Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX) is being accused of having a teacher bumped from First Class to Economy on a United Airlines flight – just so she could take her seat.
When confronted with the accusation, Lee insinuated the teacher was racist.
According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, Jean-Marie Simon, a 63-year-old teacher from Washington D.C., was trying to board a United Airlines flight in Houston, bound for the nation’s capital. That’s when she discovered that her first class ticket was no longer valid, and she was bumped to an economy seat. Upon boarding the plane, she discovered Rep. Lee was sitting in her assigned seat.
The airline told her that she had canceled her ticket and the seat was reassigned to Lee. Simon denies she did that.
Simon did not recognize Lee initially, but after other passengers informed her, she took a picture of Lee in her seat and confronted the staff about the matter.
While it is entirely possible that Lee did not directly ask for Simon to be booted, some have come forward to contend that Lee has demonstrated diva-like behavior on airline flights. Simon herself said a fellow passenger told her they had seen Lee bump people from first class (just to take their seat) on two other occasions. That raises the likelihood that Lee knowingly had someone booted from their seat so she could fly first class.
Lee’s excuse for the incident was not only defensive, she played the race card against Simon herself, which only bolsters the belief that she had something to hide.
A school teacher from Washington, DC has accused United Airlines of evicting her from her first-class seat and giving it to senior Democratic congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
Jean-Marie 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.
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.
The Daily Mail reports that others who routinely fly between Houston and Washington have seen Lee on flight before, and offer some insight as to why the airline likely bumped Simon to give it to Lee.
According to some individuals, Lee has used her status as a congresswoman to get preferential treatment on flights:
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.
In a statement to the press, Lee insinuated the teacher (who is white) was racist, and was upset with the situation because she is black. Lee also criticized the teacher for not being more grateful for all of the work she does for her in Washington.
‘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.
‘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.