This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

A woman traveling on United from Houston to Washington, DC, said she was bumped from her first-class seat and forced to fly in coach because flight attendants were kowtowing to US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

Jean-Marie Simon said flight attendants said her first-class seat was not available when she showed up at boarding at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) on Dec. 18, according to the Houston Chronicle. They told her that her ticket had been “unreserved” and her seat had already been given away to another passenger, even though Simon was already in possession of a boarding pass for seat 1A on the flight. Instead of flying in first class, Simon was forced to sit in economy and make do with a $300 voucher. (She’d asked for a $500 voucher and a free meal, but was denied, according to her Facebook post.) The attorney and private-school teacher had purchased the flight as part of a trip to Guatemala using 140,000 airline miles.

“[T]he second agent told me that perhaps I had cancelled my own reservation. I said that was impossible: I had a boarding ticket in hand and I just wanted to get home,” Simon wrote on Facebook. “Then he told me that ‘ has changed your reservation’ and there was nothing United could do about it.”

Image courtesy of Jean-Marie Simon
Image courtesy of Jean-Marie Simon’s Facebook page.

When she went up to see who’d snapped up her seat, Simon found Jackson Lee, who has served as the congresswoman in Texas’s 18th congressional district since 1995. There, she took a photo and was confronted by a flight attendant before returning to her seat. Simon said she didn’t know the legislator’s identity until later in the flight. The airplane landed late at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).

“United lied to me, repeatedly,” Simon wrote. “They put Jackson Lee on the plane and then tried to blame it on a late incoming flight, another airline, my cell phone,, Global Services, and on everybody but the United employee who deliberately erased my seat, my ticket, and my name from the system in order to accommodate a member of Congress.”

Jackson Lee said that she doesn’t use her status as a congresswoman to get preferential treatment, and in turn said Simon seemed to be acting out of racial bias.

“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,” she said in a statement. “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.”

United Airlines said Simon was bumped to economy because she canceled her flight using the airline’s mobile app, and showed a Chronicle reporter a screenshot of an internal United system that appeared to back up the airline’s claims, but the reporter couldn’t immediately confirm independently that the screenshot was accurate. United did not respond to requests for comment by TPG by publication.

Simon said she wants an apology from the airline.

“United has some wonderful employees, like the gate agents at Reagan National and some flight attendants who, if there’s a war, I want on my side,” she wrote. “But unfortunately, what one most remembers is the humiliation and expense wrought by United, who apparently believes that we all should be lucky to be flying the friendly skies with an airline that treats the paying public like dirt.”

Earlier in 2017, United weathered a spate of bad publicity when it bumped a passenger for crew members in what came to be known as Bumpgate.

Featured image by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.