Mom says southwest airlines thought she was trafficking her biracial daughter

Following a Southwest Airlines flight, a mom and daughter were questioned by police due to a flight attendant raising concerns that it was a case of human trafficking.

Mary MacCarthy booked a last minute flight from LA to Denver after learning that her brother had died suddenly. Her daughter accompanied her. After their layover in San Jose, they boarded the plane and found that the only two seats available were two middle seats.

MacCarthy asked flight attendants if there was any way she could be seated with her daughter. They said no. She asked a few people if they would be willing to switch seats so she could sit with her “grieving” daughter. “People are nice,” MacCarthy said, recalling that people were willing to move for her.

However, due to her daughter being in an emotional state and MacCarthy being white and her daughter being biracial, the situation raised red flags for flight attendants. When MacCarthy and her daughter got off the plane, they were met by police and a Southwest staff member who wanted to ask some questions.

MacCarthy, assuming the worst, expected police to tell her another family member had died, but was shocked when they told her they wanted to investigate her and her daughter’s “suspicious behavior”. Her daughter, she wrote, “was terribly frightened: she was already experiencing the trauma of her uncle’s death, and she is scared of police due to constant headlines about how police treat Black people (she is Black). She began to sob and was inconsolable.”

MacCarthy said she began recording the encounter. According to Denver police, they were cleared soon after. In the police report, though, it said that the questioning was because a flight attendant had claimed there was a potential child trafficking case. The police report was obtained by CBS LA and found that it “claimed MacCarthy acted nervously on the flight, did not speak to her daughter and prevented her from speaking with the flight crew”.

MacCarthy was unaware of this until ten days later when Denver police called her to follow up on the case. She told CNN, “I got a call from Denver Police human trafficking unit letting me know they were following up on the incident.” She has now taken issue with Southwest Airlines for the situation happening. “They saw a white mother, they saw a child with a different skin tone and said that’s suspicious, that could be a crime and we’re reporting that. That’s not OK. This is the United States of America in 2021.”

MacCarthy has reached out to the airline, which she said had made no attempt to reach her, and made several demands. In the email she sent, she requested “a written apology from the airline, immediate reimbursement of the full price of their tickets, and “additional compensation to account for the trauma imposed on an innocent family, and especially on a grieving ten year-old Black girl.”’ MacCarthy’s lawyer alleged the situation wouldn’t have occurred had it been a white mother and daughter.

Southwest released a statement on Friday, which said, “We were disheartened to learn of this mother’s account when traveling with her daughter. We are conducting a review of the situation internally, and we will be reaching out to the Customer to address her concerns and offer our apologies for her experience traveling with us.”

On Sunday, Southwest Airlines spokesperson Dan Landson told CNN “We are conducting a review of the situation internally, and we will be reaching out to the Customer to address her concerns and offer our apologies for her experience traveling with us. Our Employees undergo robust training on Human Trafficking. Above all, Southwest Airlines prides itself on providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for the millions of customers who travel with us each year.” 




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