Traveling with a small child can feel like a harrowing experience. Typically as parents we're consumed with collecting all of the gear we need to ensure a safe, smooth, and (hopefully) quiet flight. The very idea of trying to get through security in a timely manner with a baby in tow can be panic-inducing. We hope that we'll fall upon a kind soul or airline employee who gets our stress, and helps to make the entire process a little less difficult.
Now imagine you go to check in to your flight, baby by your side, and the ticketing agent asks for proof that this is indeed your child. You have a different last name from your kiddo (as many modern mamas do) and while you can provide your child's passport, this simply isn't enough for the airline rep.
This is what happened to college basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb who was trying to fly from Denver to Oakland with her son, who happens to be biracial (Lindsay is white, her husband is black).
Gottlieb tweeted about the experience with Southwest airlines, which she had never encountered before despite traveling frequently with her child.
@SouthwestAir 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 because we have different last name. My guess is because he has a different skin color.— Lindsay Gottlieb (@CalCoachG) May 28, 2018
A nearby mother who was an onlooker of the situation commented that she had never been asked to provide proof that her child was her own, despite also having different last names. Coincidentally, this mother and child pair are not, as Gottlieb pointed out, a "mixed family."
@SouthwestAir it was demeaning and insensitive, not to mention inefficient. Would have missed flight if it was not delayed. I would advise better training for employees to avoid this happening to others— Lindsay Gottlieb (@CalCoachG) May 28, 2018
While many of Gottlieb's social media followers were appalled by the situation she encountered, others pointed out that child sex trafficking is a real problem in the United States, and more airline employees should be asking for proof of guardianship over the children with whom they are traveling.
Heck, even Chrissy Teigen, known defender of moms everywhere, admitted she has been asked the same question at the airport and is actually okay with it now.
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.— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) May 29, 2018
Teigen also commented that flying in and out of London seems to be the most difficult with her daughter Luna, often forcing her to carry a "file folder of papers" with proof.
but yeah, it's definitely a situational thing, though. depends on the day, depends on the agent, you never know! going to London is the most difficult with her in my experience. I have to bring a file folder of papers.— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) May 29, 2018
Still, if not every parent is asked this question when traveling with kids, it does appear suspect that Gottlieb was singled out. Either make everyone provide proof that a child is one's own or don't ask at all.
For their part, Southwest did reply to Gottlieb's Twitter complaint with their own concerns over the matter.
Hi, Lindsay. We're disheartened to learn of your experience as this doesn't sound typical. Do you mind following up with your confirmation number in a DM, so we can address accordingly? -Mike— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) May 28, 2018
Safety should be everyone's number one priority, as should equal treatment of all travelers. Hopefully Gottlieb's case will bring the kind of attention to a very serious matter.