A California woman has charged Southwest Airlines with racial profiling after she was accused of human trafficking while traveling with her biracial daughter, CNN reports.
Mary MacCarthy of Los Angeles and her 10-year-old daughter, Moira, were en route to Denver on October 22 to be with their family after receiving news that her brother had suddenly passed away.
After stopping briefly in San Jose to board another Southwest flight, MacCarthy received the news that she couldn't be seated together with Moira.
"I asked flight attendants if we could be seated together but they told us we'd each have to take a middle seat," MacCarthy said. "So with their permission, I asked other passengers if they would kindly move so we could be together, especially as my daughter was grieving, and they did. People are nice."
Upon arriving in Denver, MacCarthy and Moira were met by two police officers on the jetway.
“I got quite a shock; having lost my brother the night before, I thought that someone else in my family had died and that police had been sent to deliver the news!" MacCarthy wrote in an email to Southwest Airlines' media team, which was included in the police report.
“As for my daughter, she 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," her email continued.
The officers stated that they just wanted to question her and her daughter.
"They said they were here because my daughter and I were reported for suspicious behavior, acting suspiciously before boarding and while boarding," she said.
"I took out my phone and immediately started recording," she recalled. "I told (the officer) who we were and that my daughter was crying because she had lost a family member."
According to a report from the Denver police, "Both mother and child were cleared."
The report also said that officers were responding to a "possible human trafficking reported by Southwest flight attendant" but MacCarthy says that she only found out that she was suspected of human trafficking two weeks after the incident.
"I got a call from Denver Police human trafficking unit letting me know they were following up on the incident," she said.
MacCarthy has retained an attorney and wants the airline to be held "fully accountable" for the incident.
"Had this been a white child, there would not have been a raised eyebrow," David Lane, MacCarthy's attorney told CNN.
"I gave the airline plenty of time to contact me and apologize—over two weeks later, I've yet to receive anything more than two brief automated responses," she said. "The time for an apology is long past."
Dan Landson, a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines, addressed the incident in a statement.
"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,” Landson said. “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.”