Key KLM Staff Travel To Seoul To Apologize To Koreans

Executives from KLM were in Korea today to apologize for an incident that happened on board a flight to Seoul. Unfortunately, some passengers on board a recent flight were offended when a sign was posted only in Korean.

KLM, Coronavirus Apology, Korea
Senior KLM staff today apologized over an onboard incident in Seoul. Photo: KLM

The incident took place onboard KLM flight 855 from Amsterdam to Seoul on the 10th of February. While not intended as so, the action of the crew on the flight was viewed as discrimination. As a result, executives from the airline today issued a formal apology to the Korean people at the Four Seasons in Seoul.

So, what happened?

The incident in question took place on the 10th of February. It was spotted on social media by aviation blogger One Mile At A Time, who initially reported the news. Essentially, the crew onboard the aircraft closed off a toilet for crew use. This was attributed to protecting the crew from Coronavirus.

The issue stems from the language used for the sign. It was only posted in Korean and not in Dutch or English as well. As a result, it could be thought that the sign was only intended to be read by Koreans. However, KLM assured us that this was not the case.

KLM, Coronavirus Apology, Korea
KLM crew wear facemasks amid the ongoing Coronavirus epidemic. Photo: Getty Images

Of the 277 passengers on board the aircraft, 135, or around half, were Korean according to the Korea Times. It appears that an English version of the sign was posted right away as soon as the crew was alerted to the offense that it had caused. However, it seemed to be too little too late as the incident prompted the hashtag BoycotKLM to trend on Twitter.

Seoul apology

Thankfully, once KLM’s management learned of the incident, they took notice. As a result, a press conference was today called at the Four Seasons hotel in Seoul. Here, senior management from KLM took the opportunity to apologize to Koreans on behalf of the airline. According to Reuters, earlier in the day the Dutch Ambassador to South Korea, Joanne Doornewaard, “expressed regrets over the incident” to the country’s Transportation Minister, Kim Hyun-mee.

Guillaume Glass, the General Manager for Japan, Korea, and New Caledonia at KLM, today held a press conference in Seoul to apologize for any offense that may have been caused. He bowed before the assembled press before issuing an apology on behalf of the airline. According to Reuters, Glass called the error a human mistake.

KLM, Coronavirus Apology, Korea
The incident took place onboard a flight from Amsterdam to Seoul on Tuesday. Photo: KLM

What did KLM have to say?

Simple Flying spoke to KLM regarding the incident. A spokesperson for the airline told us:

“KLM wishes to announce its position regarding crew-only lavatories in response to a situation on KL855 flight to Incheon from Amsterdam on 10 February. 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.”

What do you make of the incident? Was it a genuine mistake? Is the apology enough? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.