American Airlines’ Apology To Nursing Mom Only Ends Up Making Situation Worse

In a situation where a simple apology would have really helped, American Airlines went a few steps too far in its apology letter to a mother who claimed she was hassled by a flight attendant for nursing on the plane.

According to the woman who posted the letter, which has been shared several thousand times on Facebook and subsequently posted to Buzzfeed, a woman was flying between L.A. and Washington, D.C., with her husband and their 5-month-old child in July on American. Shortly after takeoff, the mom began nursing her son from her window seat.

She says her husband was seated next to her and the nearest unrelated passenger was a young girl seated in the aisle seat. In spite of the fact that no one could really see anything, the passenger claims that a passing flight attendant “shook her head at me, and shot me a very displeased look.”

She then says the attendant returned and allegedly told the mom that she needed to cover up “because there are kids on this flight.” The passenger’s husband disagreed and the flight attendant went away, only to return once more to tell the girl in the aisle seat, “I’m going to move you back here because you’re probably really uncomfortable,” even though the mom had finished nursing and the baby was asleep by this point.

The mom filed a complaint with American and received a response letter last week.

The response from AA begins reasonably enough:

“Your comments about the lack of diplomacy you experienced on flight 76 are of concern to us. Please accept our apology that our crew member dealt with the issue of your breast-feeding in such an unprofessional manner. We are at a loss to explain why you weren’t treated with greater sensitivity, however we want to assure you that your comments were forwarded to the appropriate Flight Services Manager for internal review and counseling purposes.”

And had it ended there, you’d probably never be hearing about this story. But the AA rep who wrote the response perhaps felt there was too much white space on the page and decided to keep typing, including a clarification that has only served to anger those who believe that requiring a mom to cover her child’s head while nursing on plane is like asking an adult to cover his head with a blanket while eating a sandwich at a restaurant:

“To offer some clarity, we certainly do allow for the breast-feeding of infants on our flights. However, because of the offense that may be taken by others within the close confines of commercial aircraft, we simply ask that breast-feeding be done with certain discretion and a sense of modesty. We believe it is reasonable to ask that the mother cover-up in an appropriate manner during the feeding, and by your account it appears that you were sensitive to this need.”

We could find no actual statement of policy regarding nursing on American’s website, and our attempt to get clarification from the airline has gone unanswered. If AA decides to comment on this story, we’ll certainly add update.