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American Airlines

AA Accused of Trying to Extort $150 for Allowing Mom to Bring Breast Milk on Flight

AA Accused of Trying to Extort $150 for Allowing Mom to Bring Breast Milk on Flight
Jeff Edwards

The mother of a 13-month-old child says she was given the choice of leaving her son’s nourishment behind or paying a $150 fee to bring her own frozen breast milk on the plane.

The breastfeeding mother of a 13-month-old child claims that an American Airlines gate agent offered her a humiliating Sophie’s Choice before a recent flight home from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). According to Sarah Salow, the airline representative presented the equally unpleasant options of paying a $150 bag fee or leaving the breast milk that she froze for her baby behind at the gate.

Salow says that things started to go wrong only when she and her family approached the kiosk to have their tickets scanned for boarding. She says that in total her family had two allowed carry-on bags, a stroller and the small cooler containing breast milk with them.

“When we approached the counter to have our tickets scanned, the women at the counter told us we had too many bags and we would have to check one,” the frustrated mom wrote in a Facebook post recounting the unfortunate incident. “One of the women told us it would cost $150 to gate check our cooler when they were doing so as a courtesy just moments ago to other passengers. We were shocked. They told us we could condense our bags but unfortunately, the frozen breast milk needed to stay frozen and we didn’t have extra space in our other bags.”

Salow wrote that the young family couldn’t justify the exorbitant last-minute bag fee and had no choice but to leave the cooler containing the breastmilk behind. To make matters worse, she says that when the family eventually boarded, it became clear that the aircraft was not at all full and there was plenty of overhead storage space available.

The family says that American Airlines has since reached out to them. While Salow says she appreciates the apology and offer of compensation, her main concern is the hope that her ordeal can be used as a teaching tool to help save other air-traveling moms from similar indignities in the future.

“They definitely can’t compensate us for the precious milk lost, the embarrassment and pain they caused us but I’m open to hearing how they will try,” she told Cafe Mom. “If we can help educate their employees to save the next mom in line, then I’m okay with that! I’ve sincerely appreciated all of the support we’ve received.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (17)

17 Comments

  1. FlyingNone

    December 13, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    AA wasn’t “extorting” her. They were correctly charging for excess baggage – a cooler no less – that certainly would not fit in the aircraft cabin (overhead compartment or otherwise). Where do passengers get off DEFINING FOR THEMSELVES what is correct sized/ weight baggage, how they should fly with it and where it should go on the aircraft. Many of them purposely show up late for this reason so that they can created a fuss/ rumpus and get everyone at the airline in a crazy dither (hoping they will cave in just to get the flight out on time). Ignorance should be painful.

  2. JackE

    December 13, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    No, Jeff, that’s not “extortion”.

  3. Bouncer

    Bouncer

    December 14, 2017 at 12:44 am

    So, two roll-a-boards, and a stroller, and a cooler they admit to. And likely a gigantic purse and or other backpack they probably don’t bother mentioning. And they’re surprised this isn’t all allowed on board?

    “Precious” breast milk isn’t medically necessary, and they should pay the fee, or you know, check a couple of those roll-a-boards, as opposed to taking up 300% of what they should reasonably have as overhead bin space.

    No sympathy. People are abusing the overhead bin (because there’s no fee) and it’s getting completely out of hand to the point that mandatory gate-checking is becoming the norm, and not the one in a while thing it used to be.

    Regards,
    -Bouncer-

  4. rjlon

    December 14, 2017 at 4:09 am

    I do not understand why some people believe the rules do not apply to them. Prior to booking tickets if there is anything I am concerned about, as I have mobility issues, I always check with the airline and confirm by email. Different airlines have different policies. I check what the rules are and what I need to do. I do not see why enforcing the rules is extortion. I have repacked bags at ORD before as many people have to comply with the 50 or 70 lbs rules, I am afraid I side with AA on this one.

  5. tromboneboss

    December 14, 2017 at 4:20 am

    I will make sure to bring the right number of bags to the gate so I won’t need to leave anything behind.

  6. wanderer35

    December 14, 2017 at 5:28 am

    Just make sure you bring as many bags as allowed by the rules and you will not have any problems.

  7. jaimelobo

    December 14, 2017 at 6:05 am

    I’m lost.

    How many in the family with seats? Just the couple?

    If so, then yes, they had too many carry-ons and the gate agent was right. It doesn’t really matter how many on the plane, how much extra space, what was in the cooler, etc.

    What is Café Mom going to educate the employee about – to not follow the airline rules?

  8. MarkusToe

    December 14, 2017 at 6:27 am

    she knowed the allowed bags, to carry more is hit and miss, in her case a miss – don’t complain

  9. Boogie711

    December 14, 2017 at 10:02 am

    While the story certainly merits sympathy because of the nature of the cargo, is there some sort of exemption for breast milk on baggage or carryon limits?

    I’m honestly asking, I don’t know.

    I’m a firm believer in a woman’s right to feed her child wherever and whenever she and the child deem it appropriate, but if we leave aside the breast milk issue for just one second…. isn’t this just a case of someone who tried to get extra bags on a plane and then complained because she had to pay for it?

  10. arcticflier

    December 14, 2017 at 10:32 am

    What is she embarrassed about? Her failure to follow the carry-on baggage rules? Her thinking these rules we all must follow did not apply to her? Each of us has to make these decisions every time we travel between carry-on allowance and checked baggage.

    The quantity of frozen milk she was carrying would appear to be a large surplus over what the child required for the 4-hour flight so the cooler really did meet the definition of baggage…excess baggage.

    Besides it would have stayed colder in the baggage hold.

  11. LordAthens

    December 14, 2017 at 11:53 am

    The posts on that Facebook thread are unreal. Apparently rules do not apply to breastfeeding mothers, period.

    AA has reached out to her and will now be compensating her.

    Getting REALLY tired of the clickbait article titles. It should read “Mother was charged for excess bags, because she had excess bags”

  12. tvon

    December 14, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    While technically over the limit, the airline should make exceptions. I was forced to gate check on an empty flight once. I was pissed but i did not need the bag with me. I know the rules, but sometimes common sense should prevail. Also you all should look up “compassion”. I know thats not a flyertalk user trait, so i realize im asking alot.

  13. J S

    December 14, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    I completely disagree with the previous comments. Many of them are dead wrong on the facts (which you would know if you had bothered to click on the link and actually read the story). Many of the comments are so clearly written by people who have never pumped breast milk and some border on sexist.

    1) Breast milk is a precious commodity. I watched my wife pump and how incredibly difficult it was for her. Those little bags of milk were worth more to her than you can imagine. It is way too easy for guys like me to belittle women and all they do. In this case, it was medically necessary since her son has a severe allergy (you are wrong, @Bouncer). Even if not medically necessary, it is medically advisable and not replaceable.
    2) The plane was not full. There was no impact on any other passenger or the airline to allowing her to bring the cooler onto the plane. The overhead above her seat was empty and remained so during the flight. Moreover, the flight attendant tried to intervene and retrieve the cooler–making it clear that there was space–but the gate agent refused.
    3) @FlyingNone: how do you know that it would not fit in the overhead bin? Did you see the cooler? The story describes it as a 12x12x12 *soft* cooler. I would be willing to bet that that would easily fit in the overhead. You are also off-base with your comment about showing up late: she went to the counter to gate check her stroller 30 minutes before departure. She boarded at the end because she was in the last group.
    4) @Bouncer: She explicitly said she had no personal item (no huge purse, no backpack). The stroller is irrelevant. It does not count toward your carryon allowance. Same for the diaper bag she says she had. Here is the quote from AA.com: “Diaper bags (1 per child), child safety seats, strollers and medical or mobility devices don’t count as your personal item or carry-on.”
    5) Checking the breast milk was a terrible idea. If the bag is delayed, the milk will surely melt and be destroyed. It is a highly perishable item.
    6) Finally, she actually called AA in advance to discuss the breast milk and was advised to carry it on.

    Lastly, I just do not understand why airlines, unlike virtually every other business go out of their way to antagonize their customers for no good reason.

  14. kayun

    December 14, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Let me guess, you bought a basic economy ticket and then didn’t want to follow the rules of the ticket because your a special snowflake and want an exemption made for you? So the airline should ignore the rules but only for you? You failed to follow the carry-on baggage rules, doesn’t matter if there was space onboard the aircraft. I’m sure there was a huge “diaper bag” involved as well.

  15. rotkehlchen

    December 15, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Wow. Have we lost all precedent of having mercy for pregnant or recently-pregnant women? I can see the comments above on TitanicTalk: “Women and children first? Eh, screw them! Silly party dresses slowing those chicks down. They could have worn pants like I did to that dance.”

    Srsly, dudes, there is a special connection in breastfeeding that makes the scenario above totally comprehensible to me. Breast milk is REALLY IMPORTANT to moms. You may not understand that (and that’s OK, hopefully you’ll learn now), but if it remains mystical, maybe ask your mom what she thinks.

  16. FullFare

    December 27, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    The folks with no empathy for women who pump breat milk are wrong. I won’t disparage them (the folks with no empathy), although the inclination is there.

  17. mvoight

    July 10, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    If she had one too many bags, why didn’t she check the LEAST important one?

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