Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee took to social media on Tuesday to blame racial animus for an ongoing seat-stealing controversy involving a United Airlines flight.

Jean-Marie Simon, 63, maintains that United Airlines unjustly snatched her first-class ticket on Dec. 18 and gave it away, but the Texas Democrat claims it’s a ruse motivated by racial issues.

“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,” the lawmaker told her 50,000 Twitter followers.

“This saddens me, especially at this time of year given all of the things we have to work on to help people,” Ms. Jackson Lee continued.

The story has simmered for days due to coverage by the Associated Press, the Houston Chronicle, the New York Post and others. Ms. Simon also posted on social media a picture she had taken of Ms. Jackson Lee in the seat, which helped the story go viral.

Ms. Simon, a teacher, insists that she never “unreserved” a Houston-to-Washington, D.C., ticket because of weather delays as the airline claims.

“I said I wanted my seat [on a return trip from Guatemala], that I had paid a lot of miles for that seat, and that it was United’s responsibility to undo the seat assignment and return it to me, the person who had paid for it,” Ms. Simon wrote on Facebook last week.

The gate agent “said no, because I had ‘unreserved’ my seat and it had been given to another passenger, that s/he had been ‘upgraded.’ He said I could ‘stand here and argue’ and miss the flight or book another flight with another airline, meaning that I would lose my first-class ticket and pay for a second one. I said I wanted my seat, 1A, that I had paid for and selected in early December and one that the upgraded passenger in 1A was now freeloading, literally at my expense. He said that couldn’t happen because they couldn’t ‘disrupt’ what was already done,” Ms. Simon wrote.

Ms. Simon was ultimately given a seat in Economy Plus on the flight out of George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

“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,” the airline said in a statement.

Ms. Simon said on Monday that she has received no written apology from the company’s corporate office.

“The $500 voucher I received was issued at the gate just before I boarded, just after United had cancelled my ticket,” she said. “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.”

Ms. Jackson Lee told Twitter followers that she would deign to offer an apology “in the spirit of the season,” although one was not warranted.

“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,” the Democrat tweeted. “I understand the airline is working to address the passenger’s concerns.”

© Copyright (c) 2017 News World Communications, Inc.

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