There are headlines making their way around the internet which suggest that Air Canada forced a mother to breastfeed in the lavatory. That’s just not true.
A woman was warned that she would need to breastfeed her child in the lavatory…by a reservations agent. The agent offered to transfer her to Air Canada’s “medical line” to discuss further. She was shocked and tweeted to Air Canada her disgust.
Dear @AirCanada: It is never okay to recommend a woman breastfeed her infant in an airplane lavatory. Nor would I like to be referred to your medical line to discuss this further. If you would like to eat your dinner there, by all means, but my infant son will not be joining you
— Stephanie VandenBerg (@StephVDBG) March 4, 2019
Air Canada was quick to respond that the agent was incorrect and that she was welcome to breastfeed onboard in her seat.
And it’s not like Air Canada had much of a choice…that is the law of the land in most Canadian provinces.
That's great that you "support" breastfeeding onboard. But don't forget, you are legally mandated to allow a mother to breastfeed in any place that mother is permitted to be. Such as, the seat she paid for. A pledge for more active training would be best.
— Maeve (@PragueorBrno) March 5, 2019
@AirCanada The right to breastfeed in public is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is also explicitly spelled out in the Human Rights Code of ON and BC. Until you train your employees properly, you are at risk of a lawsuit.
— Milo Shandel (@MiloShandel) March 5, 2019
Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick told USA Today:
We have a longstanding policy of supporting breastfeeding onboard our aircraft wherever mothers feel comfortable. To be clear, this incident did not occur onboard a flight. The customer spoke to a Call Centre agent who was fairly new and was not aware of our policy; we have since reminded all Call Centre employees of it.
While not a justification, at least it helps to explain what happened. And I hope it is a wake-up call as well that Air Canada must ensure its agents are well-trained in these important matters.
Now I’m just curious here, but does anyone think a mother should be forced to breastfeed her baby in the lavatory? I’m frankly surprised she even called. I’m certainly never going to eat in the lavatory. Why should a baby just because someone may be too uncomfortable with a partially-exposed (or even fully-exposed) breast? The bond between baby and mother via breastfeeding is beautiful.
This story piqued my attention for two reasons. One, because so many misleading headlines popped up about this. Two, because I’m surprised an agent would provide such misinformation. Who tells a mother she must breastfeed in the grimy, filthy lavatory of a regional jet? Or am I just stuck in my European / West Coast bubble?
image: Air Canada