United Airlines has reportedly apologized to a woman who accused the airline of giving a Democratic congresswoman her first-class seat, offering her a $500 travel voucher as well.
Sort of weird, since the airline said it didn't do anything wrong and claimed the woman canceled her own ticket, which made the first-class seat unoccupied and available.
Jean-Marie Simon, 63, of Washington, D.C., had traveled to Guatemala earlier in the month and on December 18 was on her way home. She flew through Houston for a connecting flight.
Airline officials say that before she boarded the plane for her last leg home, Simon canceled her ticket — even though she is a Gold Elite member, which means she's a pretty savvy traveler. She didn't rebook a flight, mind you, just canceled the one flying her home.
When Simon went to board her flight, the gate attendant who scanned her paper ticket told her she wasn't in the system — at all. "It was just so completely humiliating," she said.
The attendant asked Simon if she had canceled her ticket, and she said, "No. I just want to go home." But Simon was told that the seat she had purchased, 1A — the seat she held a hard ticket for — was already taken.
In her seat was Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat.
"A United spokesperson said the company had offered Simon the apology and voucher in an attempt to make things right. But she claims this didn’t happen, either," the New York Post reported.
“United has not apologized to me,” Simon told The Post in an email early Tuesday. “A low ranking employee responding to an online customer complaint apologized on the phone, in his individual capacity. He also said he would send my complaint up the chain at United. To date, I have not heard from United.”
Furthermore, Simon claims she was actually given her voucher back on Dec. 18 — “when United cancelled [her] ticket.”
“This was far from an apology,” she said. “The gate agent who issued it told me to either ‘Take it and get on the plane or find another flight somewhere else.’”
We had our own weird interaction with a United official. Maddie King, who identified herself as an airline spokesman, emailed after our initial article to say, "I noticed your story didn't have a statement from United in it. Please see below." Of course, the United statement was in the article (see for yourself), but that didn't stop King from being insulting — on Christmas Day, no less. "We'd appreciate if you'd reach out to us before posting articles."
The airline's statement said: "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. 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. 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."
So we asked King what it means that the flyer "appears to have canceled her flight from Houston to Washington, D.C."
"The reservation was cancelled via the United app," King replied. No more "appears" to have canceled.
So we asked, "Then why did you say it ‘appears to have been canceled’ and not it was canceled? Also, can you send whatever proof you have that it was canceled?"
Said King: "Unfortunately I can't send that."
Huh. So, United has proof that Simon canceled her flight via the United app, but can't release it.
As we said — weird.
For her part, Jackson Lee, who eventually claimed the whole incident was racist, says she didn't do anything wrong — but apologized anyway.
“I asked for nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary and received nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary,” she said in a statement over the weekend. “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.”