Southwest Airlines apologised for asking a woman to 'prove' her mixed-race son was hers before flying

  • Lindsay Gottlieb, a California basketball coach, was stopped while trying to board a Southwest flight on Sunday.
  • A desk assistant asked her to “prove” her baby, whose father is black, really belonged to her.
  • Gottlieb tweeted that she was “appalled” by the incident, which she suspected had to do with race.
  • The airline apologised and said it would use the incident as a “coaching opportunity” for its employee.

Southwest Airlines has apologised to a woman over an incident in which an employee questioned her as she was trying to board a plane because the employee didn’t believe that her mixed-race son was really hers.

Lindsay Gottlieb, who coaches the University of California women’s basketball team, was stopped by an airline employee at the Denver International Airport on Sunday.

She said the employee asked her to “prove” that her 1-year-old son, Jordan, really belonged to her. Gottlieb is white, and her fiancé, Patrick Martin, is black.

Gottlieb had her son’s passport. They don’t have the same surname, but there is no rule that obliges airlines to ensure guardians and children have the same name.

Gottlieb suggested in a tweet that she suspected racism was behind the questioning.

“I’m appalled that after approx 50 times flying with my 1 year old son, ticket counter personnel told me I had to ‘prove’ that he was my son, despite having his passport,” she said. “She said because we have different last name. My guess is because he has a different skin colour.”

After she landed, she tweeted again about the incident, saying: “It was wild, but, I fear, much more common for people that don’t look like me.”

Southwest apologised to Gottleib and described the incident as a “coaching opportunity” for the employee.

A statement said: “We have reached out to Ms. Gottlieb directly to address her concerns and will utilise the situation as a coaching opportunity for our Employee.

“We apologise if our interaction made this family uncomfortable – that is never our intention.”

Gottlieb gave a statement to the Associated Press about the encounter, saying she felt it was her responsibility to highlight what was happening.

“I hope the coverage this has received can serve as a learning opportunity and that all families – regardless of how ‘traditional’ they may or may not look – are treated with dignity and respect,” she said.

Southwest has had a terrible few months. An engine failure during a flight in April led to the first fatality caused by an accident on a US airline since 2009.

A second Southwest plane made an emergency landing in May after a window broke during a flight.

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