Whether you're feeding your L.O. with breast milk or formula, travel can be tough. And it's challenging enough without having to deal with being shamed or facing an unexpected conflict. Yet, that's exactly what a breastfeeding mom named Kelsey Myers had to endure while traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago earlier this month.
Myers had a carry-on suitcase, a purse, and a separate bag with her breast pump and milk. American Airlines' carry-on policy allows passengers to bring an additional bag for medical devices, including breast pumps—and Myers had made extra sure of that prior to boarding her flight. Yet, a male gate attendant said she had too many items and had to check in a bag. Then, his female supervisor stepped in and publicly berated Myers.
Myers took to Facebook to share the details of the unnerving incident, writing, "I was just boarding flight #1243 from LAX to ORD with a carry on, personal item, breast milk and a breast pump. At the gate, I was stopped by Daniel (pictured below) who told me I had too many items. I explained to him my breast pump is a medical device and the small cooler was breast milk. And he still told me I need to check my bag."
She says she went on to say that she had read American's policy online and she knew that what she had was "all allowed to be carried on." But she was told to step aside and that Daniel would be calling a supervisor. "I waited until his supervisor Juliette arrived," Myers notes. "She did not even ask me the situation, but instead immediately told me I need to check a bag. I again told her it was a medical device and I needed to carry it on. She started yelling at me to check the bag. In a condescending tone, she screamed in front of about 50 people waiting to board the flight 'how many boobs do you have.' I have never felt more harassed, disrespected and humiliated in my life. She would not reason at all and continued to scream at me in front of everyone so I eventually just gave in and checked my bag. I’m shocked that a supervisor would show such disrespect. I’m also very surprised that a supervisor would have no knowledge of what seems to me like a simple policy."
The post understandably went viral, wracking up over 2,000 reactions. Myers also took to Twitter to share what happened and that's when she first connected with American Airlines support.
"I spoke to a customer service rep from AA a week ago once she saw my tweet," Myers tells Parents.com. "She didn't even ask me for the full story, just said she was sorry and asked to send a $75 voucher. Our call got disconnected and I messaged her back on Twitter asking if she would call me back. She didn't call me back for a couple days, assuming after she saw the news. She said, 'the CEO has given her authorization to offer me $100 voucher.' I explained to her that I didn't want a voucher for an airline I never plan to fly again. I told her that I wanted to speak to a supervisor at LAX who would be following up with the employees involved. She said that wasn't possible, and she was the only person I could speak with."
Meanwhile, American Airlines released a statement to People via spokesperson Leslie Scott: "This was an error on the customer service agent in LAX’s part, and she should have been allowed to bring those items on the aircraft. We certainly apologize for the error, and will take this opportunity to reiterate the policy so it hopefully doesn’t happen again. We have these policies in place—not to make it more difficult, but to make it easier for women."
When asked about the employee's current status, Scott said American doesn't comment on staffing, but will "take the opportunity to reiterate the policy with our team members, and hopefully this doesn’t happen again." She also said that the airline has reached out to Myers, sharing, "We apologize, and we’ve reached out to her a couple of times to apologize and offer a goodwill gesture of compensation."
Myers told People that she finds AA's response lacking. "'How many boobs do you have’? That’s just so inappropriate,” Myers said. “Employees need to be trained to prevent this going forward so it doesn’t happen to other moms or other people with medical issues.”
She also hopes that her experience will serve to encourage other moms to do their research before flying. "I want other moms to know their rights when traveling," Myers tells Parents.com. "Before I left, I checked TSA and AA's websites to make sure what I was bringing with me was allowed. I had a woman in TSA tell me I had too many bags and when I told her one of my bags was a pump/medical device, she actually praised me for breastfeeding. I am hoping this situation brings awareness so that other moms or people traveling with medical issues will not have the same problem I did."