Flight Attendant Takes Frozen Breast Milk From Overhead Bin: “What The Hell Is This?”

American Airlines says their mission is caring for people on life’s journey. That’s always struck me as slogan for Sunrise Assisted Living retirement communities, not for an airline.

United Airlines says “good leads the way.” These are airlines, and these are slogans, but they aren’t what most employees have top of mind when making decisions. Employees don’t ask, “is this the best possible product” (good leads the way) or “the best way to care for this customer” (caring for people on life’s journey). They follow a set of procedures, and in many roles how they treat customers doesn’t earn them any more or less.

In fact, the head of the union that represents flight attendants at United says that the flight attendant call button is for emergency use, and that passengers shouldn’t press it to request a drink. In this model, flight attendants are ‘there primarily for your safety’.

Against this backdrop, superior service is something that happens, provided by superior people – people who are caring and kind and go above and beyond because of something inside of them, not because they’re incentivized one way or another.

And at the other end of the spectrum is what one woman says happened to her on United Airlines flight 2084 from Denver to Jacksonville, Florida on Tuesday. Amber Rewis shares that a crewmember took a lunchbox out of the overhead bin – it contained frozen breast milk she was carrying for her child – and asked the cabin, “what the hell is this?”

Interpreted in the most generous light possible, the crewmember may have been trying to get the flight out on time and was trying to help passengers find space for their bags. Seeing a lunchbox, that might fit underneath a passenger’s seat and wouldn’t need to go in the bin, the flight attendant could have looked for the box’s owner.

However the flight actually pushed back 7 minutes early, and even having been in a rush wouldn’t have been an excuse for speaking to passengers that way, let alone a new mother already under stress from travel, questioning what she’s carrying to feed her baby (and where she’s storing it). The median crewmember whose union is currently in the midst of contract negotiations doesn’t stop to think, “good leads the way” no matter how much investment is made in marketing and branding consultants.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. OH bin is a stupid place for something as small, fragile, valuable and irreplaceable as breast milk. FA was correct to bring it someone’s attention to correct and point out her stupidity.

  2. American females are the most entitled fragile people on the planet. The entire system/society bends over backwards to accommodate/enable them and it still never enough.

  3. I doubt it happened like that unless there is video of it. Probably an exaggeration. But whatever to get clicks by the woman and Gary.

  4. Are passengers allowed to bring such a large amount of liquid through security? I’m thinking the passenger was in violation of tsa regulations.

  5. @AndyS. As an American female I don’t consider myself to be entitled or fragile. I get my strength from God. Anyone that can go through childbirth isn’t fragile. Been there. Done that. Twice. I don’t expect society to bend over backwards for me and I can’t think of any instance where they have. We females (like the males) deserve to be treated with kindness and fairness. Anything that society does to make my load a little lighter is appreciated. Sometimes you have to keep wanting more. You can’t consider the status quo to be enough. There are injustices still going on.

  6. @David P:
    Breastmilk is an exception.

    Yeah, it could be under the seat. That doesn’t justify opening it, though!

  7. I don’t understand why people who carry big bags to cabin get preferred services in finding space for their bags over people with backpacks. Big bags should be checked in, period.

  8. @Caroline Lewis

    „Anyone that can go through childbirth isn’t fragile. Been there. Done that. Twice.“

    That sounds quite entitled to me.
    And it’s completely rubbish.

    If you someone is pregnant he usually will and has to give birth, and usually they will survive, no matter how fragile the person is.

    Usually it was her choice or at least part of her fault to get pregnant, so she needs yo ho through that. No benefits there!

  9. @Don thank you for your useless and tone deaf insight….

    Im pretty sure you couldn’t handle childbirth tough guy and would callaspe and pass out from the pain.

  10. I think it’s kind of funny. Maybe FA was genuinely stumped by what the heck it was and just fell into no filter mode and blurted out “what the hell is this?”

    I could see myself doing that prior to having kids. Then again, I’m not in the service industry…

  11. I see nothing about leaking or even opening the container in the article.

    Even so, aren’t we trained to “see it, say it”?

    FA saw something out of the ordinary, liquid/frozen and questioned it. If it was nefarious and ignored it, he would have been crucified. Good for the FA and a stupidity award for the mom for leaving something like that out of her sight.

    Flights have been delayed, turned around, de-boarded and cancelled for far, far less..

  12. Wow… the comments are just something else. Women go through childbirth not because it is a pleasant process, but because children are a blessing and until we invent a way to grow them in some sort of artificial incubator, the only way to make them is for women to go through childbirth. If you have any questions about whether this is a painful, unpleasant experience, I suggest you take a good, hard look at the size of a newborn child and consider how it fit through the birth canal.

    And the attitude of the FA is the problem. “What is this?” does not elicit helpful information. Obviously it’s a lunchbox. Was space needed in the overhead bin? Was the lunchbox sweating, causing concern about dampness? A ticking lunchbox would be a problem; however, a cold lunchbox sitting in a storage bin suggests food… which is exactly what one would expect to be in a lunchbox. Like most (all) customer service issues, just bad communication.

  13. I don’t fly that often anymore. But I did quite a bit when I was younger. My memory of those flight attendants from years ago is that they were all quite professional in their demeanor and interactions with the passengers. Today’s flight attendants seem to have a goodly number of morons in the ranks, people who should never have been hired as a flight attendants. Sad, but true…

  14. Today’s American carrier flight attendants…Petty, small minded people, with a little bit of power. They fit right in with the TSA drones.

  15. After 9-11 there were real terrorist planning to use baby bottles to blow up airlines! Why do you think we only can take 3.3 ounces per container in a small ziploc bag! Think…..

  16. @JC Stiles – first of all, breast milk is allowed past security and not limited to 100ml.

    There were arrests involving a single 2006 plot involving peroxide-based liquid explosives. This was in the U.K., and the U.K. is… eliminating liquid rules. “Think…”

  17. @Caroline Lewis – thank you for you comment
    @Glomp – you clearly have no idea what pain childbirth is. The best description was given by Carol Burnett: “Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head.”

  18. @Andy @Don @Glomp – have these guys ever been married, gone through childbirth with his wife and become a father? Don’t think they are the least bit familiar with what a woman goes through to bear a child. Don’t think they know any women very well at all. Not going to get to know any very well either, not with their attitudes.

  19. @Andy @Don @Glomp – have you guys ever been married, gone through childbirth with your wife and become a father? Don’t think these guys are the least bit familiar with what a woman goes through to bear a child. Don’t think they know any women very well at all. Not going to get to know any very well either, not with their attitudes.

  20. Expressing an opinion about breast milk? Sounds like another flight attendant violating Rule #1! SHUT UP AND POUR THE DRINKS.

  21. Breast milk is not only exempted from the limit, if you’re traveling with the child a bag containing breast milk doesn’t count towards a carry on allowance (same as a diaper bag). So a pax can bring a rolling bag, a personal item, AND a cooler full of breast milk on a plane.

    The rules are less clear if the kiddo isn’t with you, but there are a lot of FAs who don’t seem to know that.

Comments are closed.