Mixed-Race Family Accused of Human Trafficking on Southwest Flight

Mom says Southwest Airlines employee made racist assumption
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2021 2:35 AM CST
Mom: Flight Attendant Accused Me of Trafficking My Own Daughter
A Southwest Airlines flight takes off from the Portland Jetport, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Portland, Maine.   (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, file)

After the sudden death of Mary MacCarthy's brother, the California woman and her 10-year-old daughter booked a last-minute flight to Denver to be with family. Upon arrival, two police officers met them on the jetway to question them, CNN reports. MacCarthy, in an email to Southwest obtained by the network, says her daughter, who is Black, "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 began to sob and was inconsolable." The officers, MacCarthy says, told her someone had reported them for suspicious behavior while boarding.

She later found out, she says, that a flight attendant had reported her for suspected human trafficking of her daughter. The two were not seated together on one leg of their flight, and asked other passengers to move around so they could sit together. The flight attendant told officers that behavior, plus the fact that they boarded last, made her suspicious, the Denver Post reports. MacCarthy, who is white, accuses the airline of racial profiling due to her mixed-race family; the lawyer she hired says, "Had this been a white child, there would not have been a raised eyebrow." She says weeks have gone by with no apology from the airline. In the wake of the media picking up the story, Southwest says it is investigating the situation. (More Southwest Airlines stories.)

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