Airline apologises after asking mother of multi-racial child for proof

A US mother has complained after an airline employee asked her to "prove" she was her son's mother. But many social media users think she's in the wrong.

Lindsay Gottlieb has criticised an airline employee for requesting proof of parenting.

Lindsay Gottlieb has criticised an airline employee for requesting proof of parenting. Source: Lindsay Gottlieb Twitter

An American airline has been forced to apologise after a passenger claimed she was asked to “prove” her mixed-race son was hers, despite providing his passport.

Lindsay Gottlieb claims she was flying from Denver to Oakland with her one-year-old son, Jordan Martin, when a Southwest Airlines employee requested the boy's birth certificate.

Ms Gottlieb said she wasn't carrying the certificate but supplied her son's passport instead. She said the employee told her she couldn't verify her identity because she had a different surname to her son.

“She said, well, how do I know that you’re the mother?” Ms Gottleib said.

Lindsay Gottlieb has criticised Southwest Airlines after she claims an employee asked her to prove she was the mother of her son.

Ms Gottlieb is white and her fiancé Patrick Martin – Jordan’s father – is black. Both were said to be present during the incident.

CBS San Francisco reports Ms Gottlieb gave birth to Jordan in May 2017. Her son had reportedly travelled often via plane with his family, including on Southwest.

"I'm appalled that after approx 50 times flying with my one-year-old son, ticket counter personnel told me I had to 'prove' that he was my son, despite having his passport," Ms Gottlieb claimed on Twitter.

Source: Lindsay Gottlieb Twitter

"She said because we have different last name. My guess is because he has a different skin colour."

Ms Gottlieb said she found the questions “demeaning and insensitive” and she called for better training for employees.

She claimed the employee asked to see a Facebook post which proved she was Jordan’s mother.

“She 1st asked for proof with birth certificate. She then said it’s a 'federal law' (not true) but asked me to prove I’m mother with Facebook post,” she tweeted.

Source: Lindsay Gottlieb Twitter

Ms Gottlieb told US media she felt she had a responsibility as a “white female with a position of privilege” to speak about the incident.

Southwest Airlines told SBS News in a statement: "We reached out directly to Ms Gottlieb to address her concerns and will emphasise the coaching moment with our employee as we ensure our policies are properly followed.

"We apologise if our interaction made this family uncomfortable — that is never our intention. Our employees are well-regarded for their hospitality, and we always strive for the best experience for anyone who entrusts us with their family’s travel."

Southwest Airlines also said its policy is to verify lap children are younger than the age of two by reviewing a birth certificate or government issued identification. The airline said certain international locations require it to verify additional paperwork for those travelling with a minor. Domestic travel does not require carriers to match last names of a child and guardian.

The policy is stated in bold print on the website. The policy does not state that it requires proof of parenting, it’s unclear whether the airline has a protocol for requiring further identification for children who don’t look like their parents.

Child trafficking issue? 

Model Chrissy Teigen defended the airline employee, saying it was a precaution against potential child trafficking.

“Airlines have asked this of me, too, with my daughter. Once I learned it’s a precaution for the very real threat of child trafficking, I stopped being exasperated with it. Now I’m kind of worried when they don’t ask,” Ms Teigen tweeted. 

Chrissy Teigen responded to the complaint saying it was a precaution for "child trafficking". The airline has not commented on this.
Source: Getty

Ms Teigen wasn't the only one who held this view. Many parents responded to the story saying they were pleased the airline employee had asked for proof of parenting. 

"You can choose to be a victim or be happy they are mindful of children being abducted all the time! It's a real thing! Thank God for Southwest," Twitter user @Lisachill wrote.

"I travelled solo with my same-race kids just last month & had to prove my relationship with every flight... it's a problem when they DON'T ask, not when they do," @DavidJSwisher wrote.

"Glad they want proof, too many kids abducted," @AshleeWebsterOK wrote.

"Having people ask questions and verify that someone is a parent saves lives," @Drwdr wrote.

Actor Alec Mapa defended Ms Gottlieb's complaint saying "not all families look alike".

"Newsflash @SouthwestAir. It's 2018. Not all families look alike. This one has to travel with birth certificates, proof of adoption and jump through hoops just to prove we're a family because of employees like yours. Maybe you should drop by a Starbucks and take a class," Mapa tweeted.

SBS News has contacted Southwest Airlines for comment.

Published 31 May 2018 at 4:42pm, updated 1 June 2018 at 8:42am
By Natasha Christian