Rally Scheduled at Delta Counters to Protest Treatment of Nursing Mother
Nursing mothers and their supporters will be gathering on Tuesday, November 21, 2006 at 10 AM, local time, at Delta airport counters across the country to protest the treatment a nursing mother endured at the hands of a Freedom Airlines flight attendant. Freedom Airlines is owned and operated by Mesa Airlines who is a contractor for Delta in some regional markets.
Emily Gillette was flying with her husband and 22 month-old daughter on October 13, 2006 out of Burlington, Vermont. Their flight had been delayed by several hours and when it appeared they were ready to take off, Ms. Gillette began to nurse her daughter. It was then that a flight attendant approached her and asked her to cover up with a blanket. Ms. Gillette declined and told the flight attendant that she was within her legal rights to nurse where she was without any covering. Ms. Gillette was sitting near the rear of the plane in a window seat with her husband next to her, nearest the aisle when she began nursing.
After Ms. Gillette refused to cover up, the flight attendant then allegedly told Ms. Gillette that Ms. Gillette was offending her. The family was then approached by a Delta gate agent and told that they were being removed by the flight attendant from the flight. Ms. Gillette and her family complied and although a conversation with a co-pilot did take place off the plane and the family requested to be re-boarded, they were not and instead were rescheduled on a different flight the following day.
Ms. Gillette has filed a complaint with the Vermont Human Right Commission regarding the incident. A woman’s right to breastfeed wherever she is legally allowed to be is protected in Vermont under the Public Accommodations Act.
Freedom Airlines has issued several statements, although they give contradictory information. In one statement, Paul Skellon, a spokesperson for Phoenix-based Freedom Airlines, said that they were aware of the incident and that Freedom expects mothers to nurse in a “discreet” manner (which is assumed under a blanket). In a second statement, he recanted and said that Freedom welcomes all nursing mothers and would not expect them to use a blanket in the future.
As well, the second statement issued by Mr. Skellon is full of inaccuracies, including the statement that the family refused to re-board, when they were in fact asking to re-board and were denied that request. Ms. Gillette and her supporters are very upset that Mr. Skellon and Freedom Airlines are both trying to minimize a very grave situation where a woman’s basic civil rights were violated and are attempting to shift the blame from themselves to Ms. Gillette, who did nothing wrong and was perfectly within her rights.
It is well known that nursing infants need to eat at very frequent intervals and traveling with them can provide many challenges for mothers, especially in the current fear-filled travel atmosphere where any passenger fears being removed from a flight for any reason. As well, toddlers and babies are especially susceptible to the cabin pressure changes during take-off and landing and nursing them is a natural and convenient way to help them continually equalize that pressure in their ears.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “pediatricians and parents should be aware that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. 30,34,128,178–184 Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.185“ The World Health Organization recommends nursing for at least the first two years of a child’s life.
The Nurse-Ins have been coordinated completely by volunteers.