Southwest Airlines apologizes after agent mocks name of 5-year-old girl with epilepsy
At John Wayne airport in Orange County, California, a mother and her five-year-old daughter suffered an uncomfortable experience during the pre-flight boarding process. The Southwest Airlines gate agent noticed the girl had an unusual first name: Abcde, which is pronounced ab-city. Instead of complimenting the unique name, or saying nothing at all, she singled the girl out for mockery.
"The gate agent started laughing, pointing at me and my daughter, talking to other employees," said the mother, Traci Redford, while speaking to ABC 7. "So 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.'"
The Redfords were catching a flight home to El Paso, Texas, and since Abcde lives with epilepsy, they always pre-board. But I'm guessing this will be the last time they fly Southwest. Although Traci asked the employee to stop ridiculing her daughter, she did no such thing.
"While I was sitting there, she took a picture of my boarding pass and chose to post it on social media, mocking my daughter," said Traci. "It was actually brought to my attention by somebody who had seen it on Facebook and reported it to Southwest Airlines. And after two weeks of doing a formal complaint, Southwest hadn't done anything."
In a statement, Southwest Airlines finally apologized fo 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," the statement continued. "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."
Naming your child Abcde is uncommon, but not totally unheard of. In 2014, The OC Register reported that a local shopping mall Santa Claus turned away Abcde Santos, a 7-year-old autistic girl. (He claimed he was scared of her service dog, a pit bull.)
After that story gained national attention, Vocativ researched the unique name. They discovered , there were 328 people named Abcde in the United States. Most of them were children - or at least, they were in 2014. And they don't have to go by 'Abcde.' According to Baby Name Wizard, possible nicknames include Ce-Ce, Sidy, Abby, Xyzzie, Aebi, and Seedy.
On Twitter, some people blamed the parents, arguing that if you name your child after the first five letters of the alphabet, you should expect a little mockery. Even if that's true, and I'm not sure it is, that doesn't excuse adult airline employees from ridiculing a 5-year-old girl with epilepsy, then photographing her boarding pass and sharing it on social media.