KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Held an Urgent Press Conference and Read the Public Apology About "Crew-Only Lavatory"

Published : Friday, February 14, 2020, 9:19 pm
ACROFAN=Jae-Yong Ryu | | SNS
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is heating the Korean Internet network, arguing that it has discriminated against South Koreans regarding the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19).

This incident occurred on February 10 at a KL855 flight departing from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Incheon, South Korea. During the flight, a Korean passenger, Mr. Kim, found a paper called "Crew-Only Lavatory" written in Korean on the toilet door and photographed it. He then complained to a crew that the phrase was written only in Korean without English, but the vice president tried to delete the photo.

At the time, KLM responded to the passenger's complaint that the decision was made to protect the crew from potential carriers of COVID-19 and belatedly wrote the phrase in English.

Beginning with Mr. Kim's Instagram, on social media, the photos taken during the flight, as well as recordings of conversations between the passenger and crew, were revealed by other passengers. Since February 12, when the fact was revealed, KLM has attracted the attention of not only the aviation industry but also netizens on the internet.

Of the total 277 passengers, 135 were Koreans. The points of Korean netizens' indignation are that many foreign passengers were also on board, and due to the uniqueness of the flight, which is closed for more than 10 hours, the "crew-only lavatory" has no scientific basis or effectiveness in virus prevention. The debate is spreading to the level of national sentiment and private exchanges, including personal experiences of racial discrimination.

Accordingly, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines held an urgent press conference at the Four Seasons Seoul Hotel this morning and made a public apology. The following is the full text of the apology;

[KLM statement]

Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning.

KLM wishes to explain its position regarding crew-only lavatories in response to the incident onboard KL855 flight to Incheon from Amsterdam of 10 February.

First of all, we would like to express our sincere apologies to all passengers who were offended by the operation and announcement of crew-only lavatories.

It is not KLM policy to reserve lavatory for crew.

The decision was taken by the crew, and the announcement was written in Korean only and the English version was only added after it was pointed out by a passenger. This is a human mistake and we apologise for it.

We take the allegations that we have discriminated against a part of our passengers very seriously. We are deeply sorry that this was viewed as discrimination, which was absolutely not the intention of the crew.

The issue was immediately reported to headquarters executives and is under investigation internally.

To prevent this from happening again, Our Executive Vice President for inflight service, Myriam Kartman, will take all necessary measures.

The members of that particular crew will talk with inflight senior management about the impact on the Korean passengers.

In addition, we have reminded yesterday to all KLM crew that it was not allowed to reserve a lavatory for the sole usage of the crew. And we will remind this at the crew briefing prior to departure to/from ICN.

We would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the passengers who have been inconvenienced onboard the KLM aircraft and to the people of the Republic of Korea who have been offended by the incident.

Guillaume Glass

General Manager for Korea, Japan and New Caledonia

▲ Guillaume Glass / General Manager for Korea, Japan and New Caledonia

▲ Francois Giudicelli / APC Business Development

▲ Chris Van Erp / Commercial Director for Korea, Japan and New Caledonia

▲ MJ LEE / Country sales manager

■ An issue became scandal… The case like a mirror of Korean society suffering from COVID-19

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport gave a strict warning on the discriminatory move and officially requested for measures to prevent a recurrence. It also stated that it plans to closely monitor and decisively handle the situations of air transports to prevent similar cases such as Koreans being discriminated against in foreign aircraft.

Meanwhile, South Korea is at the forefront of blocking the global spread of COVID-19 between China, the origin country of COVID-19, and Japan, the country with the highest number of confirmed cases except for China. The government and the people are united in their efforts to protect the disease and cure confirmed patients. A full investment is being made to ensure that, by the end of February, more than 10,000 people can be tested daily.

According to the Korean Society for Preventive Medicine (KSPM) and the measure committee of the Korean Society of Epidemiology, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks Korea as the 1st class for the infection safety rating. With internationally recognized world-class quarantine capacity, Korea's airports and ports are protecting the health of people passing through East Asia and Korea.

According to Jung Eun-kyeong, head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 9 a.m. on the 14th, there are 28 confirmed cases, 6134 negative test results, and 692 on-going test cases. There is a total of 1785 contacts with confirmed patients (562 in quarantine), and no additional confirmed patients for four days. There was no suspected case on the KL855 flight.

▲ The official positions and follow-ups announced at this meeting are expected to protect the human rights of Korean citizens as well as Japanese and Chinese, the neighboring countries.

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