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Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

topic posted Fri, November 17, 2006 - 10:31 PM by 
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Woman kicked off plane for breast-feeding baby
Files complaint saying she was being discreet, airline disagrees Updated: 4:07 p.m. AKT Nov 16, 2006

BURLINGTON, Vt. - A woman who claims she was kicked off an airplane because she was breast-feeding her baby has filed a complaint against two airlines, her attorney said.

Emily Gillette, 27, of Santa Fe, N.M., filed the complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission late last week against Delta Air Lines and Freedom Airlines, said her attorney, Elizabeth Boepple. Freedom was operating the Delta flight between Burlington and New York City.

Gillette said she was discreetly breast-feeding her 22-month-old daughter on Oct. 13 as their flight prepared to leave Burlington International Airport. She said she was seated by the window in the next-to-last row, her husband was seated between her and the aisle and no part of her breast was showing.


A flight attendant tried to hand her a blanket and told her to cover up, Gillette said. She declined, telling the flight attendant she had a legal right to breast-feed her baby.

Moments later, a Delta ticket agent approached and said the flight attendant had asked that the family be removed from the flight, Gillette said. She said she didn’t want to make a scene and complied.

“It embarrassed me. That was my first reaction, which is a weird reaction for doing something so good for a child,” Gillette said Monday.

A Freedom spokesman said Gillette was asked to leave the flight after she declined the blanket.


“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, said Paul Skellon, spokesman for Phoenix-based Freedom. “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.”

A complaint against two airlines was filed with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, although Executive Director Robert Appel said he was barred by state law from confirming the complaint. He said state law allows a mother to breast-feed in public.

The Vermont Human Rights Commission investigates complaints and determines whether discrimination may have occurred. The parties to a complaint are given six months to reach a settlement. If none is reached, the commission then decides whether to go to court. A complainant can file a separate suit in state court at any time.
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  • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

    Sat, November 18, 2006 - 5:50 AM
    rawrrrrr!!!! stories like this make me so mad, i could scream!!!

    we're going to hawaii after the new year and i'll be curious how we're treated ... it's two long flights from philadelphia to oahu .. abby will be nursing alot ...

    i guess we'll wait and see ...
  • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

    Sat, November 18, 2006 - 6:34 AM
    i think they would've had to have removed me kicking and screaming. i mean, why go quietly? maybe it's just me...
    • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

      Sat, November 18, 2006 - 6:53 AM
      I just had a similiar experience on a flight from hawaii to California, although it was in mid-flight. A man BEHIND and diagnol to me was making rude comments, and going out of his way to stare at me nursing my son and saying loudly to cover up and actually rang the bell to the stewardness to complain. She didn't say anthing to me. But I too similiarly felt embarrassed with blood boiling anger. I complied to cover up only to protect my child. The next time I fly I am going armed with literature about breast feeding and legal rights.
      • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

        Sat, November 18, 2006 - 7:03 AM
        Oh and this was after the guy complained because my son was sitting down peacefully playing with his animals and squealing with delight. I began to nurse my son at his request, relieved that it would quiet things down only to find this created even more complaint from this guy.

        For people to expect children to be seen and not heard is unatural and outdated. To expect them to sit six plus hours on an airplane like an adult is discrimination. To give the parents a hard time for not forcing their children to do so is persecution.

        To persecute mothers for nursing in flight, which ofcourse quiets and calms the baby or child is just plain insane.

        It takes great strength to be a mother, and even more so in this time where there is so much resistance and destruction of everything pure and natural. Power to you all!

        I AM THE STRENGTH AND ABILITY TO OVERCOME ALL RESITANCE!
  • an apology from Delta

    Sat, November 18, 2006 - 12:44 PM
    www.burlingtonfreepress.com/apps...ticle


    Saturday, November 18, 2006



    Freedom Airlines Responds
    Paul Skellon, Freedom Airlines Vice President of Corporate Communications, issued this response "to concerned citizens who contacted me" after Free Press stories about the issue.

    "Please accept the following in response to your e-mail of November 14, 2006. At the outset I would like to emphasize how seriously Mesa Air Group and Freedom Airlines takes this situation. As soon as the facts were brought to our attention, we immediately launched a thorough investigation. We concluded that the flight attendant in question acted contrary to the Company's expectations. We believe our disciplinary action was appropriate and was taken after considering all of the facts leading to this incident. I do believe it is worth noting that the events described in the article failed to include the fact that the flight attendant in question was young and new to her job. Furthermore, following the incident, the Captain apologized to the passenger and her family and immediately requested that they be re-boarded for their flight (an offer the family refused).

    "We are reinforcing the manner this situation should have been handled with our front line employees. Our handling of this investigation and resolution of any deficiencies found to have occurred were focused on raising awareness of this issue for our employees. I hope you can appreciate our efforts to prevent any similar occurrences in the future.

    "To clarify our policy, Freedom Airlines firmly supports a mother's right to breast feed a child. We understand that air travel presents particular difficulties to a nursing mother as airport facilities and aircraft are not designed to maximize privacy for passengers. Moreover while blankets are available for passengers convenience, we do not expect, (and will not in the future request) that nursing mothers use a blanket to cover their child while nursing. My comment in the original article to the contrary was not an accurate statement of our policy. I thank you for expressing your views to us and truly hope that you find our response both genuine and satisfactory."


    Regards,
    Paul Skellon
    Vice President Corporate Communications



    Freedom Airlines has publicly responded to the incident in which a passenger was asked to leave one of its flights after she refused to cover up while breast-feeding. But the response contains incorrect information, according to the passenger who was booted.

    In its response, the airline says that the flight attendant who ordered Emily Gillette of New Mexico off a flight departing from Burlington International Airport acted contrary to company expectations and was disciplined. Company spokesman Paul Skellon said that he received numerous e-mails about the incident, and sent a letter to each person explaining the situation.

    "We concluded that the flight attendant in question acted contrary to the Company’s expectations," spokesman Paul Skellon wrote in an e-mail. "We believe our disciplinary action was appropriate and was taken after considering all of the facts leading to this incident."

    Skellon also said that the captain of the flight apologized to the passenger and her family and "immediately requested that they be re-boarded for their flight," which the family refused.

    Contacted Friday, Gillette said that is untrue. She said the airline "never offered" her to get back on the plane.

    "I would have jumped at the opportunity," Gillette said.

    Gillette was on a Delta Air Lines flight operated by Freedom Airlines on Oct. 13, when, after a three hour delay, she began to breast-feed her 22-month-old daughter as they prepared for take off. A flight attendant allegedly handed Gillette a blanket and told her to cover up. When Gillette declined, the attendant allegedly told Gillette she was offending her, and had her removed from the plane.

    Delta provided ground transportation, hotel accommodations and rebooked the family on a nonDelta flight the next morning. Gillette said she filed a charge against the airlines with the Vermont Human Rights Commission this month because breast-feeding is protected under Vermont’s Public Accommodations Law.

    Skellon said he initially misstated the company’s breast-feeding policy. In a Free Press story which ran on Tuesday, Skellon said, "A breast-feeding mother is perfectly acceptable on an aircraft, providing she is feeding the child in a discreet way."

    In his Friday response, Skellon had this to say: "To clarify our policy, Freedom Airlines firmly supports a mother’s right to breast feed a child. We understand that air travel presents particular difficulties to a nursing passengers. Moreover while blankets are available for passengers convenience, we do not expect (and will not in the future request) that nursing mothers use a blanket to cover their child while nursing. My comment in the original article to the contrary was not an accurate statement of our policy."

    ~~~~~~~~~


    I got this off a BF mailing list I am on:

    A message from Emily, the mom kicked off the plane…

    Freedom has lied!!!!

    i got a call today from the reporter in vermont, who read me the quote from
    freedom. i want to be very clear with all of you. i was NEVER invited back
    onto the plane. i begged to be let back on, i cried about getting stuck in
    burlington. i have witnesses who gave me their names, who SAW the entire
    conversation between me and the COPILOT (not the pilot). i am so absolutey
    crushed that they would try to turn this into MY fault and MY choice and i
    need to be so clear with all of you women that the latest statmenet out of
    Freedom is the most horendous thing for me, emotionally, to date.
    This will all come out in the wash. I gave the reporter in Burlington the
    names of the witnesses and she is out tracking them down. So, keep your eyes
    on the burlington free press, and help me get the word out that these people
    have LIED and soiled my word and i am devastated. i can't express more
    passionately the feelings that this has brought up.
    again, after that rant, i want to thank you all for the bottom of my heart.
    today is a tough day for me. but, more than ever, i feel this Fox interview
    tonight is crucial. They cannot get away with lying about the incident.
    awful.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Emily Gillette
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Well good for Freedom/Delta for clarifying that "if they are discreet" crap. (I don't mean to say discretion is a bad thing, I just have a problem with it being a listed "rule" since the term itself - discreet - is so subjective and open to interpretation, and it implies that BF is something which needs to be hidden away. I think the level of discretion one uses is a choice made only by each individual mother.)
    • Re: an apology from Delta

      Sat, November 18, 2006 - 2:46 PM
      True or not, I am copying their apology to bring with me on my next flight!

      Right on the mama has filed a law suit!
      • Re: an apology from Delta

        Sat, November 18, 2006 - 5:11 PM
        i've sat in the front row, with no more discretion than is typical (shirt covers half, baby covers the other half) breastfeeding my daughter, and have never gotten anything more than a sideways glance. i would lose my shit if i were confronted in that manner. they would have an easier time switching flight attendants than putting me on a another flight.
  • Unsu...
     

    kicking and screaming

    Sun, November 19, 2006 - 12:59 AM
    I'm reading a lot of indirect condemnation of this mother for quietly leaving the plane. Maybe I'm wrong (by far, not the first time).

    The desire to avoid confrontation does not make this mother's struggle any less real and it does not make her way of fighting the fight any less valid than anyone else's.

    Sorry for ranting, but this really struck a nerve.
    • Re: kicking and screaming

      Sun, November 19, 2006 - 1:17 PM
      No way, not condeming her for leaving the plane. If anything just remarking on her ability to handle it that calmly because I just don't have calm rational. I'd have probably made a stink and the next thing you know you'd be reading about how I got arrested because I refused to leave the plane!
      Truth be told even if it did inconvinience her it is important to remember that often when you challange flight attendants with too much aggression you risk the chance of federal charges being levied against you because of all the new ridiculour post 911 laws. The way she handled it she actually is in a better place to continue lodging her complaint.
      • Re: kicking and screaming

        Mon, November 20, 2006 - 10:57 AM
        yeah, I definately applaud her! And the reality is that it would most likely cause more trauma to the baby than it would be worth, but I honestly don't know if I could keep from loosing it. And I'm big enough that they would have a hard time "removing" me from the plane if I just sat there. Yep, wouldda been bad and wouldda sued if they caused any harm at all to either of us.
  • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

    Mon, November 20, 2006 - 9:12 AM
    Got this from my local Babywearing group, in case anyone is interested:
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Nursing mothers and their supporters will be gathering on Tuesday,
    November 21, 2006 at 10 AM, local time, at Delta airport counters
    across the country to protest the treatment a nursing mother endured
    at the hands of a Freedom Airlines flight attendant. Freedom
    Airlines is owned and operated by Mesa Airlines who is a contractor
    for Delta in some regional markets.
    From:
    www.mothering.com/discussio...thread.php
    • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

      Wed, November 22, 2006 - 2:26 PM
      i totally am not condemning her. i realized on reviewing my post that it may have come off that way. she handled an uncomfortable and inappropriate situation in the way that felt right to her. like yunipurr said, i just don't have that reserve. i manifest insult in a rather aggressive manner. and you know what, this woman did not just slink off the plane, her story made national headlines. she is definately a strong personality, and like all mamas, needs the support of the community at large to keep breastfeeding from being swept away in a sea of puritanical bullshit.
  • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

    Mon, November 27, 2006 - 10:28 AM
    Moral of this story is: if someone hands you a blanket while feeding your baby (despite I prefer to call 22 months a toddler not baby!) TAKE A POLITE HINT! TAKE THE BLANKET!

    I have three kids, and my husband travels a lot. With my first baby we'd accompany him on many business trips. My first baby was on an airplane 50 times before she turned 2. Flying is free for children under two.

    I breastfed freely on airplanes. Never had a problem. Many times I sat near a bottle baby and attendants seemed to prefered my breastfeeding because they didn't have to be bothered with the extra trash or requests to warm milk.

    Good Luck to the Attourney Elizabeth Boepple: www.wittenetal.com/Boepple.htm

    • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

      Mon, November 27, 2006 - 11:58 AM
      Covering any of my babies, or should I say trying to, has been somwhat of an open invitation to them to "raise the curtains" so to speak. For me, and most likely for the mom in question, a blanket is more of a hinderance than a help in the "discretion" department. And anyway, how would you like to eat w/a blanket over your head?

      Also, often ppl end up thinking that I'm snuggling a sleeping baby when I nurse w/out covering. If I cover, they KNOW I'm nursing.
      • Unsu...
         

        Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

        Mon, November 27, 2006 - 12:35 PM
        Alexandra--
        I fly frequently between Turkey and the USA. On my plane, there are many muslim women...many en route to Saudi Arabia or Iran, etc. Some of these women wear burkas or rather I should say hijabs.
        I have seen them expose breasts to feed their babies without covering up and without shame.
        It is seen as a natural act to them and not a big deal.
        If someone wants to cover up with a blanket, that is perfectly fine but I don't think someone should be obligated to just because someone else may be uncomfortable with accidentally seeing a bit of a breast.
        Let's try not to inflame here.
        • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

          Mon, November 27, 2006 - 4:54 PM
          Krista,

          Do Turkish women even wear bourkas or hijabs?

          So you have seen more than one of these Muslim ladies on planes, breastfeeding, and exposing their breasts! Hooray for Turkey! Let's all go there.

          In Lebanon right next door you can sit between two strange men in a cab and breastfeed, no one cares.

          I have also seen Saudi women drink Starbucks under their chador without showing their MOUTHS!

          My point is: If you want to be discreet you can. If you don't, you might risk someone handing you a blanket.

          TAKE THE BLANKET. YOU WEREN'T BEING AS DISCREET AS YOU THOUGHT!

          You want me to expose my breasts, but keep my opinions to myself.

          There's an obvious label you can insert here--->
          • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

            Mon, November 27, 2006 - 5:14 PM
            No one has told you to keep your opinions to yourself but if you are prepared to have such strong opinions then DO NOT be surprised when others have ones that are equally as strong. You came into a very peaceful thread and seem to be ready to cast your opinions about whether or not this woman on the plane was being discreet simply because one person decided she was not. As the article states she was in the second to the last row in the window seat with her husband seated on the ailse. Her child is nearly two so her head probably covered most of the breast anyway, plus the lady states that she was being discreet. You have every right to an opinion and I have not heard a single person say you do not but obviously some of us don't agree and that is our right. In my opinion no child should have to sweat it out under a blanket just because one person has an issue with public breastfeeding.
            No one said a thing about wanting you to expose your breast so please don't place words into our mouths and please do continue with respectful dialouge.
            • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

              Mon, November 27, 2006 - 5:55 PM
              Yuni,

              1. I do not think subjects such as "kicking and screaming" define a peaceful topic.

              2. I am not surprised by strong opinions. I thrive on them. I love a good debate. I *AM*surprised but the "let us try not to inflame" remark.

              It appears as soon as I take an opposing position here, someone gets inflamed!

              So again here's my inflaming position:

              TAKE THE BLANKET! YOU WEREN'T BEING AS DISCREET AS YOU THOUGHT!



              • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

                Mon, November 27, 2006 - 6:08 PM
                Alexandra there is no need to shout. We all saw your opinion the first time and yes it was a peaceful discussion until you arrived. I think all of us in here were getting along just fine. Just because someone had an opinion that employed the words "Kicking and screaming" doesn't mean we were not all at peace with one another's opinions. It was quite respectful in this thread and I for one would appreciate it not being derailed.
                Regardless of whether or not you love a good debate you are somehow not communicating in a way that suggests you are interested in respectful debate or conversation instead you are coming off as needing to be right. Of course that is just my opinion but perhaps you should work on that.
                • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

                  Mon, November 27, 2006 - 10:24 PM
                  www.alphamom.com/site/wond...e_bot.html

                  Thank you, Delta Airlines. Thank you for finally taking a stand against the #1 scourge of the skies: nursing women.

                  Last month a woman nursing her child was asked to leave the plane after she refused to hide under a blanket. She claims she was in the “next to last row” in the “window seat.” That her husband was next to her, and none of her breast was showing. As if it matters, that none of the passengers could actually see her. If they can’t see her, they could surely hear all that contented suckling. And what about Jesus, ma’am? As we know, he’s watching us all, especially those of us at an increased altitude. Do you think he wants to look at that?

                  Now Little Miss My Child Needs to Eat is suing, and no one, not even Barbara Walters, has supported the two airlines as they struggle to help everyone forget what breasts are for. Oh, Barbara. I'll never forget that moment last year, when she pursed her lips and told the world what they could do with Breasts on a Plane. I can still remember that look in her eyes: so haunted, so judgmental.The only thing I ever got out of my breasts was some wood shavings, she seemed to say. And that was when I was interviewing Anwar Sadat.

                  Now more than ever, someone's got to take a stand. Every day, the International League of Breast Fetishists continue their breast-forcing campaign. The World Health Organization claims that breastfeeding is the most important thing you can do for a baby’s health. The American Academy of Pediatrics insists that there are “health, nutrional, immunologic, developmental, psychologic, social, economic, and environmental benefits” to breastfeeding. The CDC is committed to promoting breastfeeding around the world.

                  Perverts.

                  Even the companies—Target, Starbucks, and Toys 'R' Us, for instance—who frequently attempt to save us from breasts, trot out their “official policies,” which are filled with a bunch of hippy-dippy, women-have-rights nonsense, the moment they come under fire. Thank goodness their employees don’t actually know about these policies and can cast out the nursing women, or at least humiliate them. Can you imagine what our shopping excursions would be without these brave souls? We’d have to look really closely at some woman sitting in a corner with her child, and when we did, we’d maybe see parts of boobs.

                  Some parts of the breasts are okay--the cleavage, for instance--but the utilitarian parts are, objectively speaking, abhorrent. Victoria’s Secret employees understand this. They spend their days supporting and lifting the objects in question, so they know. And when a nursing woman was asked to feed her child in the employee bathroom, that’s what they were trying to teach her—that those circles in the middle of the breasts are the dirty bathroom parts. And yet she failed to understand. Her response? “I don't eat in the bathroom and my daughter doesn't eat in the bathroom.”

                  You don’t? But then where do you eat your nightly set of Twix Bars? Where do you stuff the wrappers, if not in the tank? This world doesn’t make sense anymore.

                  Another important issue surrounding public breastfeeding is safety. A local parks director finally made this clear, after a woman at a community pool wanted to stay and breastfeed her baby while her five year old was swimming. “When you see something like that, it draws people's attention from the pool. You kind of take a double take, triple take, then you sink to the bottom of the pool.”

                  Yes.

                  Breasts cause people to sink. In fact, women’s breasts are killing people all across the country. How many headlines do we need to see before we take action? “Nursing Mother Kills Twelve at Water Park.” “Local Man Views Nip, Drowns in Slurpee.” “Raised Eyebrows Caused By Breast Feeding Increase Chance of Headaches, Bad Moods, Brain Cancer.”

                  Nursing women are killers, and they must be stopped.

                  If, like me, you want nothing more than for these nursing women to stop turning you on, you can take action. I urge you to stand and fight, before a breastmilk tsunami sweeps us all away. Thank you.
                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.
                    Unsu...
                     

                    Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

                    Tue, November 28, 2006 - 1:37 AM
                    Too funny...This rocks! Thanks for sharing!

                    Alexandra, I added the "kicking and screaming" subject because it related to my specific post, not because it was applicable to the thread at large. Since text is a notoriously misunderstood medium, I misread the intent behind at least half of the posts I was responding to. Apologies to those so affected.

                    I used a blanket most of the time when I was feeding my kid in public, but mainly that was for my own modesty about my stretch-marked belly and later it was because he was easily distracted. The blanket I used most often was bright yellow and generally attracted more attention than if I had just been discretely tucking him under my shirt. I once nursed my son under a rather transparent shawl while walking around our local RenFest. I didn't notice the looks I was getting, but my husband did and we had a good laugh about it when he told me about them later.

                    All of this is my rather rambling (hey, it's late) way of saying that I completely support breastfeeding in public, private, wherever. If a blanket works for you, great. If not, great. Hell, I don't care if you want to go topless. If the disgusting sweaty guy on the train next to you can have his moobies hanging out, why not display something beautiful and productive? :-)
                    • Unsu...
                       

                      Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

                      Tue, November 28, 2006 - 4:07 AM
                      To answer your question, Alexandra.
                      No, women in Turkey do not wear burkas. Some choose to wear hijabs out of choice.
                      I said that many women on the flights to Turkey are en route to Saudi Arabia or Iran where more women cover up.
                      That was not the point anyway.
                      • Unsu...
                         

                        Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

                        Tue, November 28, 2006 - 4:10 AM
                        By the way- it is not YOUR opinion that I object to.
                        It is the sarcasm.
                        *Let's go to Turkey, horray* for example.
                        I just don't think it is necessary to use sarcasm or cutting remarks to get your point across.
              • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

                Tue, November 28, 2006 - 11:52 PM
                Alexandra ~

                The suggestion of "let us try not to inflame" is yet another example of what you're so fond of: the Polite Hint.

                Using capital letters is perceived by fellow online users as shouting, and it comes across as more aggressive than necessary for expressing your opinion. You can make your point without shouting, and that is what others here are suggesting and requesting.
    • Re: Woman kicked off of plane for breastfeeding

      Wed, November 29, 2006 - 12:00 AM
      I would not consider the offering of a blanket to be a "polite hint," I would consider it yet another message that breastfeeding is something which needs to be hidden, and I don't support that opinion by any means.

      In addition to the amazing anatomy we have wherein we can feed our babies and children with only our bodies, we've also been equipped with cervical vertebrae which move in several directions, including the pivot joint between C1 and C2 (atlas and axis) allowing one to easily turn one's skull from side to side... this is particularly handy when we see something we're uncomfortable seeing.

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