The Independent

KLM apologises after Korean-only note barring passengers from using plane toilets sparks outcry

The Independent

KLM has apologised after a passenger accused the airline of barring Koreans from using a plane toilet over coronavirus fears. 

The incident occurred onboard KLM flight 855 from Amsterdam to Seoul, South Korea, on 10 February.

A crew member had posted a handwritten note in Korean, which said “lavatory for crew members only”, on a toilet door. 

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Images of the sign, shared by Instagram user Connie Kiim, sparked outcry in South Korea – as it wasn’t also written in English.

She accused KLM of discriminating against South Korean passengers amid the spread of coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,300 people and sickened tens of thousands more.

Images of the note went viral, and the hashtag #boycott_KLM has been circulating on social media.

Twitter user @hyunmoyang, believed to be a friend of the passenger, tweeted: “Dear KLM. You made it quite clear that you discriminate against race. Using Corona Virus as an excuse. You owe my friend and Korea a HUGE apology.”

KLM responded to her saying: “We will conduct an internal investigation and will make sure the crew involved understand why the passengers are upset about what happened.”

Executives from KLM have since apologised publicly over the incident, saying they take allegations of discrimination “very seriously”, reports Reuters.

“This is a human mistake, and we don’t take it lightly,” said Guillaume Glass, a regional general manager for Air France-KLM. “We are deeply sorry that this was viewed as discrimination, which was absolutely not the intention of the crew.”

Cabin crew said that the Korean-only sign was an “oversight”, and a notice in English was added afterwards.

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1/10 1. Air Zealand

The Kiwi flag carrier claimed the top spot in the AirlineRatings.com Airline Excellence Awards due to inflight innovations, environmental leadership and staff motivation

Air New Zealand

2/10 2. Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines came second overall and also took the Best First Class award for its Suites product

Getty

3/10 3. All Nippon Airways

All Nippon Airways claimed third place, hailed for being at the forefront of cabin innovation

Getty Images

4/10 4. Qantas

Qantas won two awards – Best Domestic Airline Service and Best Lounges – alongside fourth place

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5/10 5. Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific was named the best long-haul airline in Asia

Getty Images

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8/10 8. EVA Air

Taiwan’s EVA Air was eighth

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9/10 9. Qatar Airways

The Best Catering and Best Business Class awards went to Qatar Airways thanks to its Qsuites

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A KLM spokesperson reiterated the airline’s position on crew-only toilets to The Independent: “First of all, we wish to express our sincere apologies to all passengers who were offended by the operation and announcement of crew-only lavatories. 

“In coordination with the captain or purser, we occasionally dedicate a lavatory exclusively for crew member use. Normally we inform all passengers of the crew-only lavatories.

“This particular announcement was written in Korean only and the English version was inadvertently omitted, which was pointed out by a passenger. We are deeply sorry that this was viewed as discrimination, which was absolutely not the intention of the crew. 

“We are currently conducting an internal investigation and will take the necessary measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”

February 14, 2020 at 05:39PM Cathy Adams

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