After traveling with her 1-year-old son dozens of times with no problems, Lindsay Gottlieb did not expect to have to prove that she was her son’s mother when trying to board a plane Monday, but that’s exactly what Southwest Airlines asked her to do. Gottlieb is the coach for the University of California at Berkley’s women’s basketball team. She was traveling from Denver to Oakland when she was asked to provide her son’s birth certificate after showing the Southwest employee at the ticket counter his passport. The employee told her that federal law requires that she provide a birth certificate as proof that she is the child’s parent because she and her child have different last names. She tweeted that she was “appalled” at the request and, according to The Washington Post, found it “uncomfortable and hurtful.”
The child’s father and Gottlieb’s fiancée, Patrick Martin, was also present, but Southwest Airlines decided that was not sufficient, even when coupled with a valid passport. Gottlieb tweeted that she found the request to prove that she was the child’s mother “disrespectful and motivated by more than just a concern for his well-being.” At one point, Lindsay tweeted that the Southwest employee asked her to prove she was her son’s parent with a Facebook post. A mother next to her in line said that she has a different last name than her child and had never been asked for proof, so Gottlieb surmised that the real reason she was being asked to prove she was the child’s parent was because he was biracial, tweeting, “My guess is because he has a different skin color.”
Adding to Lindsay’s frustration was the fact that she has flown “over 50 times” with her son, and no one has asked for proof of his parentage. The discussion with the Southwest ticket agent nearly made them miss their flight.
After tweeting about her experience, Southwest Airlines did reach out to Gottlieb and apologized for making her “uncomfortable” and added, “That is never our intention.” Southwest told her that they would use her experience as a “coaching moment” for their employees. They also clarified that it is company policy to verify lap children are younger than two-years-old with either a birth certificate or government-issued identification, but it is not their policy to do so when a child and the adult traveling with them have different last names on domestic flights. In summing up her experience, Lindsay Gottlieb tweeted the following.
“While it was upsetting and emotional, I realize that this was just one day of my life where I was uncomfortable and our family was made to feel ‘less than’ whereas others face similar situations on a daily basis. 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.”
Gottlieb’s tweets have since been removed from her Twitter account.