KLM Asked A Breast-Feeding Woman To Cover Up On A Flight And Twitter Is Kicking Off
When new mum Shelby Angel was faced with a hungry baby on a recent flight from San Francisco to Amsterdam, she did what any mum would do - discreetly breastfed her child to calm her and help her sleep.
However one flight attendant wasn't having it, and told her to "cover up".
In a Facebook post that has now gone viral, Shelby told her story, starting: "Here's a warning to all breastfeeding moms: do NOT fly with KLM!"
She explained: "A month ago I was flying with my one year old on a KLM flight from San Francisco to Amsterdam. It was the third flight I'd been on with her. I breastfeed her. It calms her and helps her sleep and makes her comfortable. She's also a busy toddler who doesn't like to be covered. I do my best to be discreet, but sometimes some skin shows.
"Before we even took off, I was approached by a flight attendant carrying a blanket. She told me (and I quote) 'if you want to continue doing the breastfeeding, you need to cover yourself.' I told her no, my daughter doesn't like to be covered up. That would upset her almost as much as not breastfeeding her at all.
"She then warned me that if anyone complained, it would be my issue to deal with (no one complained. On any of the flights I took with my daughter. Actually, no one has ever complained to me about breastfeeding in public. Except this flight attendant)."
Shelby explained that when she got home, she issued a complaint to KLM.
"I was told that I needed to be respectful of people of other cultures and that this flight attendant's response was in line with company policy. So instead of standing up for and protecting breastfeeding mothers and our children, already under the duress faced by flying with our young children, KLM would rather hold up antiquated values that shame women's bodies."
She finished her post by saying: "I hope that everyone considering a flight with their breastfed child can choose an airline that will respect bodily autonomy and a right to take care of our children the best way we know how."
The Dutch carrier has come under fire since, and in a tweet explaining its policy, stated: "Breastfeeding is permitted at KLM flights. However, to ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this."
Breastfeeding is permitted at KLM flights. However, to ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this.
- Royal Dutch Airlines (@KLM) July 16, 2019
And now, Twitter is KICKING OFF.
"I don't feel comfortable with people who feel uncomfortable with mothers breastfeeding, so could you ask them to cover themselves in a large blanket? I don't want to have to look at them. Thanks," said one post.
"This is outrageous, KLM. I know you're trying to be fair, but this is not the way to do it. You're pandering to those who would control women's behaviour, prioritising their feelings over the process of nurturing an infant," said another.
I don't feel comfortable with people who feel uncomfortable with mothers breastfeeding, so could you ask them to cover themselves in a large blanket? I don't want to have to look at them. Thanks.
- Simon Bruni (@SimonBruni) July 17, 2019
This is outrageous, KLM. I know you're trying to be fair, but this is not the way to do it. You're pandering to those who would control women's behaviour, prioritising their feelings over the process of nurturing an infant.
- Paul Milnes (@nonklatink) July 18, 2019
@klm they can complain all they want. You CANNOT restrict women's rights just because some people complain. Where are your principles? A complain to cabin staff should not result in people's rights being taken away. Shame on you. #PassengerRights #passengers #breastfeeding
- Adam Bolt (@AdamBolt13) July 17, 2019
Maybe the people who feel offended could go and sit in the toilets while the mother feeds her baby. It would give them a feel for what many women have been asked to do when feeding in the past.
- Fenchurch S Goldfish (@Fenny_Goldfish) July 17, 2019
However, not everyone thought the policy was unreasonable and some used the social media platform to express their support for the stand.
"KLM is correct. As a woman and a medical professional I have no problem with breastfeeding but asking women to just throw something like a burp cloth over them whilst doing it is not an unreasonable request!" said one user.
And good luck to this guy for ever getting a girlfriend again: "If I was sitting next to this woman and KLM did nothing about it I would request them for a full refund. This is not when I'm expecting on my journey to be exposed to. She could have asked KLM to either let her do it in the flight attendant's compartment or do it in the toilet."
@KLM is correct. As a woman and medical professional I have no problem with breastfeeding but asking women to just throw something like a burp cloth over them whilst doing so is not an unreasonable request!
- Becca Brettschneider (@BeccaBretts) July 17, 2019
If I was sitting next to this woman and KLM did nothing about it I would request them for full refund. This is not what I'm expecting on my journey to be exposed to. She could have asked KLM to either let her do it in the flight attendants compartment or do it in the toilet.
- mcrtz777 (@mcrtz777) July 17, 2019
In response to the situation, a KLM spokesperson told the BBC that it's trying to "keep the peace on board" its flights.
"Of course, breastfeeding is permitted on board KLM flights. However not all passengers feel comfortable with breastfeeding in their vicinity and sometimes these passengers complain to the cabin staff," they said.
Stating the airline will "try to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone and that shows respect for everyone's comfort and personal space," the spokeswoman added that "this may involve a request to a mother to cover her breast."
In its most recent response, however, the airline appears to take a more sympathetic stance, saying: "Our aim is to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable on board. Of course mothers can breastfeed their children during our flights. By no means is the mother obliged to cover up herself or her child. And we absolutely don't want to make the mums of our youngest passengers feel judged about the most natural thing in the world. That is why our cabin crew may suggest the mum options to ensure some privacy when feeding their child."
As a wise JoJo once said, "it's just a little too late."
You can find some other airline policies on breastfeeding below:
- easyJet says they 'support breastfeeding mothers and you can feed your baby on board at any time' although one mum reported being asked to be 'discreet' while feeding her baby during a flight last year.
- RyanAir says breastfeeding mums are 'very welcome onboard their flights' despite one mum claiming she was twice asked to stop feeding her child during a short-haul flight in May 2019.
- A British Airways spokesperson said this week they had 'no official policy' on breastfeeding but that cabin crew members are on hand to help if women need privacy.
Featured Image Credit: PA Images