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 »

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  1. @ivk5 Sad how few people here have taken this view. I agree, we need to teach people to mind their own business and stop being judgmental over things that do not affect them. That would help the world overall. This little girl’s name has nothing to do with what kind of person she is; if you expect her to be bullied, what does that say about ourselves?

  2. I’m pretty sure there is a way to make fun of anyone’s name, and there has been a point in time when any name in particular was thought of as unusual. Popular names change with time, but using it as an excuse to make fun of somebody is never ok. Maybe take the blame off the mother and more on the adult that thinks it’s ok to belittle a little girl

  3. Didn’t Saturday Night Live do a sketch about this very thing in 1992?? Google “snl nicolas cage baby names” for a laugh. Show it to ABCDE’s mother.

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