- - Wednesday, December 27, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

United Airlines continues to have a hard time being nice to its passengers. The airlines spend millions on persuading the public that it flies serenely through friendly skies, where never is heard a discouraging word.

But once aboard, passengers sometimes find only cloudy weather, and much of the turbulence is on the ground.

United got a million dollars worth of bad publicity last April, when a ticketed passenger refused to give up the seat he had paid for and which had been duly assigned to him. He was dragged from his seat and off the plane, feet first, suffering several injuries, his face bloodied, and his seat given to someone standing in greater favor with the airline. United subsequently apologized in effusive humility, disciplining several employees some of whom were no doubt merely enforcing rules they had not made. Promises were made that it wouldn’t happen again.

But “seat bumping” continues (and not just by United, though the airline of happy skies is one of the worst offenders) and last week United bumped a woman passenger — in first class; there is no safety anywhere — and gave her seat to a congresswoman. In her usual fashion, the congresswoman, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, returning from Houston to Washington, apparently thought the bumped passenger should have been honored to give up her seat for such a distinguished leader of the nation as she.

When the passenger, Jean-Marie Simon, complained, politely, Mrs. Lee suggested that Miss Simon objected only because the seat was awarded to “an African-American woman.” This is par for Mrs. Lee, who is regarded as one of the most sensitive members of Congress, and not “sensitive” in a good way. She is forever in search of something to be offended by, and frequently finds it. She frequently plays the race card.

All airlines bump passengers when it’s convenient for the airline, which is one of the reasons that the airlines, once regarded with affection by the public, have fallen so far from public favor. Airline executives are as taken with celebrities as the most adoring shop girl, and a celebrity will always get special attention, though the celebrity usually pays the same for his ticket as the plumber in the last row.

After losing her seat to the congresswoman, a United gate agent offered Miss Simon $300 for inconveniencing her, and after an argument raised it to $500 and told her to take it or find another flight somewhere else. “I was the last passenger on the plane,” she wrote in Facebook. “[Another] Texas congressman sat down next to me. He said he was glad I made it on the flight. I showed him my boarding pass with my seat number, 1A, printed on it. He said, ‘you know what happened, right? Do you know who’s in your seat?’ I said no. He told me it was [Mrs.] Jackson Lee, a fellow U.S. congressman who regularly does this, that this was the third time he personally had watched her bump a passenger.”

Mrs. Lee insists she was the injured party. “I did nothing wrong,” she said. “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.

“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.”

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