Update: Think it doesn't matter if you call, email, write to complain? Freedom Airlines has issued a letter stating that in the future they will not request that nursing mothers cover up with blankets, and that they have taken disciplinary action against the flight attendant involved in the incident. To see the full letter, click here. More updates, including information on a planned "nurse-in" are in the comments section.
This story was a little too incredible to not write about. Feel like sharing your response in the comments section?
Yesterday the Burlington Free Press and MSNBC reported that a mother from New Mexico who was traveling with her family on a Delta/Freedom Airlines plane leaving from Vermont, was kicked off the flight for nursing her daughter. She has filed a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission. According to the Burlington Free Press:
Gillette said she was seated in the second-to-last row, next to the window, when she began to breast-feed her daughter. Breast-feeding helps babies with the altitude changes through takeoff and landings, Gillette said. She said she was being discreet -- her husband was seated between her and the aisle -- and no part of her breast was showing.
Gillette said that's when a flight attendant approached her, trying to hand her a blanket and directing her to cover up. Gillette said she told the attendant she was exercising her legal right to breast-feed, declining the blanket. That's when Gillette alleges the attendant told her, "You are offending me," and told her to cover up her daughter's head with the blanket.
"I declined," Gillette said in her complaint.
Moments later, a Delta ticket agent approached the Gillettes and said that the flight attendant was having the family removed from the flight.
Gillette said she didn't raise her voice -- not wanting to make a scene in the current jumpy air travel atmosphere -- and complied with the ticket agent, crying as she exited the plane.
I'm afraid that the response from Freedom Airlines was less than reassuring.
"A breast-feeding mother is perfectly acceptable on an aircraft, providing she is feeding the child in a discreet way," that doesn't bother others, Skellon said. "She was asked to use a blanket just to provide a little more discretion, she was given a blanket, and she refused to use it, and that's all I know."
I guess my thoughts on this could be summed up as follows: Breastfeeding is normal. Breastfeeding is good for the health of babies and the public as a whole. Breastfeeding is not indecent, and breastfeeding women do their best to be discreet when feeding their babies in public. Breastfeeding on an airplane helps regulate ear pressure. Screaming babies make flights unpleasant for everyone.
If you'd like to send Delta an email here's their complaint form. I've already received a copy of one complaint letter from a pediatrician. And Jen, in her letter posted on The Lactivist pretty well summed it up with her comment: "I'd ask how many Delta and Freedom Airlines employees enjoy their daily meals with a blanket over their heads."