Mixed-race family questioned at Denver airport sues Southwest Airlines

A mixed-race family questioned by police at Denver International Airport two years ago over child trafficking allegations has sued Southwest Airlines in federal court, alleging “blatant racism” as the sole reason the carrier contacted authorities.

Mary MacCarthy and her 10-year-old daughter, Moira, had just landed in Denver on Oct. 22, 2021, when they were met on the jet bridge by a Southwest Airlines employee and two Denver police officers.

An airline employee, the mother and daughter learned, had reported them to police for suspected child trafficking (MacCarthy is white and her daughter is Black).

That call for suspicious activity, MacCarthy’s attorney alleged in the lawsuit, came “for no reason other than the different color of her daughter’s skin from her own.” Flight attendants did not even ask them about it on the flight, the family says.

Moira sobbed through the incident, her mother said, and the experience remains “extremely traumatic.” MacCarthy explained to police that she was, indeed, her daughter and showed identification. Officers finally let them go.

A Southwest Airlines spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“This is the type of situation that mixed-race families and families of color face all the time while traveling,” MacCarthy told The Denver Post in 2021.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, demands a jury trial and other damages.

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