DENVER (KDVR) — Southwest Airlines is getting sued by a local mom for alleged racial profiling.
It’s the latest development in a story FOX31 first told back in 2021 after a white mom said she was accused of trafficking her biracial daughter while on a commercial flight.
Mary MacCarthy and her, at the time, 10-year-old daughter Moira, were traveling from San Jose to Denver to attend a family funeral, but when they stepped off the plane they were greeted by police.
“The day that it happened, it was somewhere between 12-18 hours after my brother had died, so we got on a flight in shock, hadn’t slept and that’s all we were thinking about the whole flight,” MacCarthy said. “We land in Denver, our hometown, and there’s two police officers there.”
Body camera video shows the encounter between Denver Police and MacCarthy and her daughter after a Southwest employee reported what she said was suspicious behavior. The employee told police Moira might not be MacCarthy’s daughter and could be a human trafficking victim.
MacCarthy recorded most of the conversation and within minutes the two were allowed on their way, but MacCarthy said her daughter was traumatized.
“As a mother of a biracial child who is often perceived as Black, I’m well aware of racial profiling,” MacCarthy said.
It’s now at the center of a civil rights lawsuit MacCarthy and her attorney, David Lane, filed against Southwest Airlines.
“If a private party interferes with a contract between two parties based on race, that’s a civil rights violation,” Lane said. “When you buy an airline ticket, you are buying safe passage from Point A to Point B. Safe passage is not concluded until you get to the terminal.”
Lane said Southwest did not hold up their end of the deal that comes with buying a plane ticket.
“The Denver Police were perfectly appropriate here,” Lane said. “It was Southwest that used racial profiling to impair Mary’s ability to conclude her contract and get safe passage into the terminal. We’re filing a lawsuit because Southwest refuses to accept any responsibility or acknowledge any wrongdoing.”
Since speaking out, MacCarthy said she’s had dozens of families reach out claiming similar experiences.
“There’s one commonality across of all the people that write to me,” MacCarthy said. “It’s that the parent has a different skin color than the child.”
MacCarthy said she just wants to see Southwest take accountability.
“The deeper issue here is racial profiling. Whether you’re an individual or a corporation, you should stop and check your biases before you call the police.”
FOX31 has reached out to Southwest for comment on the lawsuit but has yet to hear back.