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Breastfeeding on American Airlines

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Just a few weeks after the Delta breastfeeding incident, I found myself boarding a flight of my own with my 10 week old son and my mother in tow. We were flying American Airlines from Columbus to Chicago so that I could speak in a few different sessions as a large search marketing conference. (online marketing being my "real" job.)

The flight there was pretty uneventful. We were told that we had to move from the front of the plane (we were in the 4th row) to the back of the plane (second to the last row) because we were traveling with an infant. I found that odd and no explanation was offered (though I did later find out what the deal was.) I had already nursed Emmitt in the airport while we waited to board, so I knew that the other passengers were aware that I'd likely be breastfeeding on the plane.

No one ever said a word. Not that I expected them to, but seriously, not a word. Neither did Emmitt. He nursed happily during take-off and then again when we began our descent about an hour later. In between he dozed or smiled and laughed. Pretty easy flight for us. Ironically, the noise on the flight came from the two small dogs that were traveling in "under the seat" carriers a few rows in front of us. Those poor dogs howled for most of the flight, I'd imagine because they don't know how to pop their ears.

Our stay in Chicago went well...we arrived early Wednesday with plans to fly out Thursday evening. Emmitt nursed all over the hotel and even in the speaker ready room for the conference (I was polishing my talk). In fact, things went so well that the show organizers (who I've known for years) wanted to know if I'd bring him to the next show in New York this April. LOL.

After a mad dash to the airport thinking that we'd miss our flight home, we arrived at the gate just 5 minutes before boarding. Once again, we were told that we'd have to move to the back of the plane. This time the stewardess came back specifically to talk to us. She explained that the back of the plane has 3 oxygen masks per row instead of 2 and that infant life vests were located under the back seats. In other words, the back of the plane is specially equipped safety wise for those traveling with children in their laps. (I'd assumed they just wanted us back there because it's louder and the engines would drown out the sound of fussy babies, lol.)

A few minutes later as we were moving onto the runway and I was getting Emmitt situated to nurse, she came back to speak with us again. You'll never guess what she said...

"Enjoy your meal little guy!"

LOL. :) See? That's how it SHOULD be. We even chatted some as I was deplaning about birth and babies and such. Thus, I came home prepared to write about my great experience traveling on American Airlines...that is until we landed.

We had gate checked our stroller. However, it was cold that night, so they announced that all gate checked luggage would be going to baggage claim. We asked if that included the stroller and were told that ALL gate checked baggage was going to baggage claim.

Every try to carry all your crap PLUS a two month old through an airport? See, this is why I'd tried so hard (and failed) to get the sling thing worked out. Instead, we traded off carrying him (almost 15 pounds of chubby fun) and then mom sat with him while I gathered all our luggage.

They broke our stroller.

Yup, that's right, nearly snapped the wheel clean off. So that meant I got to stand in line with all the folks with missing luggage only to be told that American Airlines accepts no responsibility for the things that are broken on their plane.

Nice, huh? So American Airlines flight attendants get a thumbs up from me, but their baggage department and customer service center get a HUGE thumbs down.


  1. Anonymous Jax | 9:32 AM |  

    Can they do that? Just refuse to accept responsibility? Seems kind of off :(

  2. Blogger Jennifer | 10:37 AM |  

    They sure can, as long as their official policy says "not responsible" blah blah...which I'm sure it does, though I never read it before buying my ticket.

    That said, it's still an idiotic decision on their part. It's probably a $25 part to put a new axle and wheel on, which my husband could do if we bought the parts. So for $25, they could make a good impression on a customer that will then pass the story on to others.

    Or, they can be jerks about it and get the negative publicity that comes when people blog about stuff.

    Whatever. They're counting on people not being mad enough to pitch a fit to customer service about it. I'll likely send a letter stating as such.

  3. Anonymous Colleen | 3:42 PM |  

    I hope you do send a letter. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and all that jazz. In the letter you should include the URL of this post so they can see that you're telling the world. That should grab the attention of at least one PR/marketing type who understands the impact that a blog post like this can have.

    I was glad to hear about your positive experience regarding breastfeeding in public. It's nice to hear happy stories when what we tend to hear about most in the news are the troubles that breastfeeing women experience.

  4. Blogger K | 4:24 PM |  

    Jennifer -- I hate to fly. Hate it. ANd I have terrible luck with baggage, so I feel your pain. Great post, thouhg, happy to see that AA at least is on the ball regarding how to treat a nursing mom.

  5. Anonymous Sinead | 8:42 AM |  

    I've had a stroller broken too whilst flying, though with a different carrier, and the same thing happened!

    Given that most airlines take that attitude towards possessions, I'd hate to see their response if it was a person who was hurt as a result of something they did!!

  6. Anonymous Anonymous | 12:47 PM |  

    You were lucky you came across a pilot AA FA because I have run into a couple of very rude stews. It is nice to know some of AA's employees are good.

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