Dutch airline KLM is facing a storm of criticism for asking mothers to cover up while breastfeeding their babies during flights to avoid offending other passengers.
"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," the airline tweeted in response to a query by a Twitter user Heather Graham over the company's breastfeeding policy.
The matter first came up after California-based mother Shelby Angel said in a viral Facebook post that she was approached by a flight attendant while breastfeeding her one-year-old during a flight from San Francisco to Amsterdam.
"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," Angel wrote, urging breastfeeding mothers to not fly with KLM.
The flier said when she lodged a formal complaint to the airline, she was told the attendant's response was "in line with company policy", which made her decide to make the incident and the company's response public.
"KLM would rather hold up antiquated values that shame women's bodies," she concluded.
Since Wednesday, the airline has faced a barrage of criticism on social media on the issue, with many users exhorting the carrier to transfer people complaining about breastfeeding to other seats, instead of approaching the mothers and asking them to cover up .
Dozens of women from different countries are flooding KLM's twitter feed with breastfeeding photos as a gesture of protest, with some covering their faces with a cloth to mock the airline requesting Angel to cover up. EFE-EPA