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Terrible experience, racial profiling?

New Arrival

My family and I traveled to Belize this past week and had a bad experience with a SWA employee named John in Houston. On Saturday, 10/19/2019, as we waited to board our flight to Belize, we were called out of the waiting area. My wife was asked if she was the natural mother of our child. Our child, 13 years old, is adopted from Guatemala and has been a US citizen for close to 13 years. Interesting that we were singled out as two Caucasian parents traveling with a Hispanic teenager . No other families were asked the same question. Does SWA just assume all the other children who racially match the adults they are traveling with are their natural parents? I must assume that some of the other families traveling had a step parent, etc among them...but they get a pass apparently. John stated we must provide proof of adoption. SWA must not believe the US government that issued my son's passport as we provided that information to obtain the passport.  The SWA employee repeatedly stated that it is our responsibility to bring this paperwork to travel to Belize.  His tone got increasingly harsh and condescending, as we were trying to think through the situation. SWA had our information for months prior to the trip and we had provided the passport information ahead of time. Never were we contacted prior to the trip that this may be an issue, although John claimed that SWA contacts families ahead of time. Simply not true at least in our case. Also, why would SWA wait until literally 20 minutes prior to the flight to call this out? If our son was Caucasian would we have been pulled out of line? Of course not.  I'd love to chaulk this up to incompetence of your employee or company as a whole, but common sense tells me otherwise.

 

 The experience was nothing short of terrifying and traumatic for my son, who asked my wife "if they were going to take him away from us."  As an adopted child, I can only imagine the fear he he must have felt. Fortunately we were able to have a friend email proof of adoption in the nick of time for us to board. Of course, we had no issues at all with immigration in Belize and received a friendly welcome. Unlike SWA, Belize must trust our government and passport system enough not to question us as parents. 


We clearly understand that airlines need to be cautious when minors are traveling abroad. That is more than fine, but apply the same rules for everyone! Not just racially diverse families.

 

I have been a loyal SWA traveler for years. That will most likely be the last time I or my family ever spend another penny with SWA.  No apologies and certainly no compassion shown by your employee. We will be happy to pay more somewhere else to avoid a scenario like that again.  This may be an interesting story to take to the local and/or social media so other families like ours can avoid this issue in the future. 

4 REPLIES 4
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Re: Terrible experience, racial profiling?

Top Contributor

Perhaps this will help you understand why this happened:

 

https://www.us-passport-service-guide.com/minor-travel-consent-form.html

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Re: Terrible experience, racial profiling?

New Arrival

Thank you for replying and sharing that information.  However, I don't think that consent form would apply in this case since my wife and I were both traveling with our son. I believe that would be applicable if she or I were traveling individually with him. Our concern is that we were singled out simply based on race, since no other families were asked to provide additional documents on as far as we could tell. At best, this was extremely bad customer service on the part of SWA who should have let us know ahead of time that we would need additional documentation. 

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Re: Terrible experience, racial profiling?

Top Contributor

The point of my post wasn't the form, it was the story behind it: concern about human trafficking.

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Re: Terrible experience, racial profiling?

Employee
Employee
Solution

We're sincerely sorry to hear we let you down with our handling of this situation, @azspartan. As a peer-to-peer support forum, we aren't equipped to assist you here, but we encourage you to follow the steps below to reach out via official Customer Service channels. Thank you.

 

Submitting a Suggestion and/or Complaint

 

 

Nicole
Community Manager