Southwest Airlines sued for wrongly accusing mother of trafficking own daughter

Markus Mainka /

A mother has filed a lawsuit against US low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines after she was wrongly accused of trafficking her own daughter. 

Mary MacCarthy and her then 10-year old daughter were flying from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Denver International Airport (DEN) in October 2021 to attend a family funeral.

During the flight, a Southwest flight attendant alerted the Denver Police Department that MacCarthy may possibly be a child trafficker. The flight attendant’s alleged basis behind the suspicion was that MacCarthy, who is white, had a different skin color from her biracial daughter. 

According to the court document, the flight attendant never communicated with MacCarthy or her daughter during the flight. 

When MacCarthy and her daughter deplaned in DEN Airport, they were met by Denver police officers, who subjected the mother to “significant questioning.”

The mother and daughter were eventually allowed to leave, but according to MacCarthy they were subjected to extreme emotional distress due to the racial profiling.

Based on the documents, the ordeal had placed further tension on MacCarthy, who was already under a stressful situation due to the death in her family.

“This is the type of situation that mixed‐race families and families of color face all too frequently

while traveling,” the lawsuit alleged.

Along with legal fees, MacCarthy is also seeking unspecified compensatory damages for emotional distress and mental anguish.

She is also seeking to change Southwest’s training and policies towards profiling passengers.

Due to the ongoing litigation, Southwest has not provided media comments or statements.

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