Atlas and I went to Ohio to see family - it was our first flight, and I was totally intimidated to do it without Patrick. I got advise from other moms and parenting websites. I was most concerned about getting myself, my son, and all of our stuff through security with just two hands. We didn't check bags. I have a special talent for packing lightly, which combined with planning and organization skills got us through security without a hitch. Unfortunately, it was the rest of the flight I should have been worried about.
I checked in online and was pleased to see I was automatically assigned to an "A" seat, which in the tiny plane meant I would be sitting alone. The ticket included an infant in my lap, and I thought to myself, "Well done, United! A little extra elbow space and privacy, you know just what a nursing mom needs."
My seat was changed by the flight attendant as I boarded the plane. I found out later that it was due to placement of infant oxygen masks, a perfectly good reason that any safety conscious parent would understand. However, she offered no explanation. When I requested to stay in an "A" seat so that I wouldn't have someone rubbing elbows with me while I nursed my baby, her blunt response was, "Ma'am, you can sit where I tell you or get off the plane." I was embarrassed by the way she treated me and started crying immediately. I knew I wasn't going to stop crying when I saw my assigned seat neighbor, a middle aged man wearing sun glasses. Other passengers discreetly offered to switch seats and apologized that they
couldn't help me. I appreciated the kindness of strangers, but the in-flight staff (professionals in a service industry) offered no such courtesy.
I knew I needed to nurse so that my son's ears would adjust to the pressure differences without pain - my husband had chronic ear infections growing up, and we both hope our son will not have the same problems. So despite my humiliation to breast feed while the man in the next seat touched my baby's feet and looked on, I swallowed my pride and a few more tears. I'm not quite bold enough to be a "lactivist", but I do believe strongly in a mother's right to nurse wherever she is comfortable. I wasn't comfortable, but I nursed and would do it again under the same circumstances.
I will avoid flying United when I can from now on. Sometimes it's unavoidable because United is the only airline that services my home town, and I care more about driving with my child an additional 5+ hours from SFO than about a boycott. I may not have achieved Elite status this year, (motherhood has slowed my travel schedule) but I'm not a homebody mom either. I have booked 14 flights since that day, and I've flown round trip to Michigan on a previously booked flight (on Frontier, which went well). United may not notice the partial loss of one little client the same way they did a famous country musician, but if their customer service is worth anything, they will take my advise and treat parents better. It's a big market.