United Airlines is facing controversy again after a passenger complained that the airline had canceled her first-class ticket home and given it to a Houston congresswoman.
The incident, involving Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democratic congresswoman from Houston, and first-class passenger Jean-Marie Simon, occurred on Dec. 18, according to Daily Mail.
Simon, a 63-year-old schoolteacher from Washington, DC, was at the gate at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, preparing to board the second leg of her flight home from a trip to Guatemala.
Instead, when she tried to board the plane, she was informed by airline staff that "her ticket was not in the system," according to Daily Mail. She was then told that the seat she had purchased, 1A, was already taken.
When asked if she had canceled her ticket, Simon answered: "No. I just want to go home." United Airlines apologized and gave Simon a $500 travel voucher, along with a seat in the economy section of the plane.
Simon saw Jackson Lee board the flight with an attendant before other passengers but did not know who she was, according to Daily Mail.
Once Simon was able to board the plane with her economy ticket, she passed through the first-class section and noticed Jackson Lee seated in 1A, the seat Simon had originally purchased.
Simon said that she concluded she was evicted from her seat by the airline to accommodate the congresswoman, according to Daily Mail.
United disputed Simon's characterization of the situation. In a released statement, the airline 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 … within the United mobile app."
During the course of a takeoff delay due to inclement weather, Simon left her seat to snap a photo of Jackson Lee sitting in the seat Simon had purchased.
Minutes after she took the photo of the congresswoman, Simon said, another flight attendant sat next to her and asked if she "was going to be a problem," according to Daily Mail.
In the days after the incident, Simon took to social media, sharing her account of what happened on Facebook and Twitter.
Simon said she was so distraught by the treatment she received that after she finally arrived back home, she wrote a letter to United CEO Oscar Munoz describing the incident.