Pianist is thrown off US flight for breastfeeding

December 12, 2017 by norman lebrecht


The Houston pianist Mei Rui says she was ordered to leave a Spirit Airlines flight before takeoff after attendants saw her breastfeeding her two year-old son.

She says she started breastfeeding because the flight was delayed for de-icing and the child was hungry.

Spirit Airlines says he should have been strapped in for takeoff: ‘Our records indicate a passenger was removed from Flight 712 after refusing to comply with crew instructions several times during taxi to runway and safety briefing.

‘To protect the safety of our guests and crew, FAA regulations and airline policies require all passengers to stay seated and buckled during takeoff and landing. We apologize for any inconvenience to our guests. As a courtesy, we’ve issued a full refund to the passenger in question.’

Dr Rui, a former teacher at Yale School of Music, has played with many leading orchestras and soloists.

Originally from Shanghai, she also trained as a clinical cancer researcher.

Comments (37)

  1. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Two-year old? Bit old for breastfeeding, isn’t he?

  2. Robert Holmén says:

    A two-year-old who can only be breast fed and couldn’t wait 20 minutes for it is unusual.

    1. Max Grimm says:

      From what I’ve seen, finding a two-year-old that can wait for more than 2 seconds for something he/she wants, now that is unusual.

      1. Sue says:

        And there are some cultures, which will remain un-named, which want women shrouded from head to toe; the site of a naked breast would turn them violent!! The world where you live has changed.

          1. Sue says:

            Hint: you maybe need to get out more if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

        1. Max Grimm says:

          I get out quite a bit, thank you very much.
          How about giving me an actual hint and telling me what on earth “And there are some cultures, which will remain un-named, which want women shrouded from head to toe; the site of a naked breast would turn them violent!! The world where you live has changed.” has anything to do with my observation about young children generally being impatient?

  3. Fam says:

    From Google: “For the rest of the world it’s very common that toddlers 4 to 5 years old still are nursed by moms for bonding and health reasons. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding babies up to two years, precisely because of the breast-cancer-prevention benefits.”

    And the pianist is a cancer researcher …

    1. Robert Holmén says:

      It says that these older breast feeding children can not be fed solid food on occasion when hungry and when breast feeding is impractical?

      1. Thomasina says:

        Totally agree. A mother taking an airplane with a child did not prepare the baby food?

        1. JockE says:

          She did bring baby food. In her breasts.

          1. Pink Tulip says:

            Breastfeeding is about far, far more than food/drink.

          2. Thomasina says:

            @JOCKE and PINK TULIP: I talked about the case when wearing the seat belt. Can you breastfeed when you are wearing the seat belt in an airplane?

  4. richard carlisle says:

    She seems to have been ejected for lack of proper safety belt usage … could be your headline is misleading?

  5. Anon says:

    Horrible country. Becoming more and more inhumane.
    Losers of the free world.

    1. RW2013 says:

      Making America grate again.

    2. Loki says:

      Breastfeeding a two-year-old ? Only if you want him to grow up to be Russ Meyer …

      1. Theodore McGuiver says:

        Love it.

      2. Petros Linardos says:

        The information presented here about the incident seems incomplete. For breastfeeding itself to be the cause of the ejection from the flight is completely outrageous, and I doubt whether it is legal.

        Nursing a toddler is completely natural and recommended by scientists. (This does not rule out providing regular food.) That it is also unusual is yet another case of “civilization” throwing scientific knowledge out the window.

        Nutrition is only one of the countless benefits of nutrition. Apparently the toddler needed comforting. Judging from my experience as a parent, there is no more natural way to comfort a toddler. In that case they were dealing with a significantly delayed flight.

        1. Petros Linardos says:

          Oops, correction at last paragraph:

          Nutrition is only one of the countless benefits of breastfeeding.

        2. Thomasina says:

          Breastfeeding for my son and I traveled with him between Montréal-Paris and Montréal-Tokyo for several times but I always prepared the baby food. I thought that it was the least respect for other passengers.

          1. RW2013 says:

            There’s nothing respectless about that in regard to your fellow passengers.
            This loving act however…

          2. Thomasina says:

            @RW2013: It’s very kind your words, but what I would like to say is that there are the passengers irritated by the hungry child who cries (the baby food when we are obliged to wear the seat belt).

          3. Thomasina says:

            And Thank you for the video…

  6. Scotty says:

    She was tossed for not buckling the kid in when asked, not for breastfeeding.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      Wasteful Terror Fabrication

  7. John Borstlap says:

    My uncle was once kicked-off a plane because his baby was being breastfed, which was outrageous since he had left his wife + baby at home.


  8. QUODLIBET says:


    It is normal and healthy to breastfeed an infant for 2, 3, 4 years. Varies by culture. I’m American and nursed my only child for nearly 3 years. Nobody’s business but my own and my family’s. Breastfeeding can and does continue after other foods are introduced. American culture, or rather, the formula industry, shames women into feeling self-conscious about using their breasts for feeding their children. That’s what they are for!! And have you looked at the disgraceful price of infant formula in your grocery store? Have you wondered why it is in locked cabinets at the front of the store? Because it is disgracefully expensive. Many women find that it is cheaper, healthier, and more pleasant to breastfeed. Of course, not all women choose to, and there is no shame in that choice, either.

    And of course in order to prevent the painful ear popping that occurs during take-off and landing, it is a good idea to eat, drink, etc. Nursing is an ideal, comforting, ear-clearing activity during those times. I flew with my child often when she was under 3, and nursing made those experiences easier for everyone – for her, for her parents, and for our fellow passengers.

    To those who feel squeamish about people engaging in normal, natural physical acts, get over it. If you are outraged about seeing a nursing baby and mother, here’s a pro tip: Don’t watch. Avert your gaze and take steady breaths and you’ll be fine.

    1. Petros Linardos says:


    2. Ben says:

      I agree w/ everything you said except the last paragraph, this entitled attitude, “I am going to do this and you just need to deal with it.”

      How about “Should I be considerate and try not making a fuss during flight, which is already way more miserable than riding a Greyhound bus with an busted toilet?”

      This fiasco could have been avoided with better planning, that’s all that is.

      For once, do people think about what kind of trouble and inconvenience other passengers had to deal with? This isn’t a carpool trip where you are the driver, that others are tagging along and therefore they must abide with your actions.

  9. Ben says:

    Spirit is one of the very lowest airlines in the history of civilization. What else could one expect.

    However, the story quoted in this post seems to contradict with other news coverage, with considerable missing facts too. The only people qualified to give believable facts are the passengers, not some airline spokesperson.

    Nevertheless, she has nobody to blame but herself because of those mistakes:

    1) She thinks she could reason with anybody from any airline.

    2) Breast feed in public, assuming the world has to accommodate her as if it’s a given right

    3) Don’t get a bottle for flight use – Stores sell breast pump and dry ice for good reasons. An occasional travel-sized bottled formula wouldn’t kill the baby or permanently damage his GI, you know.

    4) Choose to fly Spirit.

    1. Petros Linardos says:

      Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.

  10. richard carlisle says:

    The issue is not breast feeding but being properly buckled for his protection according to safety regulations.

    Please read the story and stop making irrelevant comments.

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