A United Airlines passenger is accusing a Black congresswoman of taking her first-class seat, however that’s not how all parties to the situation see it.
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas is claiming she didn’t do anything wrong when she simply took her seat on a December 18 flight from Houston to Washington, D.C.
“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,” Lee tweeted on Tuesday.
“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,” she continued. “But as an African-American, I know there are too many examples like this all over the nation.”
Jean-Marie Simon, the white woman who complained, was reportedly assigned to seat 1A, which was the same seat Lee was given. She accused the airline of evicting her from the seat to give it to a member of congress.
Simon says that after an hour-long weather delay United tossed her out of her first-class seat to make way for the congresswoman. She also claims she was told her ticket wasn’t in the system.
The airline compensated her with a $500 voucher and another ticket for the flight in Economy Plus. Subsequently, United again apologized and promised her a second $500 voucher.
Read Representative Sheila Jackson Lee’s full statement below.
"I am disappointed in having to respond to this accusation, but I believe transparency is very important. Unfortunately, it looks like Grinch is trying to steal the spirit of the holiday.
Last Monday, I arrived at the airport to catch my flight to Washington to continue my fight to get Hurricane Harvey funds back to Texas and other hard hit areas, along with funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and of course, trying to stop a tax bill that was going to cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance.
After receiving my boarding pass, I boarded the plane in the normal process. I did nothing wrong. I asked for nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary and received nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary. I proceeded to take my seat and work on legislative issues on my way to Washington.
Although I was not involved, I observed a disruption by an individual walking back and forth in the cabin. I could overhear her speaking with a flight attendant (an African American woman).
I saw the gate agent go to the seat of the individual who was walking back and forth before we took off.
I later came to understand that the individual had canceled her own flight. However I had nothing to do with that.
I noted that this individual came toward me and took a picture. I heard later that she might have said 'I know who she is.' 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. But as an African American, I know there are too many examples like this all over the nation.
I hope one day, we will accept our collective diversity. Happy Holidays."
(Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)