Melvin Taylor, Brand Marketer

A Southwest Airlines gate agent made fun of a 5-year-old girl for her name and posted a photo of the girl’s boarding pass online. The incident occurred at the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. Traci Redford and her daughter, Abcde(pronounced Ab-city) Redford were on their way to their home in El Paso, Texas. Redford and her daughter were boarding the plane early which is something they always do due to the young girl’s epilepsy. In an interview with ABC7, Redford said, “The gate agent started mocking my child’s name, laughing, pointing at me and my daughter, and talking to other employees. So, I turned around and said, ‘I can hear you so if I can hear you, my daughter can too. I’d appreciate it if you’d just stop.’” Redford’s daughter said, “Mom, why is she laughing at my name?” The employee took a photo of the young girl’s boarding pass and posted it online, further mocking the girl. Redford was notified about the photo by someone who saw it on Facebook and reported it to Southwest Airlines. After Redford filed a formal complaint, nothing was done about the situation for two weeks.

Southwest Airlines released a statement on the situation and said, “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.”

I find it interesting that Southwest Airlines did not say that they fired the employee. They only said that they followed up with them. Whenever I go to a place of business, I expect a certain level of respect and professionalism. Having an employee on the Southwest Airlines team that is comfortable making fun of customers to their faces is a bad look for the company. It is possible that this employee has been doing this for a while as they seemed to have no problem doing what they did.

With a story like this being spread around online, I think it would have looked better for Southwest Airlines to take more action against their employee or make the actions they have already done clear. They said they followed up with the employee but that could be as simple as telling them to not do it again, warning them or potentially firing them. The public does not know. I think they should have fired the employee and provided Redford and her daughter free plane rides for a year. An apology is great and was needed for this situation, but I think the Redford girls deserve more.

Finally, I think parents should name their children whatever they want to, but they also should take into account how that name will affect the child’s life. Many have made jokes about the situation and said that incidents like this will follow the young girl for the rest of her life. I have to agree with the latter. I can see the young girl changing her name when she is old enough or using a nickname at some point in her life. I have seen this happen in the past and I still see it now. People with names that are hard to pronounce or ones that are greeted with a “Huh? How is it spelled?” will give an easier name for others to call them. I am not saying that Redford should change her daughter’s name or anything, but I just think she should understand that her daughter could get bullied for her name in the future.