Breastfeeding Policy: Are Frontier Flight Attendants Improperly Trained?
This is a personal account written by Deanna Bratter.
Shared with permission.
Disappointed and upset at Frontier Airlines tonight. I was not asked, but told to “cover up ma’am” by a flight attendant on my flight home this evening as I nursed my child to sleep. When I calmly and clearly told her it was my right to feed my child on the plane as per the airlines own policy – she replied, “yes, but with a cover”. I explained to her to use or not use a cover is my personal choice, she disagreed and said, “I will get my manual and show you”. I said, “Please do”. 15 minutes later, a different flight attendant came over asking my husband, Adam, if he “had a problem”. He was most definitely upset and looking back for the flight attendant who said she would return with the manual and did not. This woman said he was making her uncomfortable (oh the irony!!). I diffused that situation, told her what happened, her response. “She is new, she was doing what she believed she was trained to do.” I told her this was concerning as she was obviously trained wrong; I know my rights. (And if she was trained wrong on that, who knows what else she could have misunderstood!) She then tells me, “If someone complains they are to provide a blanket for the mother to cover and relocate her seat.” I replied that is incorrect and they could offer her a cover and it is the mothers choice to use it or not and that the “offended person” would be the one to be relocated if desired, not the innocent mom! (see I do know my rights!) I also asked her if anyone complained, she said no. So, I again asked how this was relevant. No reply. I asked for the other attendants name and she said, “No, I refuse to give you names or information for any of the other workers.” (Strange, Adam asked, “don’t you wear name tags” she replied that they announced names at the beginning of the flight and if we missed it, too bad!) I asked her to get the manual.
She returned with the manual and told me I was correct (well, yeah) and the “other person” would be the one to be moved if the flight was able to accommodate it. Let me stop right there – there was a half empty plane (75 open seats!), with a bunch of sleeping passengers, dim cabin lights, my half-sleeping nursing toddler, my movie watching 5 year old and my husband in the aisle seat across. There was NO ONE offended, no complaint. We continued the conversation. I expressed my concerns multiple times that another mother, maybe not as aware of her rights, would be a victim of their misunderstanding and comments. She said she would speak to the original attendant, asked us “has the situation been diffused”, and is there anything else I need. I replied “an apology from the flight attendant would be great as I’d love to ensure she understands the rules clearly so this doesn’t happen again”. Sure she said.
Several minutes later the original comment maker returned. Hands Adam a card with her name on it “here is my name and the contact info, however I refuse to apologize as I was following the rules, what I was taught just a month ago in class.” We were flabbergasted! Did she just come over and say she refused to apologize? The situation is no longer diffused!!!! I handed my husband the phone and he began recording. I feel I was calm, clear, direct, and stated facts. I expressed my concern that she was not acknowledging her error even after revisiting the manual (!). She tried to say she asked me to cover, when she did not, she told me to cover. She tried to say she said please. She did not. I kept going back to the fact that she did not follow procedure, there was no complaint about my breastfeeding. I repeated my concern that I don’t want another mother to face the same issue and does she understand that what she was taught (she said: to tell a mother to cover to prevent a potential, future complaint is within her rights) is incorrect. She then admits “what the manual says and what she was taught are two different things.” I asked, “so the next time you see a mother nursing your response would be to….” the other more senior attendant came over. She then said, “I didn’t give him permission to record” she saw the bright light recording for 2 minutes and did not say not too until then. Then my phone ran out of space and the video ended.
I am a strong and confident nursing mother. I was well within my rights. I have never been ashamed or harassed in my several years of nursing (between both my children) but am a passionate advocate for mothers, breastfeeding support, and breastfeeding rights. Had the woman been even remotely open to having made a mistake, making an apology, or even remotely believing as I suggested this was a great learning opportunity to ensure it doesn’t happen again – I wouldn’t be here typing like a mad woman, genuinely upset and frustrated. I was meeting my child’s needs, feeding my son the way nature intended, doing absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I will not be ashamed. It is Frontier Airlines and that woman who should be ashamed for poor training, poorly handling the situation, refusing to apologize, being condescending and rude and not following the their own rules!
What I don’t want is for people to believe I am doing this for a free flight. I wouldn’t accept it. What I want from this is to see a written apology from Frontier Corporate, I would love to hear that they are handling training and retraining on this issue, and most of all, I would love to see them implement a policy in support of breastfeeding (as opposed to one related solely to handling a breastfeeding “issue”).
**Update March 14, 2014**
I do not feel like this harassment issues is being taken as seriously as it should be by Frontier…I’m feeling more emotional about it than I have been, genuienly upset by the lack of customer service and insensitive remarks. So in an effort not to create a jumbled mess of a post here are the high points
1. The most senior person who I have spoken to is a customer relations social media rep (who is very nice) but is talking to me and passing information back to “management.”
2. They have zero urgency 1. issue happened Tuesday night 2. complained in person to Sr. FA on flight, to pilot after flight and filed formal complaint via their 800# as soon as I got out of the airport and into my car. (I left email and phone #.)
3. I took to social media. Social media FB responded “sorry to hear that our FA failed to provide an apology for being confused about tour policy…” later on twitter, said they replied to Jamie Grumet (I am not the babysitter) that they had already apologized to me and pointed to FB post (below). Where NO such apology other than the above quote was written. That doesn’t sound like an appropriate apology, does it?
4. Again, they did not tweet directly to me for some reason but responded to @msamieLynne that “the family is being well taken care of :-)” when we had NOT received a word directly, no email, no phone call, no messages directly on FB or Twitter. I don’t know that I have ever been “shaking mad” but that did it. To me it felt like they were insinuating I had received some sort of compensation and was placated. I will not accept a free flight. Furthermore to state publicly that I was being taken care of, however they meant it, when they had no so much as called is a LIE.
5. The next tweet to me was saying they didn’t have my phone # because the one on my reservation was incorrect (?) Regardless my contact info was left on their formal complaint line and again, how are they tweeting how well I am being taken care of when they don’t even have my phone number?
6. We finally spoke on the phone Thursday morning at 11am. I expressed my desire for a formal apology (written or public their decision), a revised policy and enhanced training for all staff. The social media rep was kind. She did verbally offer an apology that this happened. She said she was taking notes and would relay my requests to management. I asked when I could expect to hear back from them on their plan and she said end of day (Thursday) or the following morning (Friday). At 1pm I tweeted, at 3pm I got a phone call from the same person. Where is their customer service? Where is the care and response in following thourhg and managing expectations you agreed to?
7. Todays phone call highlights.
- sorry I misunderstood the response conversation. I was planning on getting back to you when I had something to report.
- these things take a lot of time, involve a lot of people in management in different departments
- a policy change needs to be reviewed by the FAA and that will take a lot of time
- while they are working on it they have no timeframes, no deadlines
- even an apology has to get a lot of approvals so it’s not going to be quick, these things take time.
- GOOD NEWS: they will be updating the policy BAD NEWS: so far the changes don’t seem proactive, or like they would even prevent the same kind of confusion and issue that happened to me. Current: “Breastfeeding an infant is not prohibited” Proposed: “Change Not Prohibited to Permitted” Issue: Not all breastfeeding children are infants. Stating it is permitted isn’t good enough, of course it is permitted, it IS THE LAW! Current “should a passenger complain, the FA should offer to find the mother…a cover, OR move the passengers who are uncomfortable” Proposed: remove the part about offering a cover, focus on relocating the passenger if possible Issue: this only addresses the cover policy in the event of a complaint. In my case THERE WAS NO COMPLAINT, the FA took it upon herself to tell me it was the manual that said I should be covered if breastfeedling on the plane. Even after reading the manual, she said she was trained she had the right to pre-emtively tell me to cover to avoid a potential complaint from occurring. Frontier has said this is not per their policy. But I do not see how the changes below address that. At a minimum a statement about legal rights covered or uncovered and that no staff may ask a mother to cover under any circumstance. GOOD NEWS: they are also revisiting the policy regarding breast pumps not being considered “medical devices” yet requiring a doctors note to justify needing to pump in flight …this mama had a run in yesterday. The commentary is eye opening. You can read it HERE.
8. And one of the most upsetting parts. The social media rep told me (not sure why?!) that the FA in her written account said “her perception was that people were uncomfortable” This not only made me cry but got me to that shaking mad place again. This is a LIE. My husband was an aisle seat with nobody in either seat next to him. I was across the aisle with the middle seat for my son and the window seat with my 5 year old. The person behind me spoke up in support after the harassment. The gentlemen in front of me were not only asleep or resting but NEVER turned around until the incident. The flight attendant was walking down the aisle peddling credit card applications, sarcastically saying “anybody? anybody at all?” in a dimly light cabin. She wasn’t called over, she wasn’t standing around watching people grimacing in discomfort. That “perception” is her trying to cover her tail with a completely FALSE statement which I imagine is also illegal. That hurts. If she would’ve just apologized in the first place and learned from her mistake, I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this.
9. To close the call I reiterated I was upset and not feeling satisfied with the way they were handling this, specifically in terms of urgency, and taking this seriously. I asked specifically when when I can expect to hear back again? The response: Maybe Tuesday since they “are closed for the weekend and will need Monday to work on it more.” So a week past when I was harassed I can expect to hear an update, but not likely any action. I think this only reinforced my concern that they aren’t taking this seriously.
Overall, I’m feeling really disappointed. I hope all of you ladies and supporters will speak up and speak loudly so they take this seriously and make prompt and real changes! I am not trying to bash this airline, I very much would like to fly with them in the future – but to continue doing that I need them to step up and make this right, not in a week, not in a month but at least to show us they are taking action NOW.
Brian and I took a weekend vacation to Carmel! A big part of my childhood was spent there, so I