Aside from offering their apology, the airline indicated that the incident would be used as a "coaching opportunity for our employee."
"We apologize if our interaction made this family uncomfortable — that is never our intention," the company added.
Lindsay Gottlieb, the head coach for the women's basketball team at the University of California, Berkeley, was getting ready to board Flight 1808 to Oakland, California, with her son Jordan on Sunday when she was stopped and required to provide a birth certificate to prove that the one-year-old was indeed her son.
Gottlieb detailed the odd encounter via Twitter on Monday, saying that the employee was prompted to question her after noticing that both the mother and child had different last names even though airlines are not required to do so for domestic flights.
However, according to the frustrated mother, it had more to do with skin color than last names. Gottlieb is white while her fiance and baby's father, Patrick Martin, is black.
In an additional statement to the Boston Globe, Southwest explained that FAA regulations require airlines to "verify a lap child is under the age of two by reviewing a birth certificate or government issued identification." A lap child is defined as a toddler that will be sitting on a parent or guardian's lap instead of a seat throughout the flight.
"Although some international travel requires additional paperwork for leaving the country with a minor, domestic travel does not require airlines to match the last name of a child and guardian," it added.
Though Gottlieb has since stated that the weekend incident was hurtful, she told the Associated Press that she hopes this "can serve as a learning opportunity."
"I felt that in this situation it was my responsibility to say ‘Hey, this isn't OK,'" she told the publication, before adding, "that all families — regardless of how ‘traditional' they may or may not look — [should be] treated with dignity and respect."
Gottlieb told local San Francisco station KPIX that the incident should not reflect the overall attitude of the airline.
"I suspect it was just one insensitive employee," she said. "It hurt my feelings. It made me feel a little bit less than and it's not OK."