Mom Calls Out Southwest Airlines For Asking Her To Prove Relationship With Her Biracial Son

by Valerie Williams
Image via Mitchell Layton / Contributor/Getty Images/Twitter/Lindsay Gottlieb

Cal women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb calls out Southwest airlines for asking her to prove relationship to her son

University of California women’s basketball team head coach Lindsay Gottlieb had a recent disturbing experience with a Southwest airlines employee. She was trying to get on a flight with her son, Jordan Gottlieb Martin, who is biracial, and was asked to “prove” her relationship to him before boarding a flight from Denver to Oakland.

Because apparently his passport wasn’t enough?

Gottlieb took to Twitter to voice her frustration with the carrier and to tell her story:

Gottlieb tweets that despite flying with her one-year-old “approx 50 times,” she was told by ticket counter personnel to “prove” Martin was her child. The employee said it was because of their different last names, but Gottlieb suspected something else at play. “My guess is because he has a different skin color,” she tweeted.

The employee asked for a birth certificate claiming it was “federal law,” which Gottlieb notes isn’t true. The employee then asked the mom to prove her relationship with her son by showing a Facebook post. Which, WTF. Gottlieb points out that a mother next to her says she’s never been asked for proof despite different last names and Gottlieb says “not shockingly,” they’re not a mixed race family.

But Gottlieb’s final tweet really nails the issues at play here. “It was demeaning and insensitive, not to mention inefficient,” she says. She explains that had her flight not been delayed, she would’ve missed it in order to deal with the employee’s questioning of her relationship with her own son.

In a statement provided to USA Today, Gottlieb says, “I felt that in this situation it was my responsibility to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t OK.’ We had a passport that verified our son’s age and identity, and both parents were present. But still being pushed further to ‘prove’ that he was my son felt disrespectful and motivated by more than just concern for his well-being.”

In a statement, Southwest responded to Gottlieb’s experience. “We apologize 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.”

The rest of Gottlieb’s statement expressed the fact that speaking out about her unsettling experience wasn’t just for her own sake. “While it was upsetting and emotional, I realize that this was just one day of my life where I was uncomfortable and our family was made to feel ‘less than’ whereas others face similar situations on a daily basis,” she said.

“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.”