British holiday airline TUI Airways has launched an urgent internal investigation after the mother of a newborn was ordered to stop breastfeeding her baby during takeoff on a recent flight to Alicante in Spain.
Chelsea Williams, 28, was going on a long-awaited holiday with her partner and baby when she was told by a member of the cabin crew that TUI Airways didn’t permit mothers to breastfeed their babes onboard its flights.
Chelsea says she was trying to be a responsible parent and had first researched the process of taking a newborn on a flight. Her research uncovered recommendations to breastfeed during takeoff and landing to alleviate ear pain and to keep the baby calm.
Chelsea was so taken aback by what the flight attendant told her that she immediately stopped breastfeeding in order to prevent creating a scene, but she then had to watch as her baby started to cry out in pain during takeoff.
“They came to do the belt checks and said that the baby was buckled in and feeding, and I was told it wasn’t permitted to feed during take-off and landing,” Chelese told the Daily Mail.
“I didn’t know what to do, because obviously I’d done research and was planning on feeding my baby – she needed to be settled,” Chelsea continued.
“I was embarrassed because the baby was crying, and all eyes were on me. I waited until the seatbelts lights went off, and when it didn’t, I started to feed the baby.”
Ahead of their return flight, Chelsea’s partner messaged TUI Airways via their in-app support channel to again check whether it was possible to breastfeed their baby during takeoff. The response they received surprised them.
While acknowledging that there were no rules to prevent a passenger from breastfeeding their baby, the TUI Airways agent told them they wouldn’t recommend breastfeeding on board “because it could make other people uncomfortable”.
Chelsea went into the flight feeling anxious but risked breastfeeding her baby – on this occasion, no one said a word to them.
A spokesperson for TUI Airways has now confirmed that not only were its cabin crew and customer service agent wrong, but that the airline supports breastfeeding on its flights.
“We are really sorry for the distress caused Ms Williams and her infant,” the airline said in a statement. “As a family-friendly travel company, we support breastfeeding on our flights at any time.”
“We are currently conducting an urgent internal investigation and will be making sure that all colleagues are retrained on our breastfeeding-friendly policy,” the statement continued.
Last month, a nursing mother who was trying to breastfeed her five-month-old daughter on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte to Des Moines claimed a flight attendant told her she had to cover her breast so as not to offend men and children who were sitting nearby.
American Airlines did not clarify its position on breastfeeding but a spokesperson offered the carrier’s “heartfelt apologies” to Sarah Jean for how she was treated on the flight.
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 relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.