A young mother from New York says an airplane crew member relegated her to an in-flight lavatory after denying her request that she be allowed to pump breast milk in the back of the plane.
The airline says it has since apologized for a "crewmember's error."
Molly Guy, the owner and creative director of the bridal atelier Stone Fox Bride in Manhattan, said she was on board a JetBlue flight from the Big Apple to Oakland, California, when she asked an attendant if she could quickly sit in the pit area so she could pump in semi-privacy. Though the space was vacant, she said, the attendant denied Guy’s request and suggested she remove herself to the restroom instead.
“It’s a six-hour flight, so I had expected I would pump once or twice,” Guy told ABC News after she landed. “I was sitting next to an elderly couple and didn’t want to pump in my seat, so I asked one of the attendants if I could pump in the back area of the plane where [the crew] gather.”
The male attendant, working near the rear of the plane, told Guy that staff needed to sit in the area during turbulence, she said, though she pointed out that there was no turbulence at the time and that his colleague’s seat was vacant.
“He told me, ‘for the comfortability of other passengers could you go in the bathroom, I think it’s best to go in the bathroom,” Guy recalled.
Taking umbrage with this response, the bridal shop owner decided to share her grievance on social media from the restroom.
“Writing this from a JetBlue flight where I have been banned from pumping in the back area due to the 'comfortability' of the passengers,” wrote Guy on the Stone Fox Bride’s Instagram account. “Ouch. Six hours from NYC to Oakland. Have you ever tried hand expressing eight ounces of breast milk crouched in an airplane bathroom with a line of passengers outside the door? ?#?notfun?. @jetblue”
To add insult to injury, Guy said none of the surrounding passengers expressed any discomfort to her at all. But if onlookers were mum in the air, others were all but screaming on the ground.
Followers on social media responded to Guy’s post with nearly 2,000 “likes,” as well as a stream of comments blasting the airline for what many deemed an unacceptable reaction to nursing. The post was, in turn, shared by various mom blogs across the Internet.
“@JetBlue waiting to see how you attempt to make this massive error right,” wrote one angry commenter. “It's not acceptable in any way, shape, or form to shame mothers feeding their children the best food on this planet for the comfort of the ignorant. You deserve a huge fine for denying this woman and her child their health.”
“BOYCOTTING @jetblue” posted another.
“The US likes to tell everyone how important it is to breastfeed for a year and then make it ridiculously difficult to do so, especially for moms working out of the home. It is truly maddening,” noted yet another voice in support of Guy.
Morgan Johnston, a corporate communications manager at JetBlue, suggested in a written statement that the flight attendant did not correctly follow the airline's policy.
“We have a clear policy on accommodating breastfeeding mothers that states any nursing mother wishing to breastfeed their infants have the right to do so in any public accommodation including the aircraft cabin,” wrote Johnston. “The policy also states that crewmembers may not suggest to the nursing mother that she use a blanket to cover-up or go to the lavatory for breastfeeding purposes.”
Johnston added, “As soon as we were made aware of this situation, we reached out to the aircraft to correct it and apologized to the customer for the crewmember's error.”
But in Guy’s opinion, the crewmember should have been better informed of the policy before the event ever took place.
“I don’t fault this gentleman, although it sucks that he hasn’t been educated,” said Guy. “He ended up apologizing to me because I think my post got back to him. But I’m more upset with the company for not having a policy in place that is well-enforced should the situation arise.
“It’s the first time I’m away from my kids,” she added. “I’m traveling with five freezer bags and six ice packs and a huge breast pump, and it’s an added obstacle and embarrassing one to have to run into.”