Southwest Airlines apologized for asking a woman to 'prove' her mixed-race son was hers before flying

  • Lindsay Gottlieb, a California basketball coach, was stopped while trying to board a Southwest flight on Sunday.

  • A desk assistant asked her to "prove" her baby, whose father is black, really belongs to her.

  • Gottlieb tweeted that she was "appalled" by the incident, and suspects racism was behind it.

  • The airline apologised and said it would use the incident as a "coaching opportunity" for its employee.

Southwest Airlines has apologized to a woman for trying to stop her getting on a plane because they didn't believe that her mixed-race son was really hers.

Lindsay Gottlieb, who coaches the University of California women's basketball team, was stopped by an airline employee at Denver airport on Sunday.

She said that the employee asked her to "prove" that her one-year-old son, Jordan, really belongs to her. Gottlieb is white, and her fiancé, Patrick Martin, is black.

Gottlieb had her son's passport. They don't have the same surname, but there is no rule which obliges airlines to make sure that guardians and children have the same name.

Gottlieb said in a tweet that she suspects racism was behind the questioning.

She wrote: "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."

After she landed, she tweeted again about the incident, saying: "It was wild, but, I fear, much more common for people that don’t look like me."

Southwest apologized to Gottleib, and described the incident as a "coaching opportunity" for the employee.

A statement said: "We have reached out to Ms. Gottlieb directly to address her concerns and will utilize the situation as a coaching opportunity for our Employee.

"We apologize if our interaction made this family uncomfortable — that is never our intention."

Gottlieb gave a statement to The Associated Press about the encounter, saying she felt it was her responsibility to highlight what was happening.

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."

Southwest has had a terrible few months. An engine failure on board a flight in April led to the first fatality on a US airline since 2009.

A second Southwest plane made an emergency landing in May after a window broke during a flight.

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