breastfeeding on airplanes

Travel tidbits: fired flight attendant & fresh, future airport amenities

Today – a few tidbits from the inbox at

First up: there are some very interesting comments to my story from earlier this week about the Virgin America flight attendant who says she was fired for asking a breastfeeding passenger to cover up.

KLM is asking travelers to send in photos for consideration for the KLM 2013 wall calendar.  Upload a image from a place KLM travels to and get your friends to vote – all before June 29th.  Winning images will show up on the KLM Fan Calendar, which  you can then purchase (of course…) in the KLM webshop.  One fun item for sale in the shop: Stewardess Yourself mugs made out of the image you create with the Stewardess Yourself program.

And a couple of things to look forward to at a couple of airports:

Indianapolis International Airport (IND) announced that Airport Plazas will build a 2.5 acre, multi-function service plaza near the airport that will include pumps for gasoline and natural gas fuels, a convenience store, car wash, auto service bay (a tune-up while you’re waiting for your loved one to arrive? Great idea!), fast food restaurants and a new airport cell phone parking lot. Opening date: mid-2013.

Sound like a useful idea? Airport Plazas is currently operating, building or in negotiations to build service similar facilities at Newark (already built and operating), JFK, Ft. Myers, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Dallas/Ft. Worth.

And the Vancouver Airport Authority has announced that it is planning to develop a luxury designer outlet center near Vancouver International Airport.

The new center will open in phases, beginning in the fall of 2014, and feature European and North American luxury, designer and mainstream brands.

Flight attendant fired for breastfeeding cover-up comment


Julia Bernstein, a 32 year-old, New York based flight attendant for Virgin America, said she was fired from her job on June 2, “because I asked a lady who was breast feeding in one of the last rows to please cover up,” on a recent full-flight from Los Angeles to New York.

“With the constant line for the bathroom being right over her, people were feeling uncomfortable and asked me to have her cover up,” said Bernstein. “The lady’s breast was out and revealed everything.”

In a telephone interview this morning, Bernstein told me said that she asked the breastfeeding mom if she had a blanket. “I tried to be matter of fact and said, “Well, you need to cover up.”

Shortly afterwards, Bernstein said the woman’s husband became upset and asked if covering up while breastfeeding was an airline policy or if she made it up. “He said what I was doing was illegal. I told him it was not a policy, I was just trying to fix a situation,” said Bernstein.

The lead flight attendant then stepped in. “She talked to the husband and said they were fine,” said Bernstein.

But evidently they were not.

“The reason Virgin fired me is because they felt I did not apologize enough to the passenger or deal properly with the situation, even though there is no proper training by Virgin America on how to deal with this type of a situation,” said Bernstein.

Abby Lunardini, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Virgin America said that for privacy reasons the airline cannot disclose specifics of the termination but shared this statement:

“Our in-flight teammates are trained to deal with a number of situations in-flight, including this one. We absolutely do accommodate breastfeeding mothers in-flight. If a situation should arise where fellow guests are uncomfortable, our teammates are also trained to try to re-seat the guest uncomfortable with the situation.”

Bernstein appeared in a commercial for the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) that aired during “Fly Girls,” a reality TV show featuring four Virgin America flight attendants that aired for less than two months in 2010. She also said she’d been reprimanded before for what a passenger considered to be an inappropriate remark in response to complaints about an item on the in-flight menu and, after being late for a flight, was on probation.

In this situation, however, Bernstein feels she used “good judgment acted appropriately and did what any good flight attendant would have done.”

Telling a breastfeeding mother to cover up is a sensitive and potentially costly issue for airlines. In March,  Delta Air Lines and two other airline companies reached a settlement with Emily Gillette, who in 2006 was ordered off a plane in Vermont when she refused to cover herself up while breastfeeding her baby.

In response, outraged mothers staged “nurse-ins” at close to 20 other airports.