Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

United Airlines insists that it rarely goes bump in the night.

Or during the day. 

After Dr. David Dao was dragged off a plane, his face bloodied and his tooth somewhere on the floor, the airline insisted that it would change its practices with respect to bumping passengers.

Yet attorney and private school teacher Jean-Marie Simon isn't so sure.

As she relayed on Facebook, she arrived at a Houston airport gate on December 18 for the final leg of her journey home to Washington D.C. after a trip to Guatemala.

Simon says that the gate agent scanned her First Class boarding pass -- she had bought her ticket with air miles -- and claimed that she wasn't in the system.

She says she was then told that she had canceled her ticket via the United app and it had been given to someone else.

Could her seat be, perhaps, given back to her, she asked a gate agent. 

"He said that couldn't happen because they couldn't 'disrupt' what was already done. He offered me a $300 voucher. I said I wanted $500 and a free meal. He said, 'And I want a Mercedes Benz, but that's not going to happen.' Then he invited me to complete a United online survey when the flight was over," says Simon.


But then came a startling twist. 

Simon says she got on the plane and a Texas congressman was seated next to her -- in Economy Plus, by the way -- and explained that the person who had been given her 1A seat was Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

Simon claims the congressman told her that "this was the third time he personally had watched her [Jackson Lee] bump a passenger."

During a break for a mechanical issue before takeoff, Simon went to the front of the plane and snapped a picture of the congresswoman. Just for, you know, posterity.

She believes, you see, that she was deliberately bumped in favor of Jackson Lee. 

Simon says she was given the $500 travel voucher at the gate and that, after filling out an online complaint form, received a personal apology from a call center representative.

Some might wonder why the representative would have apologized if United had done nothing untoward.

As for the voucher, she says she accepted it because it was given as part of an ultimatum: accept it or find another flight.

I contacted United to ask for its version of events and will update, should I receive word.

The airline did, however, offer this statement, posted by the New York Daily News: "As part of the normal pre-boarding process, gate agents began clearing standby and upgrade customers, including the first customer on the waitlist for an upgrade."

It's not unheard of for First Class passengers to be bumped, just like those who slum it in the back. 

If someone has greater status -- and Jackson Lee reportedly enjoys the exalted Global Services privilege -- even lower-level First Class passengers may be cast aside.

Why, here's an example from earlier this year. It was on, oh, United Airlines.

Jackson Lee, however, offered a curious statement.

She told the Houston Chronicle: "I asked for nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary and received nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary."

To which an unscrupulous lawyer might mutter: "Oh, this was a usual occurrence?"

Or, perhaps: "Ah, so might your assistant have asked for something exceptional or out of the ordinary on your behalf?"

Jackson Lee was adamant.

"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," Jackson Lee added.

That's quite some deduction. Could it be that Simon -- who enjoys Gold Elite status -- was merely annoyed because she believed she'd been deducted from First Class in favor of someone more "important"? 

Like many a politician, sadly, Jackson Lee's statement carried on. 

"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," she said. 

Despite the spirit of the season, I fear that some might find a hint of sincerely painful, sanctimonious pomposity in the tone here. 

Indeed, as Simon told the Houston Chronicle, she complained at the gate without at the time knowing who had been given her seat.

Amateur lawyers, cynics and even the seasonally spirited might ask themselves why, if someone was on the last leg of their journey, they would cancel just that part of their flight, as United allegedly suggests.

And, by the by, if Simon did cancel the flight, why did she not book herself on another flight?

While we're on the subject, perhaps there's a receipt to prove it. Currently, none has emerged.

Belatedly, United held an off-the-record conversation with the Live and Let's Fly blog yesterday, in which it claimed to offer proof that Simon had, indeed, canceled her flight.

It's not entirely convincing.

The more realistic and caustic might also wince at this part of Simon's story.

Speaking of the congressman seated next to her, she said: "He asked me if I knew whom Jackson Lee represents in Congress: Bush International Airport in Houston. He apologized, saying, 'Jackson Lee gives us all a bad name; it's shameful.'"


I wouldn't be persuaded, though, that just one member of Congress -- or just one airline -- gives the rest a bad name.

Many of them seem to do a fine job of it.