Southwest Airlines calls cops on white mom with biracial daughter


A white mother, Mary MacCarthy (right) was accused of human trafficking while traveling with her biracial daughter Moira (middle) on Southwest Airlines (Pictures: Reuters/Mary MacCarthy)

A white mother claims Southwest Airlines racially profiled her family after she was accused of human trafficking while traveling with her young biracial daughter.

Mary MacCarthy of Los Angeles, California, was traveling to Denver, Colorado, with her 10-year-old daughter Moira after receiving news that MacCarthy’s brother had suddenly died.

After a brief layover, MacCarthy and her daughter boarded another Southwest flight and realized they could not be seated together.

‘I asked flight attendants if we could be seated together but they told us we’d each have to take a middle seat,’ MacCarthy told CNN.


The MacCarthy family was traveling to Denver after receiving news that Mary's brother had unexpectedly died

The MacCarthy family was traveling to Denver after receiving news that a brother had unexpectedly died (Picture: Mary MacCarthy)

‘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 their arrival in Denver, MacCarthy and her daughter were met on the jetway by two Denver police officers, who wanted to question them.

‘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!’ the mother wrote in an email to Southwest Airline’s media team, which was also included in the police report.

Her email detailed the shock they both felt upon arrival, nothing her young daughter was already terrified of police due to their treatment of people of color and the national spotlight the issue has gained over the past year of racial reckonings.


The California mother says her daughter was beyond scared while being stopped by the police after a year of black people getting injured or killed at the hands of police

Mary MacCarthy (right) says her daughter Moira (left) was beyond scared while being stopped by the police after a year of black people getting injured or killed at the hands of police (Picture: Mary MacCarthy)

‘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 said.

Police told MacCarthy they were reported for ‘suspicious behavior’.

‘I took out 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.

Police cleared the mother and daughter, according to the police report.


Southwest Airlines said they were 'disheartened' to learn of the incident, but MacCarthy is still waiting on an apology from the airline

Southwest Airlines said they were ‘disheartened’ to learn of the incident, but MacCarthy is still waiting on an apology from the airline (Picture: Reuters)

Two weeks after the incident, MacCarthy learned she was also being investigated by Denver police’s human trafficking unit when she received a ‘follow up’ call regarding the incident.

The mother, who has retained an attorney, wants Southwest to be held ‘fully accountable’. She’s accusing the airline of racial profiling.

‘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. The time for an apology is long past,’ MacCarthy said.

In her email to Southwest’s media team, MacCarthy said she wanted a written apology from the airline, immediate reimbursement of the full price of their tickets, and ‘additional compensation to account for the trauma imposed on an innocent family, and especially on a grieving ten year-old Black girl’.

In a response to CNN, Southwest Airlines said it was ‘disheartened’ by MacCarthy’s account of the events.

‘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,’ a Southwest spoksperson 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.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

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