Passenger Who Was Bumped From United First-Class Seat Responds to US Rep. Jackson Lee’s Racism Charge

December 28, 2017 Updated: December 29, 2017

A passenger who says United Airlines gave her first class seat to Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has fired back at the congresswoman’s accusations of racism—while demanding an apology from the airline.

Jean-Marie Simon, 63, rejected the racism allegations in an interview with Fox News on Dec. 28. Simon said that she had no idea who was in her seat when she complained at the gate that her seat was given to someone else.

“That could have been Donald Duck in my seat,” Simon told the news station. “I could not see who had boarded the flight. I didn’t even know who she was.”

Simon, an attorney and private school teacher, first detailed her grievances in a Facebook post on Dec. 20 where she claimed United gave preferential treatment to Jackson Lee by giving the Texas Congress member her first class seat while she was bumped back to Economy Plus.

She further claimed the airline threatened to throw her off the plane for making her objections known and for taking a photo of Jackson Lee sitting in her first-class seat.

In response, Jackson Lee issued a statement on Dec. 22 suggesting that Simon’s complaint was due to racism.

“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. 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. I understand the airline is working to address the passenger’s concerns. I am glad of that,” the congresswoman said in her statement.

On Dec. 26, the congresswoman tweeted the airline’s statement of the incident claiming that Simon had canceled her flight from Houston to D.C.

However, Simon vehemently denies that she had canceled it and is challenging United’s account of the incident.

“I’m not some AARP grandmother who doesn’t know how to use a phone,” she told Fox News. “I know how to cancel a flight and I did not cancel this flight.”

The 63-year-old’s main gripe is with the airline, who told media outlets that they had apologized to her when she said they had not. She said she had received a $500 voucher on the day of the incident before she made her complaint online and a “low-level employee at a call center said he was sorry on the phone.” But, she still has not received a formal written apology from the airline.

Simon confirmed on Dec. 27 via Twitter that the letter she had posted to the United customer care officer and chief legal counsel demanding a formal apology has been received by the airline but United has not provided a response.

In her latest post on Facebook, Simon has demanded United to also produce evidence that she had canceled her Dec. 18 flights.

“United: It’s been a week: where is proof that cancellation came from my mobile app and not that of a United employee? Why, if I canceled my flight, are you telling media that you apologized? When people cancel a flight, they usually book another flight: where is my other flight? I have flown DC to Guatemala on United dozens of times: I know the drill,” she wrote on Dec. 27.

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