A passenger on a recent KLM flight says she was asked to cover up while breastfeeding her 1-year-old daughter.
The woman, who refused to cover up with a blanket she was given, claims the flight attendant warned her “that if anyone complained,” it would be “her issue,” The New York Times reported.
After posting her experience on Facebook, social media users voiced their opinions on the topic. A Twitter user tweeted the airline directly, asking, “What is your policy regarding breastfeeding?”
The airline’s response: “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
That response caused an immediate backlash.
Are judgemental passengers asked to be covered, in case their reactions offends mothers while breastfeeding?— Stefano Bellucci S. (@stefano_studio) July 18, 2019
One may, for starters, say ... not stare? However, given the size of airline seats the decent thing to do if a baby in the next seat needs to be breast fed is get up and stretch one's legs so the mother can have some more space.— brendon caligari (@m0ptp) July 18, 2019
KLM maintained on Twitter that mothers are not required to cover up. “Please know that the mother is not obliged to do anything,” the company said in one tweet. “If she doesn’t want the assistance of the crew, she is absolutely not obliged to do anything other than feeding her baby.”
Please know that the mother is not obliged to do anything, Mel. If she doesn't want the assistance of the crew, she is absolutely not obliged to do anything other than feeding her baby.— Royal Dutch Airlines (@KLM) July 18, 2019
Other Twitter users, however, sided with the airline. According to The New York Times, a nurse from Virgina responded by saying that the airline wasn’t making “an unreasonable request.”
@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
According to Fast Company, other airlines used the Twitter storm as an opportunity to jump in and share their own policies on breastfeeding. EasyJet chimed in saying, “we support breastfeeding mothers and you can feed your baby on board at any time.”
Hi Victoria, we support breastfeeding mothers and you can feed your baby on board at any time. For more information on our flying with children policy please see here: https://t.co/QnxoM0fj8h Chris— easyJet (@easyJet) July 16, 2019
This isn’t the first time an airline has been called out for being unaccommodating to breastfeeding mothers. In 2017, a breastfeeding mother was booted of a Spirit Airlines flight for allegedly refusing to comply with instructions before takeoff. Another mother faced issues with a gate agent who asked her “how many boobs do you have,” while trying to board with a cooler of breast milk, a pump, and her personal belongings.
But it’s not always bad. In fact, one flight attendant actually breastfed a passenger’s baby after the mother ran out of formula on the flight.