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Southwest Airlines Asks Woman to Prove Her Mixed-Race Son Is Hers

The company contends it was just trying to verify the child was under 2-years-old.

Twitter/Getty

Southwest Airlines is at it again. Despite having all the proper documents in hand, one mother had what she called an “uncomfortable and hurtful” experience this week when a Southwest Airlines gate agent at Denver International Airport asked that she prove her one-year-old biracial son was actually hers. As a basketball coach at the University of California-Berkeley, Lindsay Gottlieb had flown with her son on the airline dozens of times in the past. Still, the Southwest employee insisted on seeing her son’s birth certificate because the two have different last names.

In a tweet published after the incident, Gottlieb went on to explain that not only did the Southwest employee eventually ask her to confirm her son’s parentage with a Facebook post but did so while both of the baby’s parents were present. This is just the latest instance of Southwest Airlines mistreating parents who fly with babies or small kids.

“We had a passport that verified our son’s age and identity, and both parents were present,” Gottlieb told The Washington Post. “But still being pushed further to ‘prove’ that he was my son felt disrespectful and motivated by more than just concern for his well-being.”

After reporting the incident to Southwest on Twitter, the airline promptly issued Gottlieb an apology. The company explained that its policy is to use a birth certificate or government issued ID to verify that the lap child ⏤ who flies for free ⏤ is under two-years-old, not to ensure that a child and parent’s last names match. That said, Gottlieb still believes this specific incident was linked to the fact that her son “has a different skin color.”  

“I hope the coverage this has received can serve as a learning opportunity and that all families — regardless of how ‘traditional’ they may or may not look — are treated with dignity and respect,” she said.

Back in March, a family of four was kicked off of a Southwest flight because their children were allegedly being “noisy.” One of the family members was even arrested outside the gate for supposedly bumping someone with a stroller. In 2017, a pregnant woman named Anila Daulatzai was dragged off of her Southwest flight because attendants feared a dog allergy she’d mentioned would endanger her life, although she contends it was because she’s Muslim. Then there was that time the airline denied a gay couple and their two children family boarding priority.

Chrissy Teigen replied to Gottlieb’s tweets to explain that a similar thing happens to her, but explained that she’s since learned that the extra scrutiny is to prevent child trafficking. Even if that’s the case, Southwest’s policy does not explicitly state it, nor did officials cite that as a reason for the additional questioning.