Flying the unfriendly skies? Recently a mom was kicked out of a bathroom on an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Phoenix because she was pumping breast milk. A flight attendant began banging on the door while Mariana Hannaman was locked inside using her breast pump — and being that this is 2015, the whole thing was caught on tape.
It’s understandable that Hannaman was shook up after a flight attendant — rudely — told her to get out of the bathroom while she was pumping milk. (Anyone who’s ever pumped knows it’s not easy to just quickly stop pumping, one, two, three.) In the video, Hannaman can be heard telling the attendant, “You are so rude. I need your name.” And the woman snaps back, “Go sit down! I’m not giving you my name.”
Here, check out the video for yourself to see the heated exchange:
The tone of the flight attendant certainly sounded more harsh than it needed to be — and no mother wants to be scolded and told to move when they’re in the vulnerable position of pumping breast milk.
It probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea for Hannaman, who warned fellow passengers in line for the bathroom that she’d be pumping, to give flight attendants a heads-up on what she was going to be doing. Nobody likes it when a passenger is in the bathroom for a more-than-average amount of time, because sadly, who knows what they’re doing?
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Of course, it isn’t surprising that a mom would be unsure about the protocol for breastfeeding or pumping breast milk on planes or that she’d seclude herself in an airplane bathroom. In the past few years, we’ve heard story after story about nursing mothers being shamed, yelled at or even kicked off of flights for doing either.
In 2013 — on American Airlines again — mom Dawn Brahos was “humiliated” by a flight attendant when she took out her breast pump and began plugging it in. Brahos said that, despite pumping discreetly under a blanket on two previous American Airlines flights, the attendant she had on a trip to Chicago was “loud and cold and argumentative.” She added, “At least a third of the plane knew my business. I could see them talking amongst themselves.”
Then, of course, there was the recent (horrifying!) story of the mother who was told to pump in the pet relief area of Washington Dulles Airport in Virginia because it doesn’t yet have dedicated nursing or pumping areas for breastfeeding moms. Yes, seriously.
Without a doubt, safety should be the primary concern of any and all airline and airport staff — no one is arguing with that. But being that there are so many cases in which women aren’t able to nurse or pump when traveling, clearly there need to be changes. Some airports, such as Logan International in Boston, have dedicated nursing areas for mothers. But this isn’t the norm. Every airline and airport should have a clear set of guidelines and safe, sanitary areas for mothers to feed their children. The fact that they don’t is ridiculous — and until they do, sadly we’re going to continue hearing stories like this.
Should Hannaman have told the staff on board her American Airlines flight that she was heading into the lavatory to pump? Probably! But she never would have been in the predicament she was in had the rules been different and more universal.