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Tuesday, November 14, 2006It seems ironic that I ran across this story shortly after making a post about holiday travel and breastfeeding... Apparently a New Mexico woman was actually kicked off a plane after she refused to cover up while nursing her 22 month old daughter. I have to admit I'm floored...I wouldn't have been surprised to have heard about a woman being asked to cover up (even though that's totally lame) but I never would have fathomed that an airline would actually remove a mom and her family from the flight. Talk about idiotic!
From the Burlington Free Press:
Emily Gillette, 27, filed a charge with the commission last week -- a step citizens can take before suing in court -- after a Freedom Airlines flight attendant allegedly told Gillette that she offended her, ordering her to cover up.
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.
Absolutely ridiculous. Delta and Freedom Airlines should be ASHAMED of themselves.
I've sent off my own letter to Delta and Freedom Airlines that reads as follows...
I am writing to express my dismay at the actions of flight attendants and Delta ticket agents in regards to having Emily Gillette and her family removed from Delta Flight 6160 on October 13th because Gillette chose to exercise her LEGAL RIGHT to nurse her child on board.
While Gillette was nursing discreetly, the reality remains that even if she had chosen to expose a full breast while nursing, her right to do so is legally protected.
Freedom Airlines Spokesman Paul Skellon's comment:
"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."
shows no sign of apology from the company, nor of understanding of a mother's legal right to nurse in public. It also ignores the fact that even if a mother was ok with covering herself and her child with a blanket, the reality is that many children will simply refuse to nurse with their heads covered.
I'd ask how many Delta and Freedom Airlines employees enjoy their daily meals with a blanket over their heads.
I would strongly encourage both Delta and Freedom Airlines to acknowledge the error in judgement that was made by both the flight attendant and the ticket agent and to issue a public apology to Ms. Gillette. I'd also encourage them to properly train their employees as to the legal rights of nursing moms so as to avoid future issues.
The Lactivist Breastfeeding Blog
It's sad to think that these types of incidents are still happening. That said, it continues to outline the need of not only nursing moms to bravely nurse where no mom has nursed before (tee hee), but also of ALL of us to stand up and shout for other women's rights when they are being trampled. I'd like to think that if I, or the many Lactivist readers have been on that flight that we would have stood up and fought for that woman's right to remain on the plane or that we would have exited with them in a sign of protest again the action.
UPDATE: Someone on a board that I frequent called Delta Airlines to ask what their policy was on breastfeeding on the planes. You guys will just LOVE this...
According to her, the man she spoke with said that the issue is at the flight attendant's discretion and that yes, they MAY require you to cover up. He went on to say that if that causes concern for a nursing mom, he suggests they come prepared with a bottle.