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A California mother was “appalled” when she was asked to provide proof of her relationship to her son when boarding a Southwest flight out of Denver (DEN).

After a successful past of flying with her son, Lindsay Gottlieb was shocked when a Southwest gate agent asked her for additional evidence showing that her son, who is biracial, was actually hers as she was boarding flight 1808 from DEN to Oakland (OAK) on Monday. Although the mother and son have different last names, Gottlieb felt that their difference in skin color was a greater factor.

As the head coach for the UC Berkeley women’s basketball team, Gottlieb was no stranger to flying. Before her most recent experience with Southwest she had boarded 50 planes with the 1-year-old by her side without a problem.

Beyond the necessary passport that she had to present for her son upon arriving at the airport, she was also asked to provide both a birth certificate and a Facebook post that would show the baby was indeed her child.


“I do feel like as a white female, with a position of privilege, and a platform where someone is going to listen, it is my responsibility to say, hey, this happened, this isn’t okay,” Gottlieb told KPIX 5 after the incident.

In response to the upsetting encounter, Southwest told Fox News, “We’re looking into this specific interaction, and we have engaged with the Customer directly to address her concerns. Our Employees are well regarded for their Hospitality and we always strive for the best experience for anyone who entrusts us with their travel.”

In response to a request from TPG, Southwest said:

“We immediately reached out to Ms. Gottlieb to learn more about her concerns and express our apologies; we appreciate her insight in what was a productive conversation. Southwest Airlines’ policies include verifying the age of lap children by reviewing birth certificates or government issued identification. Our reports indicate our Employee questioned a discrepancy between last names on the provided documentation, even though domestic travel would not require carriers to match last names of child and guardian. We utilized this situation as a coaching moment to ensure our policies are properly followed.” 

Gottlieb says that better training could maybe prevent the situation from occurring again in the future.


Although she doesn’t necessarily blame the airline as a whole for the employee’s behavior. “I suspect it was just one insensitive employee,” she told KPIX 5. “It hurt my feelings. It made me feel a little bit less than, and it’s not okay.”

Featured image by Garry Lopater via Unsplash.

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