Southwest Airlines Faces Lawsuit Over Alleged Trafficking Misjudgment

A mother claims she was falsely accused of human trafficking by Southwest Airlines because her child is of mixed race when they were on a flight together. According to the lawsuit filed on Thursday, Mary MacCarthy, who is White, and her daughter, who is Black, flew from California to Denver in October 2021 to attend her brother’s funeral.

“Unbeknownst to Ms. MacCarthy, while they were in the air, a Southwest employee called the Denver Police Department to report Ms. MacCarthy for suspected child trafficking for no reason other than the different color of her daughter’s skin from her own,” the suit alleges.

 Denver police officers stopped MacCarthy and her daughter as they were walking down the jet bridge. For no other reason than that Ms. MacCarthy is White and her daughter is Black, the police began interviewing Ms. MacCarthy and made it plain that they had been provided the racially charged information that she was likely trafficking her daughter.

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“After significant questioning, during which Ms. MacCarthy’s daughter began to break down in tears, Ms. MacCarthy was eventually allowed to leave by the officers, but not before this display of blatant racism by Southwest Airlines caused Ms. MacCarthy and her daughter extreme emotional distress,” the lawsuit adds.

According to the lawsuit, MacCarthy was surprised to learn that an airline worker had reported her as a probable human trafficker when she met with them in Denver. After the event occurred last year, MacCarthy gave an interview to CNN, during which she discussed an email she sent to the airline demanding an apology.

MacCarthy demanded an apology from Southwest in an email to the company’s media team and asked for a full refund of the cost of their tickets as well as “additional compensation to account for the trauma imposed on an innocent family, and especially on a grieving 10-year-old Black girl.” Southwest Airlines expressed “disheartened” feelings about her story at the time.

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“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,” Southwest Airlines spokesperson Dan Landson said in a statement to CNN in November 2021.

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.” A Southwest representative declined to comment on the lawsuit. Damages for MacCarthy’s emotional discomfort, mental anguish, suffering, and inconvenience are left open.

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