A mother onboard an American Airlines flight says she was "humiliated" after an embarrassing confrontation with a staff member over the use of her breast pump.
Dawn Brahos was flying from Minneapolis to Chicago on April 18 when a flight attendant refused to let the mother-of-three use her breast pump, despite being told otherwise by the airline's reservation agents.
“[The flight attendant] was speaking in a loud voice, reading a page from a manual and adamant that because it was not pre-approved medical equipment I could not use the pump at my seat,” Brahos told NBC News. “I felt humiliated. Everyone pretty much knew my business at that point and she kept checking back and eyeballing me the whole time to make sure I wasn’t using the pump.”
The 38-year-old mother was travelling with her husband on a rare trip while Brahos' mom was looking after the couple's three children. The two were flying to Chicago when bad weather delayed their flight, forcing American Airlines to put them in a hotel and book them a flight for the next morning.
It was on that flight that Brahos said she began feeling painfully engorged during the flight since she didn't have time to pump because spent the previous hours checking out of the hotel, getting to the airport and boarding the plane, according to New York Daily News. Breast pumps allow women to relieve pressure in the breast which can cause pain. Brahos says she typically pumps every three hours and said that she encountered no issues when she pumped on American Airlines earlier in April.
"Pumping is already awkward and uncomfortable enough without having to worry about the individual discretion of whoever happens to be working that day," Brahos said in Traveler Today. "The rules have to be clear. It's not like you can fight with a flight attendant these days."
American Airlines has since apologized to Brahos, according to the Christian Science Monitor, insisting that mothers are allowed to use breast pumps during flights, though they must be a compatible Medela-brand pump.
"We apologize for the experience Ms. Brahos had on a recent flight. Our in-flight personnel are trained to handle these situations with professionalism and discretion. American does not have a policy prohibiting the use of breast pumps in-flight. As with other devices that have an on/off switch, customers will be asked not to use them during takeoff and landing. Our procedures advise our crews to ensure that mothers who are breast feeding or using breast pumps have the privacy they need," said Andrea Huguely, a spokesperson with American Airlines.
The U.S. carrier has offered Brahos a $100 gift voucher but says she's still filing a formal complaint, according to KSL.com
"I really hope they improve training and get everyone on the same page. And I'd love to see their policy in black and white on their website, so moms can print it up and travel with it," she said. "It's important that this doesn't happen to other moms down the road.