KLM Publicly Opposes Breastfeeding, Same Sex Couples Holding Hands

Boy what a rough past week for KLM in social media as a result of three separate instances of self-pwnage.

First they tweeted out advice on where to sit to have the best chance surviving when a plane crashes. That hardly inspires confidence in their operation if their communications shop believes this is important information for their customers to consider.

Then they told a breastfeeding mom she had to cover up on board.

A spokesperson even doubled down explaining this is ‘policy’ because “not every culture is “comfortable” with breasts being visible” and this is necessary” and “request[ing..] a mother to cover her breast” is necessary “to keep the peace on board.”

Finally KLM is out saying that same sex couples may be asked to quit holding hands on their aircraft.

The airline now “says the email does not ‘represent our official point of view at all’.” While it may not represent their point of view once called out, they also don’t say their point of view is the opposite of this either.

Copyright: flaperval / 123RF Stock Photo

The first incident is dumb, airlines don’t question the safety of air travel, that’s been a basic rule since the earliest days. However the second and third instances may be more revealing than they may seem at first blush — culturally and institutionally rather than saying something unique to the airline itself.

While robust in offering a safety net and environmentally conscious Northern Europe is often far more market-oriented in its tax and regulatory policies than social democrats realize, and a much more homogeneous culturally. Airlines are often the most tolerant vanguard of the societies in which they’re based, and have a tricky road to navigate in that regard.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — The crew can kiss my a** if they have an issue with my holding hands with anyone — parent, grandparent, sibling, child, spouse, date, whatever. This is absurd.

  2. Some of KLM’s positions are dumb, but it’s certainly not dumb for a flight attendant to offer a breast feeding mother a blanket. Mostly likely, the mother would appreciate the blanket! If she doesn’t, should a toddler be breastfed without a blanket on an airplane because the kid likes it better that way? I don’t know. What about if a woman feels more comfortable not wearing a shirt on board an airplane? Or what about when I see a guy peeing on the side of the road while facing traffic? Personally, I wish he’d turn the other way so I wouldn’t see his dick. Is this really much different?

  3. I’m a woman who breastfed. We women don’t generally expose ourselves when we breastfeed. The vast majority of the time it isn’t even evident when we are doing it! I can’t see how someone can equate breastfeeding with urinating or sh&$$ing publicly. Regardless, when I travelled I always wore or carried a thin scarf or shawl to cover what was happening. This was not because I was embarrased, but to discourage the stares and glares of cretins with fundamentalist attitudes.

    I am so sick of this political correctness

  4. Realize their are loads of feminists and rainbow warriors on the blogging circuit. But realize KLM flies to many places with other cultures and cultural norms. The feminists and rainbow warriors are being culturally insensitive.

    Do recall taking KLM into the middle east via Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and on to Dubai. Before we landed in Damman, the flight attendants had to remove all alcohol bottles and cups out of respect to the Saudi cleaners who were coming aboard the plane on our layover. Exposed breastfeeding and rainbow warrior handholding on our layover, for example, would not be respecting Saudi cultural norms. If the feminists and rainbow warriors wish to impose their cultural norms on other societies because they believe their norms are superior it is a really a subtle form of racism.

    I guess the left really doesn’t care about cultural insensitivity and racism if it does not support their views or agenda.

  5. Gary, how utterly prejudiced your readers appear to be. Calling a gay couple that holds hands “rainbow warriors” and comparing a woman who is breastfeeding to a man who is illegally urinating on the side of the road observed In flagrante delicto proves how backwards and racist some people are.

    I wonder if the same individual would have issues with a straight couple holding hands on a flight. Would love to hear how that’s different.

  6. Disappointing but not surprising to see some of the comments…

    The radical right leaders don’t waste their time posting replies as they count on the uneducated, ignorant, imbeciles, like some above to regurgitate fox “news” brainwashing data points. Or on trump’s boss/pimp, supreme leader putin and his russian trolls

    The “left radicals” are not trying to control what others do, they are minding their own business, and by the way, all they were harassed about above are legal practices.

    The idiotic examples comparing breastfeeding to genital exposure and calling somebody a racist because they are minding their own business (not forcing someone to remove their hijab) really demonstrate the success the leaders of the radical right achieved in alienating their followers.

    Sad part is that while education is key to change this, as we witness in the southern deep red states, things are going the opposite direction, to make it even easier to control mindless dopes.

  7. @JB Thank you for your rational post above. I myself am horrified by the anger and hate of the radicalized—right, or left.

  8. God here we go again with the micro aggressions from the social justice warriers. KLM isn’t discriminating but simply trying to have an element of decorum and not offend many of their passengers (and some cultures as you know are very easily offended by things like seeing a breast or homesexual contact – in fact you can go to prison for them or worse in certain countries).

    Both are common sense suggestions on the part of KLM and they shouldn’t apologize for them. There have to be limits or someone will push it to an absurd level.

    While no one I know of is in favor of discrimination against people for any reason there is also the issue of respect for others’ feeling and not doing things that would intentionally make them uncomfortable. There are limits to peoples’ rights you know.

  9. @AC You state “there is also the issue of respect for others’ feeling and not doing things that would intentionally make them uncomfortable.” What type of homogenous society do you live in? There will ALWAYS be someone who claims they are uncomfortable with WHATEVER one is doing.

    @AlohaDaveKennedy you really need to complain to someone since it is apparent you wrote your comment sometime in the 1950’s and it is just now arriving!

  10. Where do you get the idea that Northern European countries are much more homogenous culturally than say the US? Have you not paid attention to the extremely fragmented politics in these countries and the increasingly huge divides between urban and rural populations, between people of different socio-economic backgrounds and between “‘new’ citizens” and “‘old’ citizens” in these countries? All these things and more speak to a rather culturally heterogeneous population despite the seductive calls of ethno-nationalists of various sorts claiming otherwise.

    I still find the US to be more homogenous culturally amongst born-Americans than I find to be the case amongst born-Dutch, born-Germans, born-Danes and even born-Swedes.

  11. I used to frequently see Saudi and other presumably Muslim men holding hands and walking hand in hand in Muslim-majority countries. Males of those backgrounds holding hands while walking or seated has traditionally not been seen in those cultures as a sign of public sexually-connected affection, but rather of being close friends or brothers even if not by blood.

  12. Being a homogenous country isn’t the point. It is more about religion in Europe. The US has a large amount of what you call “latinos”, in Europe these people are white. While at the same time the “latino” immigrants share the same religion as the host country (USA). The cultural norms are the same between the two countries. The same can be said of your far east Asian immigrants. In Europe there is a different problem, yes there are immigrants as in the US, but large amounts dont share the same culture or religion. Now some are better at accepting the more liberal thinking in the host country than others.
    In other words, dont expect liberal US attitudes to be respected by all airlines outside the US, because they have a more complex set of passengers on their average international flight than your average US carrier. Given the limited amount of international routes US carriers fly.

  13. Hey JB, fixed it for you..

    “The radical left leaders don’t waste their time posting replies as they count on the uneducated, ignorant, imbeciles, like me to regurgitate MSNBC/CNN brainwashing data points.”

  14. Nicholas M,

    The breast feeding incident took place on a SFO-AMS flight, so you’re barking up the wrong tree by trying to use immigrants in Europe as the scapegoat for that incident.

    And EU-residing immigrants resident, just like EU-residing immigrants flying on KLM flights, are not unfamiliar with homosexuality being in the open, so you’re barking up the wrong tree by exploiting immigrants in Europe in that way as well.

    KLM’s making a spectacle of itself with these incidents, and scapegoating of immigrants and peddling anti-immigration narratives won’t change that KLM is making a spectacle of itself with these incidents and that it has nothing to do with immigration.

  15. And nothing to do with religion.

    And by the way, most Latin American immigrants to Europe are not perceived as being “white” in Europe. And whether or not they share the majority community religion, such immigrants to Europe are still generally perceived as non-“white” and treated as such in interactions with law enforcement/security services.

  16. Can there possibly be a route that SHOULD be more gay-friendly than SFO-AMS on KLM? Holy frijole, if someone is offended by a gay couple holding hands on that flight, they might want to try a different planet.
    Are we also forgetting the unified struggle to support same sex rights and clear all anti-sodomy laws off the books that the members of the EU stood behind in their unification process?
    In the Middle East, I respect cultural norms largely as a matter of self-protection, not because I have any positive regard for cleaners being unable to tolerate the sight of liquor bottles.
    Years ago in Latin America, North Americans were rigorously coached to refer to eggs as “blanquitos” (little white ones) since to actually say “huevos” (eggs) would cause distress to the maid. Of course, at the same time the maid was made to sleep at the side of the house, get up at 3:30AM, haul wood, light four stoves, work 12 hour days, be fed kitchen scraps and, too often, whipped. Those sensitive cleaners in the Middle East quite frequently are essentially kidnapped from poorer countries.
    Hypocrisy STILL makes me want to vomit.

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