Dutch airline, KLM says it is investigating an email apparently sent by a member of its reservations customer services team which suggests same-sex couples who choose to hold hands onboard one of its planes could be asked to stop if it “offended” a fellow passenger. The response comes in the wake of KLM’s mistreatment of a breastfeeding mother and its subsequent botched response on social media to the controversy.
Around a month ago, a breastfeeding mother was asked to cover herself and her child up onboard a KLM flight and recently the airline confirmed it’s cabin attendant was following an official policy. KLM said the policy was designed to protect passengers who might be “offended” by the sight of a mother breastfeeding her child but later backtracked and claimed mothers are not obliged to cover up if they don’t want to.
Many customers reacted with outrage to KLM’s policy and asked the airline what other actions might be banned if a fellow passenger was “offended”. One customer queried whether a same-sex couple might be asked to stop holding hands on the flight and – this is the response they received:
“… we can’t just avoid some passengers possibly having a negative feedback (response) and because of that we need to let the party involved know about the situation and it is up to the cabin crew what would be the best course of action to do onboard.
Same as with the same-sex relationship that you gave as an example, if needed be the cabin crew can approach the said party and based on the response they were given, they would act and respond accordingly.”
Gay brothers and sisters, @KLM will approach you and let you know someone has complained about you holding hands on board. The crew will decide the best course of action. Cc: @stonewalluk pic.twitter.com/t8dJTBwcsy
— Erin ‘Normalise It’ Resists (@ErinClaireSF) 18 July 2019
KLM has been quick to respond and in a Tweet, the airline says the email does not “represent our official point of view at all.”
Of course, this just goes to prove how difficult it is to manage such an ambiguous policy that seeks to avoid offending anyone at all. At some point you’ve got to stand up for what you believe in and live by those values – if KLM didn’t want to respect breastfeeding mothers or same-sex couple then at least we would know where they stand as an airline.
Instead, KLM appears to want to be all things to all people. Of course, KLM does respect breastfeeding mothers and it does respect same-sex couples but its current policy might be detrimental to these groups if interpreted wrongly by staffers who are put in a difficult situation.
Yes, it’s great to have a catch-all policy that you can fall back on but sometimes you need a really clear cut set of rules and standards. The customer services agent was clearly wrong to suggest a non-offensive act such as holding hands could be banned but the policy as it stands is obviously causing confusion.
Here’s hoping this is where this confusion stops and KLM can finally put an end to this nasty saga.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.