Southwest Apologizes For Gate Agent Making Fun of 5 Year Old Girl’s Name. But Should the Mom Apologize Too?

When I was 7 years old my friends and I all used to watch The Great Space Coaster. This children’s show had a ‘news’ segment hosted by a character named Gary Gnu. And as a kid named Gary this was awful, because that made me… Gary Gnu.

My parents wanted to make sure they weren’t setting me up to be teased. What did my name sound like? What was it similar to? What would my initials be?

That wasn’t fool proof. There was no Gary Gnu when I was born. There’s no way to predict who will be given the same name, and how that will lead to teasing by other kids. But there are ways to avoid the obvious ‘kick me’s’.

Fast forward to this week where Southwest Airlines is apologizing for a gate agent who is accused of mocking a 5 year old’s name.

A woman and her 5 year old daughter were flying home from Long Beach to El Paso and were preboarding. The young girl’s name is Abcde. And her mother reports that:

The gate agent started laughing, pointing at me and my daughter, talking to other employees. 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.

She also says the gate agent took a photo of the boarding pass and posted it to Facebook. Oh, and the girl has epilepsy.

Southwest Airlines says,

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.

Calling out a 5 year old for her name just isn’t appropriate. I’m going to take an unpopular position here though. I’m going to say that the mother did her child a disserving naming her Abcde, because it is completely foreseeable that the girl is going to draw unwanted attention for her name throughout her childhood.

We can and should criticize this Southwest agent, but what the kids she’ll go to school with? Or am I completely off base?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Gary, you are spot on. Southwest agent needs to keep her mouth shut and as for mom, what was she thinking?

  2. I agree. Naming your child “ABCDE” is ridiculous. If you want change your own name to something absurd like that, go ahead. But don’t inflict that on a child. It just makes it that much more unlikely other people will take “ABCDE” seriously throughout her life.

    Obviously doesn’t excuse the Southwest agent’s behavior. But this kind of thing is foreseeable.

  3. When even people in California think the name you have chosen for your child was just too odd, it is.

  4. Gate agent should be summarily fired. Way too many employees these days forget who pays their salaries.

    With regard to names, my mom was almost given a name at birth which would have given her the initials A S S. Fortunately someone had the foresight to think of what her monogram would have looked like.

  5. Municipality should forbid straight away names like this. It is like making a tattoo to a baby. Hard to erase and potentially traumatizing.

    Gate agend was unprofessional, but I assume I’d be unprofessional too in a situation like this. Not laughing but shocked about the mother.

  6. Poor kid. Her mom sat her up for this – it will be a lifelong thing. Maybe she will change her name when she is 18. The gate agent should know better.

  7. Gary- poor judgment. Who made you the Appropriate Name Police?

    Too close to the Dear Abby scenario. World is full of different names that seem strange, unusual, weird, funny, etc to someone.

    How about instead of policing parents and their parenting, we teach more tolerance and less bullying to our kids (and grownups!).

  8. You’re right, Gary. The agent shouldn’t have mocked the girl. She had no say in the matter. It was her idiot mother.

  9. I am with you, Gary. I believe that a child’s name will directly affect their social development and how they see themselves in the wider world. It is entirely predictable how names will be perceived by everyone else. And children will be the cruelest.

    Patents need to think this through, otherwise a terrible name is a form of child abuse.

  10. @ivk5, no one made Gary the Appropriate Name Police, but surely you can appreciate the ass kickings awaiting this child once she gets into 1st grade and beyond. Kids are horribly vicious, and especially so if you are different on any level. This mom clearly is planning to home school her daughter, but the school trolls would eat her alive.

  11. The parents are complete idiots, although doesn’t excuse the agents behavior. I had a friend in elementary school whose last name was White.. Her parents thought it would be cute to name her Snow. Do parents not think what they name their kids could harm them one day.

  12. Should have named the kid “LMNO”. At least people would have a fighting chance of being able to pronounce it due to its prominence in the alphabet song.

  13. If the parents aren’t picking a name that’s blatantly offensive, like “N Word” or something like that, it shouldn’t bother anyone. People change the names they go by even as a kid.

  14. Ummm, when you name your poor child “ABCDE”, you’re basically setting them up for a lifetime of mocking. Stupid, irresponsible parents do a lot to ruin their children’s lives. It’s amazing how many people take such a big decision (naming your child) so lightly – as if it were a joke. And now their kid is a punchline.

  15. Jamieo, I agree. My parents gave me a beautiful name that is common in its origin language (not English) but difficult for non-speakers to pronounce. They meant well, but as a shy child, having to constantly pronounce my name for people and being teased by other kids definitely affected my social development. I hated being asked my name because my response was usually followed by “What was that?” or “Could you spell that?” followed by questions about its origin and meaning. I’m sure my parents never imagined the hardship it would cause (not just in school, but later, in job interviews, social settings, etc.). I grew up in the ’70s and I longed to be just another Lisa or Michelle.

    I have friends who’ve given their kids “unique,” weirdly-spelled names that will most certainly cause them problems in life. I sympathize with poor Abcde – here’s hoping she gives her parents a ton of shit for naming her that and she changes it as soon as she’s old enough.

  16. Please don’t miss the important part of this equation… An employee of an air carrier used a public forum to share information about a traveling passenger. The potential security risks to the traveler (especially a minor) are paramount. What if there was a custody issue? The child’s safety and identity? A picture of the boarding document with their details (coupled with the unique name) was put on a social medium platform for anyone to see BY THE AGENT of the airline.

  17. Gary, you’re often off-base and frequently engage in hyperbole, but I agree with you on this one.

  18. There are hundreds of other children with the same name. It is rare but it is a name. Children will always find things to make fun of. Not sure where it is your place to question the parents, who you know nothing about, for their name choice. Story is about egregious behavior by airline staff uploading a little girl’s boarding pass to the internet. Employee should be fired.

  19. @Bill, no, according to what I have been able to find, there are perhaps 200 people worldwide whose name is ABCDE and that may very well overestimate the number that intended to use the name (some may have been officially recorded as this as a matter of convenience or protocol and later had their name changed to what was actually intended). We named our children fairly unusual names, however, each of their names has meaning in their own culture and is relatively easy to pronounce, at least close to the proper pronunciation. ABCDE has absolutely no meaning in any language or culture, and, contrary to what the parent says, is not pronounced ab-city. You don’t get to make up your own language and rules of pronunciation just because you want to.

  20. Not to mention the fact that it’s pretty damn egregious for an employee of an airline to be publicizing that a specific person is not at home.

    Plenty of burglaries happen in situations like this. Thieves have been known to follow obituaries to target homes of people who are away at funerals.

    The point of all this should not be the name the girl was given.

  21. The Great Space Coaster TAKES ME BACK!

    While I agree that this name is ridiculous, I’m not sure I can support a “but” coupled on with the SW agent’s behavior…if it indeed happen as reported.

  22. I met an adult whose name was Abcde last year. Her name was on a name tag and I wasn’t sure if it was a generic name tag or her actual name. I asked and she let me know how to pronounce it. It’s an unusual name, but who cares? Adults should know how to behave better. Shame on the Southwest gate agent.

  23. Well, here we have another case of reckless parenting!
    If the parents had any respect or any parenting skills whatsoever they would have chosen a respectful name for their daughter.
    I feel bad for the daughter that is going to be a sitting duck for all the bullies out there.

    I am also surprised (or not) that all the media out there are routing for the irresponsible parents, promoting, protecting and rewarding the irresponsible behavior of the entitled people, as usual, and nobody has the guts to come out and pointing the reckless parents as the real responsible here.

  24. Anyone who says that it is OK for parents to name their kids whatever they want and everyone else should just be understanding and accepting should legally change their name to “Terrorist Shithead” and see how far it gets them. Names have power.

  25. IMO, you have it right, Gary. In fact, I think you’re being gracious.

    The mom is an idiot for cursing her child with such a name.

    For laughing and drawing attention, the agent should be disciplined. For posting it to social media, the agent should be fired.

  26. My first response to this silly woman would also be to laugh, followed immediately by “Are you kidding?” And then I’d apologize, because it’s rude to laugh at people, no matter how idiotic they may be.
    I’m betting the mother will never apologize for HER insensitivity to her daughter.

  27. I’m with you on this, too Gary. WN employee was totally in the wrong. But if you name your kid that and DON’T expect them to get teased, you’re delusional. Just wait until the kid gets in school – the other kids will be BRUTAL. I suspect we all know this type of mother – always needs to speak to a manager; kid has several made-up allergies and/or illnesses; helicopter parent, etc.

    Same with parents who name their kid using non-standard spellings. I know some people so named and they are annoyed at having to constantly spell what should be a common name.

  28. @farnorthtrader Please stop making up facts. Here is an article from 2014 that shows in the US alone there are well over 200 people with that name let alone the world. I have also seen articles stating that in Texas alone there are over 200 girls with that name. As I said its a rare name but there are hundreds of people with that name primarily in Texas (where this family is from), New Mexico and Hawaii.

  29. That poor kid will be tortured for life because her mom chose to pick a silly name. @Gary is completely correct.

  30. Is it possible the agent thought she was poking fun at WN’s own res people for what appears to be an obvious error. Who would think a little girl would really have “abcde” as a name? I seriously doubt the agent meant any harm to the little girl. I could be wrong the agent could be a cruel villain but I don’t think so. We need to hear more of the agent’s side of the story.

  31. Seem to remember a lawsuit where parents were not permitted to name their children after Adolph Hitler and Heinrich Himmler.

  32. What happens when you have a trailer-trash mom I guess. The kid will grow up hating her mother, and legally change it when she can. I don’t really blame the gate agent; the ‘name’ invites comment at the very least, and this sort of thing will be with the kid every day until she gets rid of it.

  33. the kid should change her name to “ABCDEFG”
    the “G” stands for “GENIUS”, you figure out the “F” part

  34. So… my aunt used to create personalized items as home business. She used calligraphy to personalize shirts, umbrellas, aprons, bibs, etc. and did a lot of baby items (this was in Brooklyn). She regularly got requests to put Male (pronounce Mah-lay) and Female (Fem-ah-lay) on baby items from (generally) immigrants who thought that hospital personnel had named their babies (after seeing hospital forms that had the sex of the baby and the last name, prior to the baby’s name being chosen).

  35. The Airline people were making fun of the MOTHER not the kid. The mother is the one who should be sorry for naming that kid. It is like the following names:

    Sierra Leon as a first name for a boy
    Doctor Wright for a kid
    Mister Wright for the kid’s parent
    Prof. Solomon Solomon
    Thomas Thomas
    Unique for a girls First name.
    Clare for a boy
    Courtney for a boy

    These parents should take the kids names and be made fun of.

  36. I mean, I cracked up when I saw the name was abcde. So I don’t blame the SW agent and the mom is total white trash for naming her that.

  37. It is a ridiculous name. The employee was in the wrong, but the parents should be slapped for forcing such a hideous name on a child.

Comments are closed.