Virgin Australia Airlines is under scrutiny after they called the police on a passenger because she refused to stop breastfeeding her infant during take-off.
Virginie Rutgers was breastfeeding her 10-month-old son as the plane made its way down the runway when the cabin manager approached her and told her to stop.
“He [the flight attendant] started to raise his voice and become quite abusive,” Virginie said, according to the Daily Mail.
According to a fellow passenger Laureen Fairweather, Rutgers and her child were in separate seats with the appropriate regulation seat belts on. Rutgers was even using a sling to cover up for privacy.
“The child was not restrained with the carrier at all! They both had their seat belts on. She was covering herself with the carrier while nursing,” Fairweather wrote in a Facebook post. “She showed [the airplane staff] too but they insisted it had to go.”
“Having witnessed the whole event, I can honestly guarantee you that it was not a pretty scene,” Fairweather added. “[Rutgers] did comply with the rule by restraining herself and the child. Absolutely gobsmacked at how rude and offensive the staffs were – totally unprofessional.”
Staff asked Rutgers to remove the sling. When they couldn’t explain why it was a hazard, Rutgers continued nursing. This led to the staff contacting the local and federal police.
“I was in a state of shock and he [her son] was screaming because I couldn’t feed him any more.”
The pilot turned the plane around and asked Rutgers, who was met by authorities, to leave the plane. No charges were filed against Virginie, but she was left stranded with her baby at the Gold Coast Airport.
While Virgin Airlines has offered to give her flight credits, they refused to compensate her for her taxi fares and overnight stay at a hotel.
Virgin Australia released a statement following the incident, according to 2Day.
“The safety of our guests and crew is the number one priority for Virgin Australia,” the statement read. “Virgin Australia always complies with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regulations and the crew act in accordance with standard operating procedures which are designed to ensure the safety of everyone on board.”
They later issued another statement via Facebook.
“We’ve seen some misinformation today regarding our policy relating to breastfeeding on board. To clarify, Virgin Australia welcomes breastfeeding and bottle-feeding on board at any time during the flight, especially during take-off and landing when it can help prevent any ear discomfort felt by infants. When the seatbelt sign is illuminated, an infant must be restrained to their carrier via the infant seatbelt only, which is provided by our crew. Safety is always Virgin Australia’s number one priority.”
Virginie Rutgers has vowed to never fly with the airline again.
Do you think the Virgin Australia Airline staff should have handled the situation differently? What are your thoughts on women breastfeeding in public? Leave your comments below.
[Photo via Facebook/Virgin Australia]