KLM Crew Accused Of Coronavirus Racism

Filed Under: Air France/KLM

Update: See here for KLM’s formal apology over this situation.

I’ve received a countless number of messages regarding this situation, as the story seems to have gone viral in South Korea, though it hasn’t gotten much coverage elsewhere.

Given the number of readers who have asked me to cover it, let me share the facts as I understand them, then I’ll share a few thoughts, and then I’m curious to hear what you guys think.

Why KLM is being accused of racism

A sign left on the lavatory door of a KLM 777 enroute from Amsterdam to Seoul Incheon earlier this week has caused a lot of people to call for a formal apology from KLM.

At some point during the flight a passenger noticed a sign on a lavatory door in Korean that read “cabin crew exclusive restroom.”

The primary issue is that this wasn’t written in other languages (including Dutch or English), and the passenger also feels like this should have been broadcast over the PA if it was a policy intended for all passengers.

According to the passenger who brought this situation to light, she took a picture of the sign, and then one of the flight attendants came to her seat and told her that taking photos inside the plane is banned, and told her to delete the photo.

The passenger responded by asking to see the policy stating that photos can’t be taken, and apparently that proved that the only photography that is prohibited is of crew members and other passengers without their consent.

The passenger then asked why the restroom became a “cabin crew exclusive” restroom, and the flight attendant responded by saying the following:

“According to the situation right now in Asia as you know, there are so many issues with the health. Once we protect us we protect yourselves as well, so we are healthy to do the work for you. If someone falls sick now we have a problem, and that’s why we are protecting, you understand.”

The passenger responds with the following question:

“Why it was written only in Korean?”

And the flight attendant responds:

“Because we forgot. I forgot. I told her just to write it down. And that’s it. Nothing else, nothing less. We forgot. [inaudible] I should have written in English. That’s all.”

The purser eventually shows up, and she is asked if it’s a common practice to make a crew exclusive restroom. She responds by saying:

“I’ve been doing this for 33 years and I think this is the third time.”

She says other cases where she did it involved MERS and SARS. In the meantime, apparently the passenger sees the flight attendant on his iPad, and says:

“I need to find out what you checked on your iPad.”

At this point he gets quite angry:

“Oh nothing to do with you, I’m not going to show to you, this is socially private. End of the conversation. I’m not going to show you my iPad. Never. Ever.”

It does seem a bit presumptuous for her to want to see what’s on the flight attendant’s iPad, all while she’s (presumably) secretly recording them.

Eventually the flight attendant finishes with the following:

“I wrote in English now for you, and we now apologize four or five different times, and that’s it. I do wish you a very nice flight, that’s all I can do.”

The flight attendant claimed that the lavatory door had been locked for most of the flight so that even those who couldn’t read the sign wouldn’t be able to access it, though when a picture was taken the lavatory wasn’t locked.

The passenger also shares the interactions with the crew on Twitter.

A few thoughts on this situation

As far as I’m concerned, there are a few different issues here. Is it okay for the crew to designate a lavatory as being only for crew? Does an announcement have to be made over the PA for that to be the case? Should the crew get the benefit of the doubt?

Is it acceptable to have a crew lavatory?

First of all, is it appropriate for crews to designate a lavatory as a crew lavatory? If so, is it acceptable under normal circumstances? If it isn’t, is it acceptable in light of the coronavirus?

Personally I don’t have an issue with an airline designating a lavatory as being exclusively for crew in general, though only if it’s an airline policy.

In extraordinary circumstances, is it okay for a crew to designate a lavatory as being crew only in light of something like the coronavirus? You guys tell me…

Does an announcement have to be made over the PA?

The passenger seems to insist that if a lavatory is designated as a crew lavatory then that needs to be announced over the PA.

That I don’t agree with, as I don’t see why that would need to be announced to all passengers. I think a sign (in multiple languages) would be sufficient.

Was the crew being racist, or should they be given the benefit of the doubt?

This is the trickiest question.

As the sign is written, I think it could reasonably come across as racist. The sign should be in multiple languages, and it totally makes sense that people would feel discriminated against if a sign like this were only written in their language.

The practical implications may have been limited if the crew did in fact lock the lavatory for most of the flight, since no one could have accessed it. The one picture we have of the door shows the lavatory being unlocked, so we don’t know if it was in fact locked for most of the flight.

That being said, I could also see how this could have been an honest mistake (which isn’t to say that it was an honest mistake, but it could have been). I could see the (Korean) language speaking flight attendant being told to write a sign indicating the lavatory could only be used by the crew, and then a miscommunication caused it to be presented as such.

It could be that the Korean flight attendant was also told to write it in English (and that was’t understood correctly), or it could be that the purser asked the Korean flight attendant to give it back so that it could still be written in other languages, but that wasn’t understood.

We don’t know. The flight attendants claim it was an honest mistake, though it seems many Koreans aren’t buying that excuse.

Bottom line

I can definitely see how the lavatory sign came across as being racist. The question seems to be whether this was intentional or was just an oversight.

Generally when a multi-billion dollar company makes a decision on a high level that comes across like this (as we recently saw with Royal Caribbean), I don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. Meanwhile when we’re talking about the actions of a couple of individuals, I often do give them the benefit of the doubt.

I do think the passenger comes across as unnecessarily confrontational in some ways (telling the crew that they have to make the announcement over the PA, demanding to see what the flight attendant was looking at on his iPad, etc.), but then again, the crew seems defensive as well (demanding pictures be deleted, etc.).

What do you think?

Given the latest information on the coronavirus situation, my thinking changed, and I ultimately canceled my flight through Beijing. For more on the rapidly-developing situation, check out these posts:

  1. Interesting. I usually ping you when these things happen but this time I didn’t and yet you got messages.

    Anyway I have never heard of or seen a “crew-only” restroom on an airplane. Today the Korean Government warned KLM for expressing racism.

  2. I think, and do not get me wrong, that these kind of “issues” wouldn’t be covered and in such details if some of us aren’t gays, this so uncommon for men from my country to even notice let alone to think about it and write about it, long live gays!

  3. Bravo, continue that way and the label ‘racist’ will become even more worthless and obsolete than it is anyway. No one will take it seriously anymore. And that is a good thing, as it will stop people being led by guilt.

  4. There are numerous possibilities for what kind of discussions occurred between the FAs that led to the posting of the note, and you could spend hours discussing and what-ifffing them all. Only the FAs on that flight truly know.

    Based strictly on the above transcript of the exchange – presuming it’s verbatim – I do think the FAs could’ve handled the questioning a bit better, regardless of the initial intent of the note. A simple and quick, “My goodness, you’re right. Thank you for bringing that to our attention. There was a miscommunication among the crew and we’ll update that straight away. Thank you again!” would’ve likely ended it there. One FA seemingly made a feeble attempt at that, but if the transcription above is to be believed, it was poorly delivered and – understandably so – poorly received.

  5. There’s a lot more xenophobia these days due to the coronavirus.

    With that in mind being a representative of an airline, in this case cabin crew, one needs to be a lot more mindful of NOT coming across as biased.

    If this were a procedure that KLM allows its crews then would there not be actual signs produced, or a designated lavatory for all crews to use. And I presume this is an Amsterdam-Incheon flight? How long did it take before a passenger actually said something? In all this time cabin crew could have written in English and Nederlands….something to me sounds very off.

  6. It’s definitely racist. There is no plausible deniability. There’s no excuse when you’re working in a multinational customer facing position like flight attendant on an international airline on an international route. This was purely intentional and if you’re Asian you can tell right away. Shame on KLM and shame on the flight attendants.

  7. @anon:

    In this instance, maybe not. Look at it this way…if only two or three of the crew speak Korean while all the FAs presumably are fluent in English and Dutch (and likely German), then it’s a safe bet that anyone attempting to use the restroom could be intercepted by any of the FAs and informed it was for crew use only in English or Dutch. But with only a few FAs being Korean speakers, the sign provided an additional method to inform pax of the situation in the event the nearest FA did not speak Korean.

  8. Given the situation, maybe it is just an overreaction and it is not racist. It is more like discrimination and in poor taste. Although, the Korean restaurants in Korea did not mind banning all Chinese despite not even have been in any danger zones. So, yeah, that is not exactly right either. Quite a lot of people are just fearful now.

  9. Today Korea’s major newspapers, as well as the TV news reported the news of it. Even South Korea’s The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has written to KLM warning that “KLM’s racism”. According to South Korea’s TV news, on the KL855 flight to Seoul, Korean passenger was 135 pax, almost 50% percent was European(142 pax). European used the lavatory, but Korean could not use it due to ‘Cabin crew exclusive restroom’ written in Korean only.

  10. 몇명의 백인분들.. 아니면 아시아인이 아닌 분들..
    당신들은 그냥 피부색 하나로 당당할지 모르겠지만
    아직은 글로벌세상은 절대 아니야. 뭐 중국도 잘 한것은 없지만 그렇다고 아시안인들 한데 묶어서 맘대로 생각하는 그런 마인드 자체를 잘 못 되었다 생각못하지.. 뭐 우리도 white trash 나 white monkey로 부르기도 하는 인종차별적 발언이 있지만 동야인 무시하는 그런거와는 차원이 다르지.
    정말 이런 이슈는 분명 인종차별인데 아니라고 우기면 어쩔수 없네요.
    I don’t want to write in Enlgish.
    Becz i want to be a victim of something.(Neils)

  11. 몇명의 백인분들.. 아니면 아시아인이 아닌 분들..
    당신들은 그냥 피부색 하나로 당당할지 모르겠지만
    아직은 글로벌세상은 절대 아니야. 뭐 중국도 잘 한것은 없지만 그렇다고 아시안인들 한데 묶어서 맘대로 생각하는 그런 마인드 자체를 잘 못 되었다 생각못하지.. 뭐 우리도 white trash 나 white monkey로 부르기도 하는 인종차별적 발언이 있지만 동야인 무시하는 그런거와는 차원이 다르지.
    정말 이런 이슈는 분명 인종차별인데 아니라고 우기면 어쩔수 없네요.
    I don’t want to write in Enlgish.
    Becz i will play a victim(-Niels)

  12. The sign should have been written in the carriers language of origin and destination language …anything else would come across as picking on one particular set of passengers . Flip side : @AR also made a valid point .

  13. I have see (not direct) but subtle racist behavior displayed by KLM not once but every time I fly them. I’m an American citizen of Indian origin (and it’s pretty obvious from my face that I’m not white). Back when they used to hand out immigration forms on the flight to American citizens KLM would always assume I’m not an American citizen and I’d have to ask them for it. The exact same thing used to happen to my mother in law (also a brown skinned american citizen). This happened on different KLM flights to us. KLM definitely needs to train their employees better.

  14. On most KLM flights between ANS and the U.K. they only use English (including for the safety briefing), almost never Dutch.

    Is that racist? Pragmatic? I dunno.

    People often seem to look for a bad faith conspiracy rather than the more-usual cock-up.

  15. @AR
    When was the last time your saw Flight Attendants guarding a lavatory?
    The sign was intended to
    single out Korean passengers and I am sure it is not KLM’s policy to have a crew bathroom.

  16. This issue is highly related to corona virus situation in ASIA. It touches feelings. Plus if it’s company policy it shouldn’t written in a paper in that manner.

  17. Snowflake passenger. It is all about “hurting my feelings” and racism these days. BTW, I flew on a plane the other day from Europe to the US. I was in coach and there was a door in the middle of the plane “crew only”. I assume it was a place for them to rest. Small door with stairs going down the plane. Nothing wrong with that but I counted 7 (seven) crew members at one time were down there. Wondering why so many crew members needed to rest at the same time.

  18. Why was it in Korean? That’s the dumbest part.
    There’s only a nominal amount of cases in Korea. Like thank 1 in 2 million.

  19. A Korean native here who have taken KLM before coronavirus outbreak. The FAs have been plain rude, especially to economy passengers. On business class flights, some have been great, but some have been very rude and helplessly incompetent. I also have seem some FAs sitting idle, while one Korean interpreter (dressed as another KLM FA but they are not type-rated FAs but just an interpreter) does all the job. Haven’t tried transatlantic on KLM so can’t comment on whether KLM FAs are racist in general, but a poor KLM FA team certainly gives AA serious competition in terms of poor service.

    I’ve seen pilot only lavatories sometimes, usually the front lavatory on widebodies, but never seen “crew only” type lavatory in my life. That signage looks quite racist, as the idea of “crew only” type lavatory for AMS-ICN flight already looks like trying to single out Korean passengers. What I’m not sure is whether that FA would have been any less rude if the passenger in question was a “white” European…

    Racist or not, I probably took my last KLM flight – they are not any cheaper than KE out of ICN (in J class) and service not any better than BA.

  20. @Jay out of RKSI

    ‘Haven’t tried transatlantic on KLM so can’t comment on whether KLM FAs are racist in general’

    This doesn’t make any sense at all……..

  21. Horribly racist!
    Even the KKK would be offended by this story.
    It’s like worse than Hitler racist.
    Reparations should begin immediately for not just all passengers on this wretched flight. But for anyone who has ever flown KLM.
    And why isn’t the MSM covering this? They are complicit!
    The letters “KLM” should be removed from the alphabet.

  22. There is a lot of casual racism in Europe (to be fair, there’s a lot of casual racism everywhere). Most likely this was a combination of latent racism and laziness. Emotions are pretty raw right now, which is why this is blowing up.

    BTW – if you’re refusing to even consider the possibility this is racist, you are almost certainly racist yourself. Your defensiveness speaks volumes.

  23. @Dan

    The Netherlands is one of the most tolerant countries in the entire world. And yes, there is racism everywhere, even in The Netherlands. But guess what, everyone is ‘racist’ once in a while, and everyone can make a mistake too.

    It’s what humans do.

  24. @AR It’s not even like KLM FAs are remotely diligent enough to guard lavatory properly…
    @Niels maybe fire the bad ones then FAs will be better motivated? It’s not just mistake – it’s just what the majority of KLM FAs are, rude, (likely) racist, incompetent.

  25. This is what I got fromthis:

    Was this paper sign intentionally directed to (just) Koreans on board? YES
    Is that racial profiling? YES

    Was the crew concerned about contracting the coronavirus from Korean people flying from Amsterdam to Seoul? YES
    Is that assumption inaccurate? YES
    Is that assumption driven by ignorance? YES
    Is that assumption driven by xenophbia and racism? MAYBE..most likely.

    Is the sign racist and xenophobic? DEFINITELY YES…when something is racist/xenophobic, it doesn’t necessarily matter what the intent of the messenger was….it only requires that the message is racist/xenophobic.

    Is the reaction of the flight attendant make me suspect that he is in fact covering up his own ignorance/xenophobia/racism/bigotry…unfortunately, YES.

  26. @Jay

    ‘just what the majority of KLM FAs are, rude, (likely) racist, incompetent.’

    Are you really this ignorant? You just accused the majority of the KLM attendants of being racist..!

  27. I actually hear that similar thing happened out of NRT-AMS KLM flight, and the KLM FA specifically said “No Chinese, Crew Only” to a Japanese passenger (in J class). Wonder if there is any source to this.

  28. The default language used internationally is English, hence the word “Vacant” on the bathroom door, and all other airplane signage. Korean wouldn’t even rank in the top 5 default languages when it comes to KLM. The fact that they made a deliberate choice to write in Korean, and only Korean, makes it incredibly obvious what this is.

  29. @Naoyuki

    As you say yourself: ‘assumptions’ and ‘make me suspect’, which means exactly: nothing.

    First thing you learn in the military is that assumptions get people killed.

  30. @Niels
    When you make a mistake, you make a sincere apology, not act aggressive and double down. Or maybe you do.

  31. Dan brought up a good point “if you’re refusing to even consider the possibility this is racist, you are almost certainly racist yourself. Your defensiveness speaks volumes.”

    Sorry Lucky, but there is no excuse to write that only in Korean, and conveniently forget to write in other languages, especially English.

    This “convenience”, is not by accident. In fact, any warnings/notices, should first be written in English, and then other languages, for international flights, and do not try to find excuses otherwise. (And if you really want to argue, it should be in Dutch, Korean and English. And never should it be, just Korean, and only targeting the Korean passengers. This behavior, is discriminatory, and you must call it out. There is no excuse for this sort of sign. Would you, have missed out writing the English portion, and put up a Korean only sign? Would you, have overlooked the English portion, if you truly want to make that toilet exclusively for the crew?)

    The KLM team should just apologise and said they will ensure this will never happen again, for any flights they operate. There is no excuse for such behaviour, and Lucky, you should not even try to find an excuse for them.

  32. I’ve listened that record file between the passenger and the flight attendant. KLM’s response to the passenger was very aggressive. It was so obvious that KLM was very disrespectful and they just tried to justify their unfair behavior by trying to end the conversation without clear explanation. Due to KLM’s blocking way of conversation, the passenger’s questions were shown like an obstruction of the business and overreaction even though she just wanted a proper explanation that making her think she is being denied as one of the customer.

  33. The underlying premise here is just dumb. Having a separate bathroom isn’t going to “protect” FAs from getting the coronavirus from the same passengers they’re dealing with in close quarters for hours at a time….

  34. This is kind of my point – everybody’s a little racist. That doesn’t excuse it, however. We should be open to confronting these mistakes for what they are. This isn’t something people on the other side of the racist equation should have to endure.

    I don’t think anybody should be disciplined (maybe a note in a file), but this is definitely a teachable moment.

  35. @DM:

    On two of eight flights in CX F, LAX-HKG, the lavatory to the immediate right of the flight dekc door was reserved for crew use. I believe it’s the smaller of the two F lavs and neither time was F full, but in both instances one of the FAs kindly informed me they were reserved. I didn’t think much about it because, well, crews have to pee too, and it’s not like we were queuing up anyway.

    @Jay out of RKSI:

    FAs on non-US carriers are usually roaming the cabin fairly consistently – whether serving pax or conducting other duties – and could easily spot someone attempting to use the lav. Also, since we don’t necessarily know which of the lavs was the offending one, if it were a lav near the galley then there’d be an FA on galley duty there pretty regularly to “guard” the crew-only lav. Not that I’m saying this wasn’t potentially a xenophobic act, but let’s evoke Hanlon’s razor appropriately here, folks.

  36. It’s a question of cultural awareness. It’s probably a mistake and they should have been mindful. What’s good in one country can be bad in another. It’s not racist, just ignorance . This word is thrown around too much.
    Many Europeans believe Koreans and Japanese are the same, simply because they know nothing about the countries, history and culture

  37. ‘Many Europeans believe Koreans and Japanese are the same, simply because they know nothing about the countries, history and culture’

    Now this is an excellent example of racism.

  38. Alright, that’d be a mistake simply. But this mistake was very sensitive thing also Korean complained it. Then the crew must need to apologize sincerely instead of press her to delete the picture. Also the toilet was unlocked. Here we can see only Korean were unable to use it.
    In addition, why the crews never wore the masks even at the circumstance.
    They didn’t anything for their obligation and block Korean not to use toilet.
    It’s an incoherent thing even so much.
    Wearing a mask is basic precaution against coronavirus.
    However even on plane? Also even the crews who walking around most on a plane?? What can i say here.

  39. It seems poorly handled, at best.

    But the common, experience-based perception is that Koreans are in a tie with Argentines as most likely to play victim for personal gain, robbing the passenger’s argument of credibility.

  40. If the sign was written only in Korean, then as a passenger who cannot speak/read Korean, I would have definitely opened the door of that lavatory!
    Had it been written in English (a language I can understand) then I would not have used that restroom and would have gone to the next one. Had it been announced on the PA in English, I would have also avoided that restroom.

  41. There are multiple layers to this.
    It is racist, however, not a doubt about it.
    The fact that they are trying to do so on a flight to Korea is already questionable. There are not that many cases in Korea, about the same as Germany and France combined, or about a half of Singapore. Simply doing so is already grouping Koreans, and Chinese, and others together.
    Second is the sign, the fact it is in Korean only is not excusable. Even if half of FA’s speak Korean, there are still the other half who don’t. What about almost half of the passengers who do not speak Korean? There is no way to enforce this properly without writing it in English. Same thing that I feel quite uncomfortable that on a lot of AY planes, the signage inside bathrooms such as “do not throw random objects into the toilet bowl” and others are only in Chinese.
    And racism about this virus is non-existent is simply untrue. Last week I was almost refused entry to an Airbnb when the host saw me. She asked to see my passport and explain her why my name is like so. It might just be a rare unlucky event, but I still believe there is a lot of room for improvement.

  42. That’s definitely some inappropriate and unacceptable action by KLM’s crew, both the sign only written in Korean and how the crew handled the passenger’s question (assuming the conversation reported is mostly accurate). But racism might not be the right word to describe this. As suggested by many, this is close to xenophobia and discrimination caused by ignorance and fear. That is not to downplay KLM’s problem — they deserve people’s criticism and ought to apologize for the whole event. But mixing everything into racism simply weakens the criticizing meaning of the word, and leaves some people the space to say “racism is meaningless now”

  43. @Niels As I said , it’s not racism it’s ignorance. Just as many can’t tell the difference between Dutch and German , Portuguese or Spanish

    In some Asian countries all Caucasians are called “ American “, even though the US is a tapestry of all races

    I’ve seen people from certain countries mock their own as they have emigrated and now have a “ western “ passport so consider the less fortunate locals beneath them

  44. I don’t think it is racist being Korean myself. If the destination is Korea, I do expect there is quite a large amount of passengers, and a good portion that only speaks Korean. I would expect a flight flying to China has a sign in Chinese, or a flight to Croatia in Croatian, etc…

  45. Lordy. Do folks not see how telling others who feel they have experienced discrimination based upon their non-whiteness (i.e. racism) that what they experienced could not have been or was not, in fact, racism, is in itself an expression of racial supremacy? Dismissing the lived experience of others denigrates their humanity, and when it’s through the lens of race, it’s racist. Why is that so hard to grasp? Folks are not “looking” to be offended – no one wants to experience being treated as an unequal human being. Stop saying people are snowflakes, start listening to them and try to empathize. If you cannot, it’s probably because you have no idea what it’s like to be insulted daily because of the tone of your skin.

  46. @The nice Paul: “On most KLM flights between ANS and the U.K. they only use English (including for the safety briefing), almost never Dutch.

    Is that racist? Pragmatic? I dunno.”

    The last I checked, Dutch is not a race.

  47. @Beyounged

    ‘Same thing that I feel quite uncomfortable that on a lot of AY planes, the signage inside bathrooms such as “do not throw random objects into the toilet bowl” and others are only in Chinese.’

    Maybe AY noticed that a lot of ‘random objects’ were being thrown in to the toilet bowl on many of their flights to China. Is that racism? Or is it a simple solution to avoid a plane going tech because of an inop toilet?

  48. @Niels

    Idiotic strawman. People aren’t asking them not to put up signs. If you want to do it, at least also write it in English and the carrier’s own language. It’s not rocket science and it’s not that hard.

  49. Given that the only people who use the word racism are the biggest hypocrites and bigots in the world we should be proud of being accused of racism because it means we are sensible, intelligent, and thinking beings who use years and years of observation and experience to make decisions or guide how we feel.

    Flight attendants regularly lock or block off a bathroom for its own use. It was a flight from South Korea so having a Korean language sign is obviously normal. For all this nonsense KLM should stop flights to South Korea. We have plenty of stuff in Europe, North Africa, Israel/Jordan, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, the United States and Canada. We don’t need East Asia for anything. We don’t need their cars or their cheap electronics. Let’s invest in ourselves.

  50. @David

    It’s not a strawman. Yes, the FA made a mistake; for a pax to demand to see what that FA is doing in his iPad? The pax is not in the position to demand such things and I can imagine why the FA reacted like that.

  51. They apologised (multiple times) when the realised the mistake. The passenger just wanted a fight. Anyone seeing anything different is making this into something its not. We really need to do something about the media-powered society – it simply dumb.

    As for the iPad, they FA’s all have iPad’s with the passenger data and connections. Its also used to report issues with service on the plane. They may have been reporting the event to ensure clarity in case of complaint. No biggie and absolutely no right to see it.

  52. Having spent a lot of time in the Netherlands and knowing the Dutch culture quite well, I’m not at all surprised by the tone and reaction of the FAs once confronted with this accused racism as well as this customer demanding to see their iPads.

    Based on the tone it does seem like a genuine mistake and after mentioning the mistake and ‘apologizing 4-5 times’ in the last exchange, I’m not sure what else the accuser would have expected. In general the Dutch are very practical and can’t comprehend the political correctness that has become the norm in the US. A mistake was admitted, an apology was given, the situation was fixed (a sign was made in English) and that should be that.

    What did this accuser expect or want by continuing to push, other than to find ways to make themself more offended than they already were?

  53. Yep, it’s racist that a Korean attendant, on a Korean plane, owned by a Korean company, flying from Korea, wrote a sign in Korean

    So racist.

  54. Now I feel racist because I skimmed and assumed it was KAL and can’t edit my post, guess I should get my gulag bag ready.

  55. “There are only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s culture and the Dutch” -Nigel Powers, “Goldmember”

  56. It is now clear that the crews did not want to share the bathroom with Koreans.

    How would you explain this, except with racism?

  57. A lot of people getting emotional and attacking those who suggest this is racism, yet none of those people are explaining why they do not think singiling out passengers of particular racial origin is racist. Says a lot about how these people really feel about racism imo, unless of course it’s against white people in which case it becomes the biggest crime against humanity in history.

  58. @Wadoodle

    We call people who insist on arguing with others, just for the sake or aurguing, even when there is no point to arugue, Trolls…or at least that what I assume about you.

  59. @ESL Teacher

    “But the common, experience-based perception is that Koreans are in a tie with Argentines as most likely to play victim for personal gain, robbing the passenger’s argument of credibility.”

    Would you like to rephrase that so that it does not sound blatantly racist?

  60. 암스테르담에서 한국으로 가는 비행기였습니다.
    한국승무원이 썼다고 보긴 어렵습니다. 분명 한 승무원이가 영어로 쓰는 것을 잊어버렸다고 했습니다.
    시과를 했다고요.. 뭔 사과가 그딴 식인가요?
    한국승객은 50%도 안되었습니다.

    “I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Btw you are korean or thai? You guys look all same. Same chinky eyes.”
    ” i didn’t mean it. I jist don’t know the difference. Btw you are also eating with yr hands like indian. Can you use knife and fork?”
    “Nazi goereng!!. I was joking. Hahaha”
    “How come many Asian have
    Nasal voice? It is becz of flat nose?”
    “Are you making also that strange sound like japanese porono when you are making sex…”

    Oh.. you are making mistakes and i always overreact. I’m taking things too serious.
    Whatsoever i’m tired of yr excuses or ignorance or superiority.

  61. These FAs showed themselves to be not only racist and incompetent (prohibiting to take pictures with no basis for that), but also stupid. They could have put a sign (in three languages) that the restroom is broken. No one would have questioned it.
    Virus and racism aside, I also doubt they are allowed to take such liberties and designating exclusive bathrooms for them, anyway.
    I’ve only had positive experiences with KLM in both economy and business, but this situation is embarrassing.

  62. P.S. Aeroflot used to do this “broken restroom” thing quite a lot on long-hauls back on the day. It was obvious that the restroom was actually for the crew to use, but whatever.

  63. That note means,
    “Korean can’t use this toilet.”
    Because only korean understand that note.
    Yes. It is racism.

  64. Wow the number of self righteous racist on here is staggering! It’s clearly racist and just goes to show to westerners all Asians are the same! Asians need to realise this fact and stop being so pro West.

  65. @한국여자

    That’s funny man, having lived in China, I experienced the exact same things. Does that mean all Chinese are racist? No they are not. Do people make mistakes, yes they do.

    ‘Whatsoever i’m tired of yr excuses or ignorance or superiority’

    Lol, you really are a victim.

  66. The issue is the KLM crew acted on their own accord without any clear company policy in place. And the crew love to make crap up as they did in telling her no photos are allowed when in fact they are just not of crew or other passengers. That was only revealed once the passenger asked to see the policy. And when the passenger inquired about the captain making an announcement the crew responded that the pilot wasn’t in charge. That’s total BS!

  67. Niels Wil je eens nadenken wat je gezegd heb?
    Oeps ik heb vergeten dat je Hollander was.
    Je draaide woorden gewoon.
    What you say is off the point.
    머리 아퍼 그만.쓸란다. 맘대로 생각하세요.

  68. It’s so funny seeing all these right-leaning white gay (and closeted) men trying to pontificate about racism. WHITE PEOPLE DON’T GET TO DECIDE WHAT IS RACIST OR NOT—I say that as one.

  69. It is clearly racism. The racist KLM flight attendant made shi* up to cover his nasty behavior. He obviously knew what he was doing and was afraid to be in trouble. What a racist coward. He has to be FIRED!!!

  70. It is clearly racism. The racist KLM flight attendant made shi* up to cover his nasty behavior. He obviously knew what he was doing and was afraid to be in trouble. What a racist coward. He has to be FIRED!!!

  71. As a Korean, I hope it’s just a pure mistake like the FA said.
    (I don’t even want to think they might be afraid of infection. If so, then it’s obviously xenophobic.)
    And we know people make mistakes.
    But if you once make a mistake then you should apologize sincerely. Not like the FAs did with that aggressive attitude.
    Forcing the customer to delete the picture is obviously inappropriate.
    I hope KLM trains their FAs better. At least for how to communicate in the professional way.
    AR’s comment above will be a good example to solve a miscommunication issue.

  72. How is that any different from having “WHITES ONLY” restroom signs from not too long ago? How is it a ‘simply mistake’ when an entire country is upset?
    How is it that none of the FA’s including the purser notice anything wrong with it?
    How is it that non-Asian people think Asians always victimize themselves?
    How is it that non-Asian people think they could generalize and stereotype all Asians and not realize that’s exactly what racists do?
    How is it that people in the service industry neglect the power of sincere apology?

  73. @Niels

    I’m afraid you don’t understand what makes something a racist act. We all have our inherent biases, and sometimes these biases are unconscious. Our job is to recognize it so that it does not result in racist actions. Only true racists are those who refuse to acknowledge his/her internalized biases. Nobody is saying that all [put your favorite group here] are racist. Actually, technically, all of us are little bit racist inside. The trick is to recognize it so that you don’t let that affect how you think and act.

    And if you think this is total “strawman argument,” go ahead. No troll have hurt me before.

  74. @Niels

    I’m afraid you don’t understand what makes something a racist act. We all have our inherent biases, and sometimes these biases are unconscious. Our job is to recognize it so that it does not result in racist actions. Only true racists are those who refuse to acknowledge his/her internalized biases. Nobody is saying that all [put your favorite group here] are racist. Actually, technically, all of us are little bit racist inside. The trick is to recognize it so that you don’t let that affect how you think and act.

    And if you think this is total “strawman argument,” go ahead. No troll has hurt me before.

  75. @Samuelk

    ‘How is it that non-Asian people think Asians always victimize themselves?
    How is it that non-Asian people think they could generalize and stereotype all Asians and not realize that’s exactly what racists do?’

    So with non-Asian people you mean all people on this planet who are non-Asian?

    A very bold statement, do you have any evidence to support your claim?

  76. @Niels

    I’m guessing you have trouble understanding. Just fill in your name in place of “non-Asian people”.

  77. This certainly isn’t racist borderline xenophobic but no more than a most of the world right now. Major airlines are canceling flights to Asian country’s, cruise lines won’t allow Chinese or Hong Kong passport holders boarding (since the announcement they have back peddled a bit), country’s are issuing advanced screenings to all asians coming from China as well as some travel bans. So why single out this crew? The real issue is chances of getting sick on that flight was virtually non existent since the flight was originating from Europe a relatively unaffected continent right now. This goes to show that the media both social as well as main stream are creating this false since or fear that’s creating a xenophobic society.
    But all this said here are the facts 99% of the people sick with the coronavirus are asian and of those a vast majority are Chinese. The world is scared and the simple fact is your more likely to get sick from a asian than any other race at this time (but viruses are not xenophobic or racist they attack everyone). China has a deadly virus that is spreading at a frighting rate and it’s not xenophobia to be scared of people coming from there. It’s just that this is where the virus has a massive presence and the odds of getting it from someone from China or Chinese right now are greater than any European, middle easter, or a African country or people. Those are the facts now we need to look at the odds or getting it. You have realize that most country’s have done a great job of stopping the spread or it (I’ll be it with a bit of a xenophobic touch) and we don’t need the general public helping out. Relax and enjoy life go have asian food in your American and European asian communities your safe for now and if or when the day comes that your not it most likely wont be safe to sit next too or talk to anyone not just a Asians.

  78. @한국여자

    You say exactly nothing, there is no point. Yes there are racist people on this planet, everyone is racist once in a while (yes even you!!!).

    It’s human nature. Deal with it, so do I.

  79. @Samuel K

    No no, don’t dodge this one. You knew exactly what you typed, and it’s clear that you have nothing to support your claim.

  80. Rather than put a discriminatory note on the door, why not just use the existing crew controls to lock/unlock the toilet door from the outside and prevent anyone but crew from using it?

  81. I just read some of these post and people you need to stop with everything is racist. This was ignorance not racism and then it would of been more xenophobic than racist anyways. So everyone on here saying racist don’t either understand why the crew put the note on the door or know the meaning of the word.

  82. @Samuel K

    Lol, dude if you have no arguments; just say it. Stop saying 2/3 of the world population ‘generalize and stereotype all Asians’ because you have nothing to support this claim.

    But of course it’s much easier to call me a troll.

  83. Come on guys. Do you seriously believe it was honest mistake? I have no problem FAs make a bathroom for their own safety but if it truly is intended to be that way then what language would you choose to write it if you were in that shoe? Are you really going to study your way to write in Korean? I know I won’t.

    Considering it being a dutch carrier I would use native language first then English and only after that to cover those who do not speak either of them and I would bother to write Korean or any others.

    That said, I would not go far as to call them a racist but I would definitely say they intended to single out.

  84. I’m healthcare professional. Even some of my colleagues are in panic which I totally do NOT understand simply because you are a highly trained healthcare professional and you need to know the fact not the fear of the virus.
    At this moment I don’t expect regular people to react in “normal” way but it’s a shame on us that our college education (USA) is a failure that kids have 0 critical thinking skill

  85. @Junhee

    I suspect an overeager Korean crewmember wrote the note and forgot the Dutch and English translation.

  86. Flew Finnair to Delhi and back last week, and they had designated one of the J lavs for crew only. If memory serves me right, the sign was in English only. It was not hand-written by cabin crew, but an official Finnair sign. Never seen that before, but I understand it’s a cautious policy during the Chinese flu epidemic. No biggie.

  87. It might be ignorant or racist, we don’t know what the FAs were thinking. But it is not important. They apologized and I am fine with it.
    I’ve seen couple times a designated lavatory for crew. One on Cathay Pacific and the other on Air China I believe. I even saw once the United had a break room near the end if the Y cabin that FAs can lay down for couple hours when they rotate for service.
    Again it’s reasonable to call KLM for an apology but hard to call it racist. But I will vote with my feet to never board a KLM in the future if I were that lady.

  88. Ben,

    Obviously some people needed to have this conversation! Thanks for venturing in. I’m saddened by your casual attitude toward this:

    How would you feel if the flight was into JFK at the beginning of Pride week, and the sign included a pink triangle?

    Any analogy is at best a miss, this isn’t comparable, yada yada. But we can all use some additional reflection on the subject of race and privilege. Empathy is a great tool.

    Cheers and keep up the good work.

  89. Either that note was written by a 1st grader, or it was written by a non-Korean speaking FA that typed it into Google Translate on his iPad.

  90. 1. “Korean” is not a “race”. Are Chinese, Japanese, Thai and all ethnic Asian people all wigged out about this?

    2. Were caucasian passengers told it was OK for them to go ahead and use the restroom? Of course not.

    3. People are idiots.

    4. These days, people are just looking for some reason, ANY reason, to play the victim. See #3 above.

    5. Actually, People Are Idiots pretty much covers it.

  91. Niels,

    Just a little question for you: do you have a real life outside of this blog?

    You’re here an awful lot today. Just saying. If the answer is negative, then do try and get a life.

  92. @John

    Yes I do have a life.

    ‘You’re here an awful lot today. Just saying.’

    Yes I have get a lot of holidays due to the nature of my work and I really like it.

  93. @J.D. Fugate
    IIRC sometimes Lucky has been taking this type of stance when it comes to LGBT discrimination as well.

    @Dick Bupkiss
    So what, Asians are all the same?

  94. @Samuel Kim,

    So you come here to throwing around claims you can not support with any evidence and now you also assume my ethnicity?

  95. I’m Asian and I see no issues with this at all. In fact, I’m half-Korean (but multiple generations American).
    It’s an honest mistake and the passenger who decided to be a crusader is completely blowing this out of proportion.

  96. This is just ignorance. There are at last count 28 infections in Korea, 28 in Japan, 33 in Thailand, and 44,653 in China. If this were a flight to China, it might be reasonable for the crew to take such extraordinary contact precautions. But even then, if they weren’t wearing gloves or face masks during service I’m not really sure what an isolated bathroom is going to do. I really do not see any way this could possibly be construed as reasonable. This situation just exemplifies the fact that most white people cannot tell asians apart.

  97. @Samuel Kim,

    No not at all, we Dutch people have a very thick skin. Something you definitely need as we are very direct people.

  98. @Niels

    Hook, line and sinker.

    I can’t believe you just fell for that. You have less situational awareness and computing power than a goldfish.

  99. There is no such thing as a crew only lavatory and am pretty sure it’s not a KLM procedure. I’m pretty sure the purser just decided that they would lock that toilet for them to use and that’s why they wanted the picture deleted, they knew that if the passenger complained that the crew had locked a toilet for themselves to the airline the crew would get it trouble. I’m pretty sure it was meant for the Koreans pasengers you see that kind of stuff amongst crew (talking about a group of passengers). It’s xenophobic and stupid them having their own toilet won’t prevent them from getting CONVID19 just stupid.

  100. My 2 cents: I am an East Asian person who does not read or speak Korean, so my first response would be to push the door.

    If the door is unlocked then I would do my business as usual as I can’t understand what the writing means. If the door is locked then I would assume that it’s broken. In fact this is probably the normal response of anyone who doesn’t read Hangul.

    Now, if I can’t understand it, and no one stopped me while I was entering the lavatory, then this is clearly directed at people who read Hangul and ergo targeting Koreans (given that Korean is still a language few people outside the country speak).

    As the KLM crew did not lock the door and placed a sign only Koreans can read, I can only assume their intention is to prevent Koreans from using the lavatory. Therefore, this is xenophobia at least if not racism as they were excluding or deliberately hindering a certain group from accessing facilities that were supposed to be available to the general public.

    This is not about assuming the worst in people. This is about the FAs being inconsiderate fucks with a subconscious to prevent Koreans from using it without realizing this themselves.

  101. We flew first class on United from Houston to Buenos Aires in mid-December and from Santiago to Houston in mid-January. United designated the lavatory at the front of the plane “for crew only,” and this situation was well before the coronavirus was a global health issue. It just seemed to me to be a “privilege” that the crew bestowed upon themselves, leaving only two lavatories for the 40+ first-class passengers for the 10-hour flights. On the Santiago-Houston flight, one of the passenger-designated lavs became out-of-order, but the crew did not open up their “own” lav. Given the lack of service overall by the UA first-class cabin crew, their sense of entitlement only bolstered my poor opinion of United’s in-flight performance.

  102. Anyone who has ever flown KLM to/from Africa knows full well that KLM crew are not exactly politically correct or at times even polite to their African clientele. Have observed with my own eyes.

    And those are on some of the most overpriced routes in the whole world that are also served with some of KLM’s oldest aircraft.

  103. Crew sometimes lock out a lavatory for crew only if others have been “fouled” by passengers who may have “gastro” or some other health issue and it happens a lot !! Perhaps the majority of the pax were Korean and didn’t speak English – who really knows the truth – it’s always easier to jump too quickly to assumptions – was their safety compromised, did they get from – A-B – everyone is so easily offended these day’s by anything

  104. I don’t think this is racism at least I suspect that was not the FAs intention. Feels more like so many others it’s an over reaction to a health situation. And with any over reactions/knee jerks you tend to not follow through on procedures. But since the public enjoys feeling offended and want to find social cases to champion we get these types of outrage.

  105. What a non-issue! The only reason I read this article to the end is that I really enjoy reading of the comments!

  106. We lock off lavatories all the time. Usually one of the aft lavatories near crew rest area will be locked off to prevent congregation and excessive noise near the rest area. Ive seen this done on almost every international flight i have been on over the past decade.

  107. If crew wished to reserve a lavatory for their exclusive use they can flip a lever on the outside of the lock to indicate it is In Use. Most passengers do not know about this.
    This would be a much more discrete way of keeping it free rather than the silly make-shift sign.
    I suspect it is the work of one frightened/hysterical FA who is largely ignorant of how the coronavirus is transmitted, and does not want to work any flight into/out of any Asian country.
    Maybe they missed the memo to crew from KLM about this topic and the options available to them?
    The drama queen passenger who blew this issue way out of proportion does not deserve any oxygen (no pun intended!). Some people live to be offended.

  108. I dont know what I find more ridicolous. To make such a big deal out of something as unsuspicious or the fact that this is being reported.

  109. Very hard to believe that this is an honest mistake.
    1) Cabin crew in national airline write something not in their airline’s native language (Dutch) or English (national language) but write in Korean only? Just because the flight was heading to Korea? I read a Korean news that in the flight there were around 50% of Korean passengers. If you are a cabin crew who are used to speak in English and Dutch and there are 50% of other nationalities who are not Korean, would you write the sign in Korean only?
    2) When I watch the video, it seems to me that the cabin crew knew that they were being xenophobic (whether the mistake was something they meant to do it or something done subconsciously). They were the ones who brought up corona virus, refusing to give their names and overly defensive – the way they speak is almost shocking to me since I have never encountered any cabin crew who speaks like that. I don’t know the circumstances before the video was being taken (maybe the passenger flipped out and made a scene? Didn’t look like that tho), but even if the passenger were being rude before taking that video this seems wrong. The way they talk is nothing sincere (when they are the one who made a mistake on the sign) almost sarcastic (the way the speaks is like speaking to a child on-purpose-like I found), making the passenger being overreacting. Also they lied about that the laboratory was locked and lied about their rule for taking picture on the plane.

    I also do not like how this article was written to be honest.
    The point here that upset Koreans is the the crew being xenophobic and trying to make the passenger look oversensitive black-consumer-like, the point is not that the laboratory can/ cannot be designated to cabin crews or this decision should/should not be announced – The passenger was not upset because she can not use laboratory obviously. When the passenger found the sign and took a picture, if the crew was sincerely saying sorry and made an amendment right away, I don’t think this would go this viral. The problem is that the crew tried to take the photo down (with a rule that does not apply to this case – they should know their rule better than the passenger), lied that the laboratory was locked so nobody can go in anyway, then they talked to the passenger very poorly in my opinion. Also regarding the i-pad that the crew was checking something about in front of the passenger at the time, when you listen to the video, the passenger did say that she need to find out what he is checking with his i-pad but she did not say that she demand to see the i-pad itself. The crew misunderstood and overreacted. If you are having an argument with someone and that someone is writing/checking something with their i-pad wouldn’t you ask what they are doing with their i-pad? She did say something like ‘I don’t want to see that neither’ later in the video too.

    The article to me looks like that the writer is trying to say: we don’t know if the crew was being xenophobic & The passenger was equally rude as the crew here. (therefore Korean people are overreacting – this article repeatedly saying that something like Korean people have gone viral, many Koreans aren’t buying that excuse).

    I don’t know if this is the writer’s neutralism, his way of getting more attention and comments on this article or even his white privilege that he can not see what’s the problem here is but this is what I think.

  110. While i can see that the korean only languages things can be a mistake or mis-understanding. I was more disturbed by the fact that they ask he/she to delete the photo. And demand to see what he/she are doing with their Ipod.

    It s obviously that they know how bad this s gonna turn out and try to cover it up. This s bother me the most….their behaviour.

    Agree with a certain comment below, the way they handle this situation is 0 out of 10. Instead of lively apologize like ” you r right! it s our over look and misunderstand between us. I havent notice before. Thanks for pointing that out!” wd have end the story now amd then.

  111. From new reports it now seems that European(“white”) passengers were actually allowed to use that “crew only” restroom on thar flight. That is racism – singling out Asian-looking passengers. No excuses.

  112. @ Niels,
    You are wrong on so many levels..
    I agree with you that ‘people do make mistakes’.. yes, that is a human nature.. but this isn’t surely the case..you also put here that ‘they apologized a several times’ and that should be good enough to cover what transpired here.

    But let me ask you one thing that many people didn’t notice here. The crew tried to delete the pic in question by claiming that taking pic was banned on the plane . But why? if it was an HONEST MISTAKE as you claimed… why the crew didn’t apologize back then right away? Instead they tried their best to cover it up by lying about the ban ..

    you see… the moment the the crew lied & tried to confiscate the pic, they knew exactly what was wrong! Indeed, the crew knew very well what they have done wasn’t acceptable hence the cover-up effort followed.

    What normal people usually do when they realize they made honest mistakes, they apologize right away.. but that wasn’t the case here. There were lengthy efforts from the crew to cover it up and that clearly tells me what happened on that plane wasn’t a mistake: yes! ‘action speaks louder than words!’. They knew exactly what they were doing when they were putting up the sign there.

    Of course, they apologized later like you said, but it was more of forced upon apologies.. they weren’t sincere at all: they did it because they had to in a fear of what might transpire after that, not because they felt bad or sorry. You see.. sometimes we can tell whether the person is being sincere and means what he or she is saying by listening to the tone of his or her voice. Have you head the real recording? if you have, I don’t think you could say that ‘ they did apologize’ ..
    The tone of voice used in so -called apologies was sharp, very irritated and loud which clearly can’t be the features of the voice of someone who is apologetic.

    Just because you share the same nationality as the crew, please do not try to paint the whole pic as the same colors the crew did if you know what I mean. Something like that only aggravates the situation .. you see.. people are more forgiving than you might think they are.. If the crew were sincere and apologetic for what they have done, I don’t think the matter got this big.
    Same thing can said for you: instead of trying to blindly defend the crew members by generalizing & putting things under the ‘mistake’ category based on the same nationality that you do share with them , if you had acknowledged their faults, you wouldn’t have been spending the whole day sitting in front of the computer entering some of the unpleasant comments of yours.

  113. @Naoyuki. You summed it up perfectly. As an Purser on one of the big three, I can tell you that crews are worried about catching anything. I do not think the flight attendant that wrote the note did so because they are raciest. I believe they did so because the majority the great majority of passengers were Korean. Does this excuse this behavior? No! Blocking off a bathroom for crew use only is against company policies at most if not all airlines. However, does it still happen? Yep! We just don’t put note’s out. Men know how bad they ‘aim’ when in a bathroom. It’s rare they (or anyone else) cleans up afterwards. Basically, the only one’s that believe it would not be racist is individuals that are ‘white’.

  114. @speedski
    “The passenger wanted a fight”
    Here i can see you have no idea about the flow on this circumstance.
    First, she just took a picture with bitter feeling. No complaining at all at the time. But crew came to her and just urge to delete the photo.
    So, she complained about the paper.
    And the crew keep excusing like we forgot to write in English as well…
    There was no sincere apology and even pressed the passenger like that is it serious stuff? You’re problem.
    That’s why this circumstance got worst.
    It is thing.

  115. I flew KL business class AMS-SFO on the 777 and the forward lav on the left side was designated for crew use only with a hand-written note taped to the door. Whether this is KLM policy or individual crew preference, I can’t say.

  116. What a fuzz about nothing. It was a bit clumsy and not very elegant. But hat should be it.

    All the ones screaming ‘racist’ ask yourself this:
    Suppose u are traveling and u see a Chinese tour group. Do u pass by as u would do with your own countrymen or do u keep more distance?

  117. In 2013 when the racist Dutch judge on Holland’s Got Talent racially abused a Chinese contestant, the whole Dutch audience just lapped it up and laughed and laughed and laughed. It’s on tape, if you want to watch it. Only the American judge took a stand, telling off that vile Dutchman.

    in 2020, if you take that as an indication of general Dutch societal attitudes, you won’t be far mistaken. Nothing will change.

  118. Umm, the fact is that Korea is ultra homogenous and plenty racist in general, so that makes this “story” very ironic.

  119. @ Ron
    So the money that Korean passengers paid is acceptable while the Koreans who paid the money and made the airline rich are not okay to use the service that they paid for?!?!
    If KLM was so concerned about the crew’s health and safety, why did they sell the tickets to Korean passengers in the first place? or cancelled the tickets and returned the money ? or at least do things officially by putting up a sign in multiple languages? huh? the sign looks more like the result of a few crew members’ hasty decision who think that all Asians carry viruses!!!!

  120. People are jumping to conclusions too quick, everyone is easily offended these days, victimization has become a trend for *certain* generations. Need any proof? Read the comment section. SMH

  121. @Endre

    Just like having temper tantrums when corrected by adults must be part of *your* generation, heh? You will learn gradually, young lady.

  122. Do you think this is controversial instance? Do you think this can be thought as ‘honest mistake’? Huh? Do you think Not-Korean passengers on that plane can notice the room not available for themselves? Is this only an ‘presumptuous’ complain against the only-Korean prohibition (label) caused by having forgotten the other language promotion about unavailability of that white-paper script by hand writing? Really? Wow! What a cooool hypocrites.

  123. Both sides are idiots here. KLM (yes, not all of KLM, but the people representing KLM here) clearly was befuffled and bumbling, and the passenger (whoever this loon is) sounds like he/she/it was pining to stretch any ill-fitting straw into a tirade for nothing.

    Ignoring insanity is helpful in this age.

  124. The paper says ‘Korean, do not use this room’ sincerely in Korean.
    The paper do not say ‘All the passengers on this plane cannot use this room’.

    You can’t notice the difference, can you?
    -between noticing that prohibition, in Korean and in English – the metalanguage of this age.
    At least, I can find out the improvising of that note. Don’t you see?

    Some men here say everybody do mistakes.
    Yes, they are right.
    Grown-ups apologize that, when they do. with ‘Sincerity’.

  125. Very simple: when it is tricky and hard to decide who’s right and who’s wrong, the customer then is right. KLM should apologize formally and be more cautious from now on.

  126. 포인트 만 운항하는 항공사는 비행하지 않는 것이 좋습니다. 가장 좋은 일정이나 서비스를 선택하십시오.

  127. Let me offer a Rosy explanation which can exonerate KLM!

    Dear customer,

    I am sorry to learn that you are dissatisfied with the service on kl xx.

    I hope you would allow me to offer some contextual information to put the incident into perspective.

    This flight is bound for Seoul from Amsterdam. As a key risk factor of transmission of covid 2019 is travel history, we are well aware of the risk posed to passengers by crew who have travel history to Korea or other areas impacted by the virus. As you may appreciate, a substantial number of crew members on board are mobile and indeed had such travel history.

    In order to best protect the health of passengers, the head of crew made an informed decision to designate a toilet as crew only. This is to prevent transmission from our crew to passengers.

    However, our crew members indeed held a mistaken assumption that passengers were multi lingual, who would be able to read the language of the destination.

    On behalf of KLM, I must apologise to all non Korean speakers who could not enjoy the same level of protection to Korean speakers. This in effect discriminates the non Korean speakers.

    I hope you appreciate the protection we seek to offer to you.

    Kind regards,


  128. @Jiaogulan says:
    February 12, 2020 at 8:19 pm
    Umm, the fact is that Korea is ultra homogenous and plenty racist in general, so that makes this “story” very ironic.

    Hey, Adolf junior. You are the racist full of xenophobic prejudice.

  129. Air France in long haul flights have one lavatory reserved for the pilots only.
    If I remember Egyptair have the same policy.

  130. I don’t intend to rake KLM over the coals like some others have done (I don’t think they are inherently racist), but some training/service deficiencies are quite evident IMO:

    1) Allowing (or tolerating) ad-hoc, handwritten signs to be posted.
    This is a NO-NO at many large corporations I’ve worked at. All official communication directed at the public ought to be typewritten and vetted by HQ/Public Communications before release to the public. Handwritten signs don’t imbue much legitimacy in terms of communicating official airline policy or procedure, and can be a liability for the company especially if written and posted on a whim. There are limited cases when handwritten signs can be necessary (e.g. when something breaks), but in this case, it’s not like they found about the coronavirus for the first time while the plane was in the air. If the cabin crew formally discussed this issue with management, and if management officially sanctioned the policy of cordoning off lavatories, there should have been an official, typewritten sign prepared in multiple languages.

    2) Failure to provide sufficient sensitivity training and/or directives to staff in light of recent developments and circumstances. Understandably, especially in light of recent developments regarding the coronavirus, many Koreans are becoming increasingly sensitive to issues surrounding discrimination and harassment while travelling abroad. Even in borderline, vague cases of discrimination, it is no surprise that Koreans would have a cynical interpretation of such interactions. Although not mandatory, it would have served the airline well if they kept abreast of recent developments and cultural idiosyncrasies, and applied directives and training initiatives that mitigated opportunities for misunderstandings like what happened in this case. KLM is an international airline that serves the Korean market, and they should not underestimate the power of collectivism in Korea (look at the decline of Korean visitors to Japan after Japan’s perceived slight on Korea). Even seemingly minor actions partaken by representatives of the airline can escalate quickly and result in consequences.

    3) Allowing/tolerating the cabin crew to mislead the customer regarding company policy (with regards to photography in the cabin). The cabin crew insinuated that the passenger was partaking in illegal activity simply by taking a photo of the handwritten sign. It’s possible that the cabin crew wasn’t well versed on the policy (training deficiency), or deliberately lied to the customer (as a defence mechanism). Either way, the cabin crews’ reaction to this was uncalled for and it can cause customers to question the legitimacy of the airlines’ policies.

    4) Allowing/tolerating the cabin crew to refuse to provide their name. I’ve worked in unionized customer-facing positions, and “You don’t need my name” was a common response by coworkers that knew they were in the wrong. While I understand why certain people might be hesitant to give out their name for privacy reasons, there’s always an option to provide an employee/badge number instead. There’s nothing wrong with enforcing policy and and correcting a passenger that is in the wrong, but refusal to provide a name or employee number implies hesitation, inability to be accountable and fully stand by their statements or decision.

    I doubt that this will result in any serious consequences for KLM, especially considering that the European point-of-sale still exists, but the relatively few non-Korean airlines that can hold their own against KE/OZ in the Korea market are usually the ones that adapt well to Korean customers’ expectations. KE/OZ doesn’t dominate most routes out of Korea because of price.

  131. Regardless of this scandal, KLM is one of the few airlines in the world I find to consistently be worse as a long haul experience versus their intra-Europe short haul. I try to avoid at all costs for long haul but will happily take them on my regular travel in and out of AMS short haul.

  132. Working as flight attendant for many years with different airlines, it is standard practise to block toilets for the crew *on high risk* flights. Gastroenteritis is very common in many places around the world, especially Africa. To prevent the crew from serious illness, the airlines have special countermeasures in place, like return catering and crew only toilets.

  133. @Chris

    My wife is also a flight attendant. What you’re saying is absolutely true. However, we are all discussing the merits of this particular attendant who determined that preventing ‘Korean speaking individuals’ from using this particular bathroom was an attempt to mitigate, and I quote the videos from this interaction, “the health situation in Asia”.

    Not arguing the validity of ‘Employee Only’ bathrooms on flights. We are discussing the reasoning and the thought process behind a sign, written in Korean, meant as a mitigation effort to the coronavirus. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

    To everyone saying “KOREAN ISN’T a RACE! IT’S XENOPHOBIA AT BEST!”

    I can assure you, as a person of color, I can understand that this was discriminatory, and the pain it entails. I couldn’t give two sh*ts whether its racist or xenophobic. Wrong is Wrong.

  134. Been Chinese-Dutch, every flight with KLM if I were to sat in the emergency exit seat, I got asked if I speak English, I reply in Dutch instead. This is annoying but its just the assumptions that the mainstream people have.

  135. Imagine being on a flight from New York to Paris (11 confirmed cases) on a Delta Flight, and the flight attendant put up a handwritten note on the toilet written ONLY IN FRENCH that the toilet was designated for Crews Only, and you see a bunch of people going in and out of that toilet (those that cannot read/understand French).

    Are you sure nothing is going to happen?

  136. You guys are throwing the word “racist” around so loosely that it loses all meaning. And, what we have an example of here is NOT racism. It is xenophobia, brought on by the fear of the coronavirus. The KLM crew should know better than to conflate Korea with China (which is where the epidemic has been based), which is one aspect to the xenophobia. And I consider this to be a display of ignorance on the part of this crew.

    But is isn’t racism. Furthermore, we shouldn’t get all hot and bothered over things like this anyhow. It’s an outgrowth of the hype surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, just as the appearance of all kinds of people wearing surgical masks on domestic US flights (yep, saw that this week). People see hyped up stories about the virus and they flip out and do irrational things. In this case, an irrational, xenophobic, thing. The crew should know better and clearly require more training. Also, that level of rudeness and snark, if I experienced it, would turn me off from ever flying KLM again.

  137. @Jiaogulan

    Having been to both Korea and mainland China, I experienced much hostility and racism from the Chinese than my entire time in Korea. Quite ironic of the Chinese to claim other people as “racist” and “xenophobic” when fingers aren’t pointed at them.

  138. Ngl, this is sickening how some people here are saying oh people are over reacting and this is political correctness bullshit. So is the author of this article, shows quite alarming how little he understands racism. Consider the facts for fuck’s sake. First of all, for someone who supposedly is professional and has concerns, why is he discriminating against Koreans, who was less than half the number of passengers in that flight, and Korea has the least cases of Wuhan viruses (30 or so), number only inflated due to the 300 plus people getting evacuated from Wuhan? And if you are an avid traveler, you should already know Incheon Airport is one of the major transfer airplane hub in East Asia, and any professional would have known that. At least write it in English, my first instinct would have been write it in English, not in fucking Korean. Also, flight attendant recorded a passenger in plain sight in her face, and then says don’t ask about my ipad and not gonna show you hur dur dur. What kind of bullshit is that? Dude, like you said so yourself, policy applies only to recording cabin members and other passengers without consent is the law, but the passenger was only taking pic of the toilet sign you guys poorly made, so why are you asking her to delete her photos, and then turn around and say me recording your face in ipad without permission is totally fine, suck it? Fucking disgusting that the author of the article and some stupid people in the comment would try to debase it as simple “political correctness” and “don’t get offended by it, that’s on you” mentality.

  139. When the Spanish Influenza boke out, It killed 50million people through out the world. As it started fom spain, should all European and Spanish be discriminated and insulted only because they are European? Think about this as the grownup.

    And Steve M, We are talkimg about what KLM’s did, don’t change the subject. Did any South Korean airplane put the discrimInating note aiming any certain race as KLM did? Deffinately not.

    And South Korea is very well at controlling this Medical Chaotic situation according to statestics.

  140. Both Korean and Chinese are very sensitive, emotional and fragile when it comes to something like this. It never gets old.

  141. @Shannon

    “Both Korean and Chinese are very sensitive, emotional and fragile when it comes to something like this. It never gets old.”

    I don’t quite understand what you are trying to tell us here. Could you please rephrase it for that we can all understand it better?

  142. If stating a reality makes me Adolf Jr, then heil I guess.

    And Steven M, relax, just because I was commenting about Korea does not mean I forget about the rest of the world. Yes, China has a lot of racism too.

  143. Im a Korean myself and if I saw that sign I probably would have asked a crew member which toilet I could have used in English. but then maybe they would think I wasn’t from Korea and they would have let me just use it? who knows?

    I heard some french beat up an Asian in PAris, like ganged up on the poor Asian victim, all because they were so consumed with Hate towards China?
    I mean I don’t think it’s just the whites being racist on other races that are not white. I think it’s in every race. sometimes I come across older and alot of younger Koreans making racial remarks towards other whites and blacks and latino/as and whateverelse color there are.

    I think it’s just the matter of not being educated.

  144. there are only 135 Korean passengers and 142 are non-Korean passangers on the plane and they put the sign only in Korean.

    If you still think it’s not racism, you didn’t have proper education regarding racism or you are definitely racist.

  145. people who just claim Chinese and Korean are sensitive and emotional, listen.

    Do not blame others about your fault.
    You must have to face to it exactly for yourself not to be stucked.

    1) KLM made a mistake what written to alert in a particular language its Korean. Yes right, mistake doesn’t matter. It may be human nature. However, it’s able to be very sensitive even with coronavirus. And the crew dismissed it as nothing like people who take it sensitively are problem. Where is fair here?
    Also of course they said they already apologized several times. But it was fulsome and they were busy to talk about the photo to delete.
    Here this point of the photo made the passenger is convinced it’s racism, disrespect.

    2) About the Coronavirus.
    Some people would say or think like that ” it’s big problem the coronavirus! So the crew had to ban to use the toilets. Also they said it was a transient order”

    Definitely, it’s a big issue nowadays.
    So let me ask to the crew.
    What did you do for protecting against the virus as the crew who working on a plane and an airport? These places are obviously dangerous since too many people from somewhere are walking around even in a place. Moreover the crew have to keep walking around as well and touchable with them for working.

    * All of them did not wear a mask at all even in an enclosed place its plane.

    Oh, would you say like that “Why have they got to wear a mask? They have no virus!”

    Firstly, it’s discrimination as well.
    Coronavirus started from Wuhan in China. But Not all of chinese have the virus. Even though numerous.
    Moreover it was Korean and Korean passenger complained it. Here we can see they deemed Asian is problem about the virus without any checking the fact also respect.

    Secondly, this Coronavirus has an incubation period for like 14days.
    It’s meaning no one can sure have no virus about oneself.
    This fact risks especially the crew who are exposed to places too many people gathering even from somewhere. And have no idea where they’ve been through. It’s not about only Asian.

    At this circumstance, no mask and no gloves during working even on a plane enclosed place with various people is it corrected behavior? And just banned to use toilet even only Korean?
    It’s totally inappropriate.

    3) It’s very surprised here needs to talk about these too basically stuffs.
    It’s very easily to get as long as see what’s going on this big world with news or article and so on.
    Maybe is that why happened this kind of happening? Hmm..

  146. Country of Black Pete! disappointed but not surprised!
    Dutch people really are living in the “DuTch pEOpLE CaN’t bE raCisT wE Are kNoWN fOr tHe mOsT TOlerAnCE pEOPle iN ThE WOrlD” bubble lol

  147. @Niels

    Ach, daar heb je weer zo’n figuur die alles maar goed keurt. Want ja, Nederland accepteert alles. Nederland is tolerant in a way, yes! You’re right, BUT when it comes to certain things. (En je weet donders goed wat ik hiermee bedoel, ga a.j.b niet doen alsof je het niet zal weten) People are NOT so open minded as you would like to think here. I do agree that making mistakes is only human, but this is NOT an mistake. Why not writing it in English, so “everyone” can read this, and understand. You’re one of those Dutch people that i am ashamed to be a Dutchie! Small narrow minded, and ignorant AF! Ps: dit papiertje is ook duidelijk geschreven door een NON Korean, dit kan je zien aan het handschrift. Dus…….

  148. Who the hell does the passenger think they are demanding to see the FA’s iPad? Are they nuts or possibly deranged?

  149. The way I see it (in regards to the bathroom), the crew is trying to protect themselves from infection, putting themselves first, prioritizing their needs and health over the passengers’, etc. No comments on the sign or their behavior. Designating a bathroom just for themselves seems a bit… Selfish. Like, “It’s important for the crew not to get sick. You might be sick, so we want our own bathroom.”

  150. I would have dropped a deuce right in front of that door and put a 한국인 전용 화장실 (Korean Lavatory) sign on top of the pile.

  151. As being fluent in Korean, I don’t know if you can really tell that this sign was written by a Korean attendant or not. (No offense but it could be done by someone who just “draw” the letters)
    That being said, I wouldn’t think that it was just pure “miscommunication mistake by “Korean attendant with lacking English”.

  152. I find this racism because if the crew really made this decision concerning the health issue, they should’ve worn masks and gloves or something. I just watched that recording clip, and nope, they didn’t.

  153. @Reginald, nailed it. What a lunatic. Can you imagine having a run in with this person as your customer? Having to serve them? Talk about a flaw in the model of serving the public, lol. Or being in a relationship with this type of person?

    Makes ya shudder.

  154. @Jiaogulan

    I hope that passenger enjoyed their meal on that flight. I’m sure the FAs made sure to “enhance” the flavors.

  155. Korean American US Army veteran living in one of North Eastern liberal states.

    Guess what I hear weekly basis: ching chang chong; ni hao (sometimes konnichiwa). Matter of fact, I speak better Spanish than either Chinese or Japanese.
    Whenever I interact with (mostly white) non-acquaintances for non-business purpose: so, where you ORIGINALLY from?

    Guess what? Ignorances towards Asians in the western world (even though I BELONG there) is ordinal and not recognized. Reading several comments on this post assures me the reality.

  156. American living in NL here. Recently, the Radio 10 station of NL aired a song that said, “We don’t need the virus in our country, it is all caused by these stinky Chinese people” and also asked people not to eat Chinese food. This is a station with a wide audience and established in 1988! People criticize the DJ who wrote and sang the song, but it’s a systematic issue. I see the lack of respect to Asians is a society-wide problem. For example, as a Korean-American, I look Asian. I get a lot of ching-chang-chong calls (it’s what Dutch people say to make fun of Chinese — or all Asian-looking people). Dutch people are not evil, but they’re extremely unaware of how they constitute a minuscule portion of the global community.


  157. @Neil

    All Chinese are racist ? No
    Whoever discriminated you a racist? yes

    Are all dutch Racist? No
    KLM? Yes. I don’t know what part you don’t understand.

    Racism is racism whether it’s a mistake or not. ignorance doesn’t justify anything

  158. It’s not clear to me why the sign was in Hangul only.

    Also, in recent years i have been on more than one Trans Ocean flight that had a crew only rest room, which while I did not find it racist, it was really annoying.

    I don’t remember the airline, but was certainly a Sky Team airline.

  159. Let’s boycott the KML which discriminates Korean. They deserve it and need to learn what is the affected result following their childish racism. Let’s get union and stay calm. Let’s show how we react powefully as Rosa Park did in 1960′.

  160. This is very rude one because not the message in Korean itself. Even if Korean people were majority in the flight, is it right to use only Hangul for the international flight? Just the word selection is actually not important. That’s poor explanation. Ignorance? Xenophobia? What ignorance? To not discriminate like this, what should KLM know about Korea? Korean as language is not very often used in the entire world. Was the Korean too popular to think about the other languages, for example, English? Of course, the incident itself is rather like xenophobia. However, that doesn’t justify the rudeness. In many countries, uploading the video without the permission could be accused because the work could be a civil case. Some rights about the voice, company, etc. should be kept. However, at least in Korea, without like this way, many things would be concealed, because this is a conflict with the company and an individual. Too long explanation or just word-based bullying doesn’t resolve the issue. Just saying ‘I’m sincerely sorry’ and doing all things professionally resolves the issue. Especially, KLM is the ‘National’ company. We all are human, so anyone could make a mistake. That’s the fact. Then, just saying sorry and not saying like ‘Erase the picture about the issue’ makes the issue more simple.

  161. Actually, to say sorry about the incident, one must do some tings: First, do not say like ‘It was a mistake’. All people know that could be a mistake. Don’t say like this, because that seems ‘I want to just dodge this’. Second, do not say like ‘There was no intention’. Whether the incident is intended or not is not very important. Very disgraceful wording. Third, do not make a play with English words. Korea does highly educate people. Even the apology video was uploaded already, some people are saying that their word selection is very defensive and they just want to evade the additional damage. Are keeping these too hard? Why? Earning reputation is very hard, and loss is just a moment, but very rapid.

  162. It’s interesting how people are bending backwards to excuse KLM for their behavior. A KLM FA who speaks ONLY Korean and can only write in Korean? And this person was tasked with writing the sign (by who? Another FA who could only speak and write in Korean as well?).

    Get real and listen to yourself. A sign that only tells Koreans not to use the toilet isn’t racist? The implication is that Koreans are dirty, or perhaps other races are genetically superior and aren’t susceptible to coronavirus infections? And that’s not racist?

    The most disgusting thing is when a WASP decides what is and/or isn’t offensive for everyone else.

  163. David,

    Feel free not to patronage KLM if you don’t approve of their behavior.

    Korean Air is a very nice airline, use it.

  164. @Reginald

    I don’t intend to fly KLM, but I was under the impression that the comments section if for leaving comments.

  165. Although the article seemed analytical by presenting questions and subs, it is quite surprising that the writer reflects the main point over this discrimination controversy.

    When there is a lavatory sign “Crew Only”, written ONLY in Korean, who do you think can use this toilet and who CANNOT? esp.when the door was unlocked actually.

    This is a subtle tactic to ban a certain group of people from using the toilet in a covert way when the passengers were composed of several different nationalities, isnt’ it? Human history has called this ‘discrimination’ because it causes unequal treatment to a certain group of people.
    Unfortunately for KLM and for some racist foreigners trying to gaslight, Koreans were smart enough to notice this covert, but obvious, discrimination tactic.

  166. Hmmmm. Why just Korean though? I don’t want to be pointing any fingers, but if the Covid-19 was indeed the problem, wouldn’t it be more natural to write it in Chinese or Japanese, since they’re the two countries with the most number of infected cases? Also, that “sign” looks very haphazardly put together. Wouldn’t the first language that comes up to mind be English if you want to notify the general populus of a certain information? I’m surprised the sign wasn’t even written in Dutch. I would have to say, anyone who doesn’t see that as targeting or discriminating against a specific group or race is being laughably illogical and is clearly in denial. In case you weren’t smart enough to understand this on your own, “targeting or discriminating against a race” is just exactly the definition of racism.

  167. Of course this is racism. Coronavirus is mainly in China and not in South Korea. If you count the number of cases in South Korea from Chinese people who traveled to Korea, then you should also not allow Americans since there are many coronavirus cases in US as well.

    Imagine if a black American person was not allowed because the virus started in Congo? How would the media treat that situation? All of you who are defending KLM, what would you think if a black American was treated this way if the virus started somewhere in Africa?

  168. Dear Dutch,

    We, Koreans are deeply sorry that we were smart enough to notice such a subtle racial discrimination tactic, recently leveraged by the KLM. Furthermore, due to our lack of stupidity, we failed to be gaslighted by some, including KLM management, who tried hard to minimise this racial discrimination into just ‘mistake’. Overall, we have not been cooperative enough in your attempts to cover this malpractice. It is all because of our lack of dumbness. Our sincere apology.

  169. oh my gosh.
    Here are bunch of racists.
    Crew only restroom? Seriously?
    Wow, You guys have so many elephants in your room.

  170. Im non-asian but colored. You guys have any rights to decide whether it’s racism or not, it’s up to them. (Some comments give me cancer srsly..) It’s just same as ‘White only’ thing back in the days.

  171. Dear Writer,

    Let’s put aside whether this is racism or not.
    However, it is an undeniable fact that ONLY a certain group of passengers were given less (at best) or no (at worst) access to toilet during such a long hauls of flight, 10 hours.
    Even worse, a person who raised this issue was put under threat by the crew as the crew told her to delete the photo by lying and to blacklist her.

    Isn’t it duty for cabin crew to ensure safety and comfort of passengers? This is why they are given authority in flight, right?

    However, in this KLM flight, clearly the crew abused their power to discriminate against a certain group of people and even to threat them!
    Nonetheless, your article did not address this point at all, rather pointing out such a small irrelevant issue of the passenger, who raised this issue (her request for seeing the crew’s iPad).
    Do you really think that this is an issue serious enough to overlook this passenger safety issue?

    Writer, you deserted conscience in exchange for appreciation from racists in the world.

  172. I don’t see what would be intentional. This article tells the Korean speaking FA was told to write a sign ,not to write down a text in Korean only. After that they forgot it would be a good idea to also make an English announcement until the rude demanding passenger made her aware of that. A mistake? yes. Racist? no, why? Its a real pity South Koreans so easily play the victim-card, I thought you people were smarter. And it’s an absolute disgrace how employees were (forced?) to make their excuses in a very intimidating setting. Don’t worry Seoul, this WON’T be forgotten.

  173. Never. Ever. What is this?
    Quite obvious the pax added her own words into the conversation.
    Anyway just stop taking fckn pics of everything and mind your own business.
    As for the crew they could have just locked it and say sorraay the toilet is not woorking. Thx

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