Jackson Lee: Woman complained about losing her seat “because I was an African American woman”
A woman named Jean Marie Simon was scheduled to take a United Airlines flight, booked into First Class using miles.
Then she realized that United had bumped her from the seat, and given it to Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.
The woman posted a photo on Twitter and also went public with her story:
The reactions of both United and Jackson Lee were sadly predictable.
United blamed the passenger, in a convoluted claim that the passenger had cancelled the seat from her mobile phone app and then immediately re-booked. The passenger rejected that claim, as the Houston Chronicle reports:
“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….
She said the plane took off at 12:50 p.m. and she arrived home that night, still upset. Simon wrote a letter to airline’s CEO and posted it on Facebook and Twitter. A “resolution manager” called her Saturday morning and apologized at least a half-dozen times, she said.
She said she wants a formal, written apology from United.
“It’s just impossible to suspend disbelief and swallow that story that I cancelled my flight,” Simon said.
United has suffered a string of customer relations gaffes this year.
In June, a woman said she was forced to give up her 2-year-old’s $969 seat on a flight from Houston to Boston and hold him for roughly three hours because the airline sold the seat.
In April, Dr. David Dao was forcibly removed from a United Express flight in Chicago to make space for crew members headed to Louisville, Ky.
The airline announced policy changes after that incident and its CEO, Oscar Munoz, has promised a “culture shift toward becoming a better, more customer-focused airline.”
Jackson Lee didn’t see this as a mere dispute, issuing a statement that the woman complaining was racist:
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.
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