Southwest Airlines Calls Police on White Woman Flying with Biracial Daughter

A woman from California wants Southwest Airlines to be held accountable after a flight attendant called police on her while she was flying with her biracial daughter.

Mary MacCarthy, who is white, was traveling to Denver with her 10-year-old daughter Moira on October 22 after her brother suddenly died the night before.

MacCarthy, of Los Angeles, told CNN that on their connecting flight in San Jose, flights attendants said she couldn't sit with her daughter because only middle seats were available. But other passengers switched so they could be seated together, she said.

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

In a video, MacCarthy captured the interaction with an airline representative and the officers, and MacCarthy's daughter can be heard crying.

The officers assured MacCarthy that nothing was wrong, but said they were there "because my daughter and I were reported for suspicious behavior, acting suspiciously before boarding and while boarding."

It was weeks later that MacCarthy learned that she was suspected of human trafficking. "I got a call from Denver Police human trafficking unit letting me know they were following up on the incident," she said.

MacCarthy accused Southwest Airlines of racial profiling, and has since hired an attorney in a bid to hold the airline accountable.

She added that she had given the airline "plenty of time" to contact her and apologize.

Apology and Refund

In an email to the airline, she reportedly asked for a written apology, a full refund on their flight tickets and "additional compensation to account for the trauma imposed on an innocent family, and especially on a grieving ten year-old Black girl."

More than two weeks later, she said she had yet to receive anything more than "two brief automated responses."

"The time for an apology is long past," MacCarthy added.

In a statement to Newsweek, Southwest Airlines said it was "disheartened" by MacCarthy's account.

"We were disheartened to learn of this mother's account when traveling with her daughter," the statement said.

"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. 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."

MacCarthy's attorney and the Denver Police Department have been contacted for additional comment.

Update at 11/8/21 at 8.15 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include Southwest Airlines' full statement.

A Southwest Airlines airplane taxies from gate
A Southwest Airlines airplane taxies from a gate at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on October 11, 2021, in Baltimore, Maryland. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images