Airline KLM has doubled down on its position that mothers may need to cover up when breastfeeding on flights in order to “keep the peace on board”.
The Dutch carrier came under fire earlier this week from mum Shelby Angel, who said she was told to “cover herself” by a member of staff on a flight from San Francisco to Amsterdam.
Angel, who was flying with her one-year old daughter last month, urged parents not to fly with KLM following her experience.
KLM confirmed to HuffPost UK that the attendant’s position was correct – as well as posting the same message on its social media accounts.
On Tuesday in a statement on Facebook, KLM explained that although its official policy is to “permit” breastfeeding on board, mothers may be required to wear a blanket while feeding to appease other travellers.
“As an international airline company, we transport passengers with a variety of backgrounds,” the statement read. “Not all passengers feel comfortable with breastfeeding in their vicinity and sometimes these passengers complain to the cabin staff.
“To keep the peace on board, in such cases we will try to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone and that shows respect for everyone’s comfort and personal space. This may involve a request to a mother to cover her breast.”
The airline shared a statement on Twitter, too.
Angel, from Sacramento, California, originally posted to Facebook on Sunday explaining how she had been told by an attendant to put a blanket over her child. It was only the third flight she’d been on with her baby.
“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.”
The attendant reportedly then said that if someone complained, Angel would have to deal with it herself. She was not aware of anyone making a complaint.
“The rest of this flight, that flight attendant would not so much as look me in the eyes,” Angel wrote. “I felt extremely uncomfortable and disrespected. 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.”
The mother submitted a formal complaint to the airline when she arrived home. Other mums and lactation support groups on Facebook have said they won’t be flying with KLM after the incident.
One wrote: “Breastfeeding my daughter is absolutely essential on a flight so I won’t be flying KLM.”
Another commented: “Disgusting policy! Are you going to stop serving alcohol to ‘respect other cultures’?” While someone else wrote: “Imagine a world where feeding a baby is offensive.”