An incident recently took place at Bush Intercontinental Airport that involved Jean-Marie Simon, a lawyer, private School Teacher, and human rights activist and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Simon was on the last leg of a trip home, from Guatemala to Washington D.C., at the Houston airport when she was informed by the gate attendant for United Airlines that her ticket was not in the system. United claimed that Simon had canceled her ticket. Simon responded that she had done no such thing. Eventually, she was given a seat in the economy section and a $500 voucher.

At that point, things began to get curious.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee was in Simon’s seat

Simon found out that Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee was in her seat and was photographed while occupying it. At that point, a flight attendant threatened to have Simon ejected from the plane. She flew home without incident, wrote a complaint letter to United’s CEO, and received several effusive apologies from a customer service representative over the phone. Simon would like a written apology from the airline according to media reports in both the Houston Chronicle and the UK Daily Mail.

Did Lee use her congressional privilege to grab a first-class seat from another passenger?

Simon states on her Twitter feed her belief that Congresswoman Lee pressured United to bump her into economy class and grab Simon's paid-for first class seat for herself.

The airline denies having done this. Lee, an African American, for her part, is accusing Simon of racism for complaining. However, Lee has a well-earned reputation for imperious behavior, nastiness toward anyone she considers beneath her, including her staff, and a tendency to play the race card for her personal benefit at every opportunity.

Moreover, United has a reputation for a shocking disregard for customer service.

Several months ago the airline had a doctor named David Dao dragged from a seat he had paid for to make room for an airline employee who wanted to fly in his stead. Dr. Dao and United eventually settled for an undisclosed amount of money.

What are Simon’s options?

Simon may have some legal options. United has already admitted fault by stating that the way she was treated was not according to its standard practice. She also may have a cause for a libel suit against Congresswoman Lee for the accusation of racism. Clearly, if Simon is right and Lee pressured United to take her seat away from her, using both congressional influence and the race card, her ethnicity has nothing to do with the school teacher’s outrage. Lee being dragged into court for abusing an ordinary American citizen and then libeling her would be a teachable moment indeed. The House Ethics Committee might also want to look into the matter.