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Airline being sued after mother, daughter stopped, questioned after flight at DIA

Mary MacCarthy and her daughter were stopped by Denver Police on a jetway about possible human trafficking after a Southwest employee called police in October 2021.

DENVER — A California mother is suing Southwest Airlines after she and her daughter were stopped and questioned by Denver Police officers at Denver International Airport in October 2021 after a Southwest Airlines employee called police about a possible case of human trafficking, a federal lawsuit claims.

Mary MacCarthy and her then-10-year-old daughter were flying from Los Angeles to Denver, after a stop in San Jose, to attend MacCarthy's brother's funeral.

The lawsuit claims the Southwest employee only called police because of MacCarthy's and her daughter's skin colors. MacCarthy is white, and her daughter is biracial perceived as Black.

> The video above aired in November 2021: Mom speaks out after being stopped, questioned after flight at DIA

MacCarthy told 9NEWS in 2021 that as she and her daughter were getting off the plane at DIA, two Denver Police officers stopped them. At first, she was worried the officers were there to tell her of another death in the family.

“They said no, your family is fine,” MacCarthy said in 2021. “They said you and your daughter have been reported for suspicious behavior – from what I recall, they said prior to boarding in San Jose – and also that we boarded suspiciously late.”

Denver Police investigators, in a redacted police report, said a Southwest flight attendant alleged the two were “last getting on the plane.” Once the two found seats together, the flight attendant reported “the mom and daughter did not talk during the flight and she felt it was odd, and also the mother did not allow the child to talk to flight crew.”

"We boarded with our boarding group,” MacCarthy told 9NEWS in 2021. “She claimed my daughter and I didn’t speak to each other throughout the flight, which isn’t true, and also people are wearing masks. It's hard to judge if people are talking to each other. And she claimed that I forbade the flight crew from speaking to my daughter, which is in no way true at all.”

The suit doesn't ask for specific damages but does request compensation for "emotional distress, suffering, inconvenience and mental anguish" among other requests.


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