Southwest Airlines accusation of human trafficking: Mother says the airline thought she was dealing with her biracial daughter

Mary MacCarthy of Los Angeles told CNN that she and her 10-year-old daughter, Moira, flew to Denver on October 22 after receiving news that MacCarthy’s brother had died suddenly.

MacCarthy said they had a short stop in San Jose and boarded another Southwest plane, but then realized they could not sit together.

“I asked the flight attendants if we could sit together, but they told us we had to take a middle seat each,” MacCarthy said. “So with their permission, I asked other passengers if they were kind enough to move so we could be together, especially when my daughter mourned, and they did. People are nice.”

When they arrived in Denver, MacCarthy said, she and her daughter were met on the jetway by two Denver police officers.

“I was quite shocked; after losing my brother the night before, I thought someone else in my family had died and that the police had been sent to deliver the news!” MacCarthy wrote in an email to the Southwest Airlines media team, which was included in the police report.

“As for my daughter, she was terribly scared: she was already experiencing the trauma after her uncle’s death, and she’s scared of the police because of constant headlines about how the police treat black people (she’s black). She started sobbing and became inconsolable, “said her email.

The officers assured her that nothing was wrong, but said they wanted to question her and her daughter, MacCarthy said.

“They said they were here because my daughter and I were reported for suspicious behavior, and acted suspiciously before boarding and during boarding,” she said.

“I picked up my phone and immediately started recording. I told (the officer) who we were and that my daughter was crying because she had lost a family member,” MacCarthy said.

According to a report from Denver Police, “Both mother and child were cleared.”

The report also noted that officers responded to a “possible human trafficking reported by a flight attendant from the South West” – but MacCarthy says she did not find out until two weeks later that she was suspected of human trafficking.

“I got a call from the Denver Police Human Trafficking Unit telling me they were following up on the incident,” she told CNN.

CNN contacted the Denver Police Department Sunday afternoon about MacCarthy’s claim, but has not received a response.

MacCarthy accuses Southwest Airlines of racial profiling. She says she has kept a lawyer and wants the airline to be held “fully responsible”.

“I gave the airline plenty of time to contact me and apologize – over two weeks later I have not received any more than two short automatic responses. The time for an apology is long gone,” MacCarthy said.

In her email to Southwest’s media team, MacCarthy said she wanted a written apology from the airline, immediate refund of the full price of their tickets, and “further compensation for explaining the trauma inflicted on an innocent family, and especially a grieving ten-year-old. black girl. “

Southwest Airlines said it was “discouraged” by MacCarthy’s report of the incident and plans to reach out to her.

“We are reviewing the situation internally, and we will contact the customer to address her concerns and apologize for her experience of traveling with us. Our employees undergo robust training in human trafficking. Above all, Southwest Airlines is proud of itself. in providing an inviting and inclusive environment for the millions of customers who travel with us each year, Southwest Airlines spokesman Dan Landson said in a statement to CNN on Sunday.

“Had this been a white child, it would not have been a raised eyebrow,” MacCarthy’s lawyer David Lane told CNN.

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