Dutch airline KLM having week from hell following second PR gaffe

Company attracted negative press after saying it would tell breastfeeding mothers to cover up

It has been a bad, bad week for the Dutch airline KLM on Twitter. Photograph: Jussi Puikkonen/The New York Times

It has been a bad, bad week for the Dutch airline KLM on Twitter. Photograph: Jussi Puikkonen/The New York Times

 

It has been a bad, bad week for the Dutch airline KLM on Twitter.

First it attracted the rage of millions of people across the world for saying it reserved the right to ask breast feeding mothers to shroud themselves and their infant children in blankets to protect the easily offended.

In response to a US mother who asked about its policy towards breast feeding it tweeted that “to ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this”.

It added that “as an international airline company, we transport passengers with a variety of backgrounds. Not all passengers feel comfortable with breastfeeding in their vicinity and sometimes these passengers complain to the cabin staff.”

Many people pointed out that a more appropriate response would have been to suggest that the easily offended cover themselves with a blanket or perhaps more simply just leave breast feeding mothers to it and not stare at them in order to take offence.

The airline remained unapologetic.

But KLM’s week on Twitter was about to get a good deal worse.

While most airlines go out of their way to distract passengers from the fact that they are travelling at high speeds, many miles off the ground in heavy metal tubes full of incredibly flammable liquids, KLM decided on an alternative approach.

A tweet from its Indian division on Wednesday inexplicably raised the spectre of crashes and told passengers they were most likely to die in the middle seats of planes and more likely to stay alive if they were seated towards the back

The tweet was a reference to an old article by Time magazine which had reported that seats towards the back of a plane had a 32 per cent fatality rate compared with 39 per cent in the middle third and 38 per cent towards the third.

“According to data studies by Time, the fatality rate for seats in the middle of the plane is the highest. However, the fatality rate for the seats in the front is marginally lesser and is least for seats at the rear third of the plane.”

To show how Zeitgeisty it was and to ensure its fun fact of the day travelled as widely as possible, the account used the hashtags #TuesdayTrivia, #Aircraft, and #Facts.

People were not amused by the tweet.

And 12 hours after it was posted it was deleted after which the company “apologised “for any distress the tweet may have caused” and said it would be “reviewing our Twitter protocol to better ensure appropriate content.”

That is probably for the best.