A woman breastfeeding her baby on a plane was asked to cover up to ‘be respectful of people of other cultures’

A worker cleans the windshield of an Air France-KLM plane at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in Roissy, France, in June 2019.

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A worker cleans the windshield of an Air France-KLM plane at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in Roissy, France, in June 2019.
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Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

  • Shelby Angel said she took a Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) plane from San Francisco to Amsterdam with her one-year-old daughter last month.
  • When she started breastfeeding her baby, a female flight attendant tried make her cover up with a blanket, Angel said.
  • Angel explained that her baby “doesn’t like to be covered,” adding: “I do my best to be discreet, but sometimes some skin shows.”
  • KLM told her that while it allows breastfeeding on flights, it may ask passengers to cover up “should other passengers be offended by this.”
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Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) is facing criticism after it asked a woman who was breastfeeding on its plane to cover up to “be respectful of people of other cultures.”

Shelby Angel had been breastfeeding her one-year-old daughter on a San Francisco-to-Amsterdam flight last month when a female flight attendant tried to give her a blanket, Angel wrote in a Sunday Facebook post.

Read more: American Airlines made a doctor wrap a blanket around herself because a flight attendant found her summer outfit ‘inappropriate’

Angel said her daughter is “a busy toddler who doesn’t like to be covered. I do my best to be discreet, but sometimes some skin shows.”

She says the unnamed flight attendant told her: “If you want to continue doing the breastfeeding, you need to cover yourself.”

A KLM flight attendant in business class.

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A KLM flight attendant in business class.
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KLM

Angel said she complained to KLM after her trip, and was told that she needed to “be respectful” of other cultures.

“I was told that I needed to be respectful of people of other cultures and that this flight attendant’s response was in line with company policy,” Angel said. She said that KLM showed it has “antiquated values that shame women’s bodies.”

She added that she had never received any complaints from flight attendants or passengers in the past about her breastfeeding.

KLM clarified in a Wednesday tweet that it allows breastfeeding on flights, but reiterated that “we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this.”

Read more: Dutch airline KLM apologized after a tweet telling followers you’re more likely to survive a plane crash if you’re sitting at the back

Women breastfeed their children during a public event to promote the benefits of breastfeeding in Bogotá, Colombia, in August 2018.

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Women breastfeed their children during a public event to promote the benefits of breastfeeding in Bogotá, Colombia, in August 2018.
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Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images

Airlines such as Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic allow breastfeeding on planes. Many others do not have official policies, but train their crew to help breastfeeding mothers.

Last year EasyJet apologized after a male flight attendant asked a British passenger to be “discreet” while she was breastfeeding her son, despite the airline’s policy expressly allowing women to breastfeed without interference.

Earlier this week KLM apologized for a tweet from one of its verified regional accounts that said where on a plane that you are most likely to survive a crash.