United Offers Evidence ‘Bumped’ Passenger Canceled Her Own Flight

Dec 27, 2017

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The woman who said United Airlines bumped her from first class in favor of a congresswoman canceled her reservation herself, according to data the airline shared with TPG.

Meanwhile, Jean-Marie Simon said on Facebook as late as Tuesday that she still hadn’t received a personal apology for the incident.

According to code in the company’s internal system, which TPG was allowed to read but cannot share because it contains proprietary information, Simon’s reservation for a first-class seat for Flight 788 from Houston (IAH) to Reagan National (DCA) on Dec. 18 was canceled via the United mobile app, either on purpose or by mistake, at 11:22am. The flight was originally scheduled to depart at 11:55am, but by that point had already been delayed. It eventually took off at 2:02pm, according to FlightAware.

Simon, a lawyer and teacher, said in her original Facebook post that US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee was allowed to board 30 minutes before takeoff, and ended up in the first-class seat Simon had reserved. Simon herself was given an economy seat and, eventually, a $500 voucher. She also had her miles refunded — she’d used 140,000 miles for her trip from Washington, DC, to Guatemala; the IAH-DCA flight was the final leg of her trip.

Simon didn’t respond to a request for comment by the time of publication. On her Facebook page, though, she said United’s version of what happened was false.

“This is baloney,” Simon wrote. “My flight was delayed by just one hour. Any half savvy traveler knows better than to cancel a flight with a one hour delay, since a one-hour delay is the new on-time departure. And the ‘first customer on the wait list,’ Ms. Jackson Lee, I presume, was boarded well ahead of standard preboarding procedures.”

As proof of her account, Simon posted a photograph of her printed boarding pass with her first-class seat assignment, though a United employee pointed out that only proved that she’d had the reservation before she arrived at IAH, which no one is disputing. She also said that the flight didn’t show up as canceled in her United flight history, but the employee said that, just as a restaurant will consider you to have eaten there even if you moved to a different seat, the airline wouldn’t have counted her situation as a cancellation because she did ultimately fly on the scheduled flight.

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

On her Facebook page and Twitter account on Tuesday, Simon also rejected reports that she’d received an apology from the airline.

“I have received NO written apology from United: a representative at a call center, responding to a complaint form that I filled out online, personally apologized,” she wrote on Monday. “And the $500 voucher I received was issued at the gate just before I boarded, just after United had cancelled my ticket. It was United’s idea of compensation for having bumped me from my seat and the gate agent gave me an ultimatum: take the voucher and get on the plane or find another flight.”

A United representative said the company had indeed reached out to Simon by phone, but had no comment on a written apology.

“We called her on the 23rd and explained what happened and refunded her miles,” the employee said.

Featured image courtesy of Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.

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