Traci Redford said she was boarding a Southwest Airlines flight home to El Paso, Texas, with her 5-year-old daughter when she overheard an airline employee mocking the little girl’s name, Abcde (pronounced ab-city). Now the airline has apologized to the mom and daughter in a public statement.
The incident occurred at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., according to news affiliate ABC 7 in Los Angeles. The Redfords were preboarding — as they usually do because Abcde is epileptic — when the Southwest Airlines gate agent started laughing and pointing at the child and making fun of her unique name to fellow airline employees. “I turned around and said, ‘Hey, if I can hear you, my daughter can hear you, so I’d appreciate if you’d just stop,’” Redford told ABC 7.
Redford said her daughter was within ear shot and asked her, “‘Mom, why is she laughing at my name?’” according to ABC 7. “I said, ‘You know, honey, not everybody is nice. And not everyone’s gonna be nice, and it’s unfortunate.’”
What Redford didn’t find out until later, though, is that the unidentified employee also took a picture of the girl’s boarding pass and posted it on Facebook to take her name shaming public. But another social media user alerted the mom of the post after reporting it to Southwest Airlines, Redford tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Redford then issued a formal complaint to Southwest Airlines and pursued it for two weeks but never got a response.
So she took her complaint to ABC 7. In a video interview, she recounted the incident. Since then, Southwest Airlines has issued a public apology to Redford and her daughter. The statement reads:
“We extend our sincere apology to the family. We take great pride in extending our Southwest Hospitality to all of our Customers, which includes living by the Golden Rule and treating every individual with respect, in person or online. The post is not indicative of the care, respect, and civility we expect from all of our Employees. We have followed up with the Employee involved, and while we do not disclose personnel actions publicly, we are using this as an opportunity to reinforce our policies and emphasize our expectations for all Employees.”
“This wasn’t even an isolated incident,” Redford tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “[This employee] posted pictures of people, shaming them for what they were wearing in the terminals.” The worker allegedly also posted a photo of herself intentionally throwing a bag on top of a passenger’s carry-on luggage because she knew someone had just put their pizza in it.
“If it was an isolated issue, that would be one thing,” the mom says. “But Southwest has yet to address that not only was my daughter treated poorly, but [the employee] did it to other individuals on social media too.” She says Southwest Airlines has still not contacted her directly — and neither has the employee. “She really needs to think before she acts,” Redford says of the airline worker. “She’s a representative of the company as well as in a role where you see a lot of people. She really needs to learn courtesy before treating people this way. She owes a lot of people an apology.”
Yahoo Lifestyle has reached out to Southwest Airlines to find out whether the worker is still employed by the company. We will update this post when we hear back.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: