A mother of a one-year-old slammed Southwest Airlines on Tuesday after an employee of the airlines asked her to “prove” that her biracial son was hers, according to reports.
The woman, Lindsey Gottlieb, head women’s basketball coach at the University of California at Berkeley, said that she was flying over the weekend from Denver to Oakland with her son Jordan when an airline employee came up to her and wanted to see the child’s birth certificate for confirmation.
The basketball coach said that although she was not carrying the official document with her, she offered his passport instead, which listed Jordan with a different last name. Gottlieb is white and Jordan’s father is African American.
Gottlieb, while recalling the incident to KPIX News, said: “She said, well, how do I know that you’re the mother?” The mother added that the employee was not satisfied with Jordan’s passport and asked her to “prove” that she was his mother by showing a Facebook post.
Gottlieb later shared her harrowing experience on Twitter and called it “demeaning and insensitive, not to mention inefficient.” She also said that she suspects it was not her son’s last name but her skin color which resulted in the holdup.
The “mother next to me said she’s never been asked for proof despite [having a different] last name,” Gottlieb tweeted, adding that she was not shocked by the woman’s statement considering her family was not mixed race.
The airlines later apologized in a statement, according to HuffPost, stating that it was never their intention to make Gottlieb and her family uncomfortable.
The Southwest Airlines said that its “policy is to verify lap children are younger than the age of two by reviewing a birth certificate or government-issued identification.”
“Certain international locations require us to verify additional paperwork for those traveling with a minor. Domestic travel does not require carriers to match last names of a child and guardian,” the airlines’ statement added.
The Southwest Airlines states that those passengers who wish to fly with their infant on their lap should get a boarding verification document from a ticket counter, which requires a birth certificate.
Although the airlines, in its statement, did not specify whether the reason for the holdup was because of his last name or race, it mentioned that it will “emphasize on the issue during the coaching of our employee as we ensure our policies are properly followed.”
Many on social media were outraged by the incident, however, there were a few women, particularly mothers of mixed race children, who defended the airline, stating that they understood that it was a precautionary measure.
Model Chrissy Teigen was also among the women who defended the airlines. Teigen has two children with her musician and actor husband, John Legend. The model said that she has faced similar request by airlines.
“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,” Teigen tweeted to Gottlieb and Southwest Airlines on Tuesday.