KLM Royal Dutch Airlines says it could ask breastfeeding mothers to cover up

A Dutch airline is at the centre of a PR disaster after telling a customer breastfeeding passengers may have to cover up if other passengers are offended.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines kicked off controversy on Tuesday when responding to Twitter user Heather Yemm, who asked for its policy on breastfeeding.

"Breastfeeding is permitted at KLM flights. However, 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 said.

Yemm wasn't pleased with the response and questioned how feeding a child could be found offensive, but KLM didn't immediately respond.

Upset social media users quickly piled on, offended at the suggestion a parent should have to cover up a feeding baby to avoid offending others.

KLM eventually replied to say the parents would not be forced to cover up.

"By no means is the mother obliged to cover up herself or her child. And we absolutely don't want to make the mums of our youngest passengers feel judged about," it said.

Things got worse for the airline in the days following the initial tweet though, after social media users began sharing an email they claimed was from a KLM staff member.

In the screenshot a customer services person appears to have emailed to say breastfeeding parents could be approached by a crew member if they offend another passenger, as would a same-sex couple. 

"If needed the cabin crew can approach the said party and base on the response (sic) they were given, then they would act and respond appropriately," the email says.

KLM said that kind of response would be entirely inappropriate and it's investigating the email.

"We take this very seriously," it said in a tweet.

"We're currently investigating this reply as it totally doesn't represent our official point of view at all. We completely understand this reply is offending (sic) and we distance ourselves from it."