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A Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant Falsely Accused A Family Of Human Trafficking

The flight attendant assumed that the Black child didn’t belong to the White family.

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Image for article titled A Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant Falsely Accused A Family Of Human Trafficking
Image: Kevin Dietsch (Getty Images)

A family on a flight to Denver was falsely accused of human trafficking, the Washington Post reports. While the airline tells a story of suspicious actions, it may have just come down to race.

Mary MacCarthy and her 10-year-old daughter were on a flight from L.A. to Denver. Her brother had recently died so they were flying to Colorado for the funeral. The flight was packed, and Mary didn’t want her and her daughter to be separated on the flight because who would?

Not wanting to be separated, MacCarthy asked flight attendants if she could be seated next to her daughter. But they “said no,” MacCarthy wrote. Yet MacCarthy was allowed to ask others to trade seats with her, and the mother quickly found willing passengers.


The Post points out how flight attendants are trained to look out for trafficking behavior. The International Civil Aviation Organization gives guidance on what to look for. Apparently to the attendants, according to these guidelines, MacCarthy and her daughter’s actions from the time they boarded were suspicious.

The attendant, who is not named in the report, said MacCarthy and her daughter were the last passengers to board the plane, and MacCarthy was “demanding” she sit next to her daughter. The flight attendant also alleged that MacCarthy did not speak to her daughter during the flight and found it “odd” that she did not allow the girl to speak to the flight crew, the report states.


MacCarthy says her daughter didn’t speak much because of a combination of being tired and saddened by the passing of her uncle and because she listened to an audiobook. And like most people, MacCarthy didn’t think anything was an issue. That is until they landed and two Denver police officers greeted them at the gate.

Two Denver police officers, accompanied by a Southwest Airlines manager, were there to investigate a report of possible human trafficking, according to a police report. A flight attendant, the report states, thought that MacCarthy and her daughter had acted strangely on the plane and that their behavior warranted investigation.

The officers frightened her daughter enough to cause her to cry. They assured her that she wasn’t in any trouble and stated they were “just concerned about the behavior.” MacCarthy believes that she and her daughter were racially profiled because she’s White and her daughter is Black. She now has an attorney who stated “Had the child been White, there is absolutely no doubt that this would never have occurred.”

Mixed-race families face accusations of human trafficking while flying because apparently, people don’t adopt kids of different races. Frontier Airlines, for instance, was in the news twice recently for accusing a Black woman of human trafficking with her White daughter and another White family of the same thing with their Black son.


Can’t we just let people fly in peace?