seat was upgraded to first class, which United said had nothing to do with her status as a congresswoman.

The lawmaker, however, maintained in her statement that she "did nothing wrong" and said she didn't ask for anything "exceptional or out of the ordinary and received nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary". The situation appears to have originated from a lack of synchronization between the United mobile application and the reservation system.

United spokeswoman Andrea Hiller told the Daily News on Monday that the company's internal system showed Simon canceled her flight within United's mobile app and released her seat to next person on the airline's upgrade list, which happened to be Jackson Lee.

The gate agent "said no, because I had "unreserved" my seat and it had been given to another passenger, that s/he had been "upgraded.' He said I could "stand here and argue" and miss the flight or book another flight with another airline, meaning that I would lose my first-class ticket and pay for a second one".

Simon tried to get on that same flight, but was told that her reservation had been canceled.

"I have received NO written apology from United". That woman was speaking with a black woman flight attendant, she said.

"United has not apologized to me", Simon said to the New York Post.

The passenger, whose flight was already delayed, canceled her flight using the United app, the representative said.

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During the course of a takeoff delay due to inclement weather, Simon left her seat to snap a photo of Jackson Lee sitting in the seat Simon had purchased. I asked for nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary and received nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary.

She said she then observed a "disruption" from someone walking back and forth in the cabin of the plane. "The gate agent who issued it told me to either 'Take it and get on the plane or find another flight somewhere else'".

"We were concerned by this issue and took immediate steps to fully understand what happened".

I noted that this individual came toward me and took a picture. It really depends on who you choose to believe. "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".

I wouldn't be persuaded, though, that just one member of Congress - or just one airline - gives the rest a bad name. I am glad of that.

"But as an African American, I know there are too many examples like this all over the nation", she added.

The United statement also said that Jackson Lee was upgraded to first class as part of the "normal pre-boarding process", and that Jackson Lee was the "first customer on the waitlist for an upgrade".

"I'm not going to address that because it could have been Mickey Mouse or Santa Claus in my seat and I would have felt the same way", Simon said. "We have reached out to Ms. Simon to explain what occurred, to apologize for her experience and will be offering compensation as a gesture of goodwill".