A passenger on a flight from Houston to Washington D.C. has accused United Airlines of giving her first-class seat to U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. D-Houston, and then threatening to remove her from the plane for complaining and snapping a photo of the Houston congresswoman.
“It was just so completely humiliating,” said Jean-Marie Simon, a 63-year-old attorney and private school teacher who used 140,000 miles on Dec. 3 to purchase the first-class tickets to take her from Washington D.C. to Guatemala and back home.
When it came time to board the last leg of her flight home from George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Dec. 18, after a roughly hour-long weather delay, Simon said the gate attendant scanned her paper ticket and told her it was not in the system.
“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, D.C. 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 that she cancelled her ticket. She sent a reporter a screenshot of the United website showing only one “inactive” reservation – a flight to Houston in August to visit her daughter that she had to cancel because of Hurricane Harvey.
A United official said screenshot doesn’t show the December flight as cancelled because she ultimately took the flight.
The official provided another screenshot of United’s internal software system and said that it showed the flight had been cancelled on a mobile app, though a reporter was unable to independently verify that on Saturday because of the system’s coding.
Jackson Lee issued a statement on Saturday afternoon saying: “I asked for nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary and received nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary.”
Simon said she saw Jackson Lee board the plane with a flight attendant before all of the other passengers, but did not know who she was until another passenger told her after they were seated.