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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Alex

It is clearly racism. The below link is the recorded Audio file on the KLM’s flight to Seoul.
https://youtu.be/2pRKksA2yv8

WatchingtheBFs

‘the link below’…not ‘the below link’…

Of course it’s not racism…it’s nothing more than stupidity and thoughtlessness on the part of the crew (they should have known better, it could have been avoided so easily, but these things happen), and on the part of cretins who don’t think before social-media-ing.

Gerry S

Amazing how quickly social media reacts. Calling for a boycott even before airline can respond.

Joe

Before saying that something is racist, you should know all the facts. In this case, we still don’t. What we know is that a KLM FA put up a note in Korean, some Korean passengers took offense, and an English note was put up. Nothing has been heard from the FAs or passengers. Most of us aren’t those people involved, so we can’t say what really happened on KLM 855.

Seoulite

Dear KLM management, let me kindly advise that “the Dutch can also use the restrooms at the Incheon airport”.

Anonymous

This disease has caused a certain degree of fear among people to the extent that there has been cases of racism causing this type of reaction. I believe this is an honest mistake caused by wrong communication resulting in KLM’s quick clarification

Joe

I think if KLM or the FA were really racist, the height of their racism would not be writing a sign only in Korean. There have been much more discriminatory things done by airlines. If a toilet had been allocated only for Koreans, or the crew were rude to all Koreans, then that would be racism. But forgetting a note? That’s not racism, that’s rushing to get the plane ready for departure and forgetting something.

Dongone Seo

But there was the Korean Media which took a big part in making people think that KLM was showing racism against Asian people. They(the media) have always distorted, exaggerated even small issues and succeeded in making people think in the way they want. As a Korean, I think that KLM should have apologized for this, but the public and the media's reaction to the incident was too exaggerated.

T Kim

We all know deep inside that this was not just simple mistake. True color reveals no matter how mush people try to hide; it’s in human nature.

Joe

Maybe this was intentional, maybe it wasn’t, we will never know for sure. But you have to ask: is KLM really at fault here? The key thing here is whether the cabin crew did this of their own accord, or if they were instructed to only write such notes in Korean or other Asian languages. If this happened several times, then it would make sense to blame KLM; if this was the only time this happened, then the FA might be the racist one here. But then again, this might have been an accident. But remember: this was about one… Read more »

laredo

Why doubt it was intentional or not? If the purser was non-white I bet there wouldn’t be such discussion about racism. This whole incident smells like hatred towards white people.

Cho

European Racist company. Oh, we so sorry, we just want to your money now, come back to us. How about I chop your hand off and say sorry. Damage is done. 1 bad apple reflects whole company’s poor leadership and culture. Won’t ever fly with them.

Joe

But is it KLM’s fault if one of their thousands of employees is racist? When hiring, you don’t ask, “are you racist?”. So if the FA did it of his own accord, is it racism on KLM’s part? After all, the company can’t micromanage the entire crew on each flight. Of course, if this was ordered by a higher-up, then that would mean that KLM is, in fact, racist. But telling FAs to only put up signs in Korean or Asian languages seems like a needlessly specific order, and an unusual one. I have a hard time believing that this… Read more »

Jojo

Hypocrite. Whites and Hispanics face a lot of racism in Asian countries. Look youtube.

Lindsay

Always loved loved flying KLM so hoping really hoping it was an honest mistake..because if not it’s truly a sad day all round.

Farzkou

my personal opinion that’s right and necessary that the crew to have separate lavatory because they could be the biggest factors of transporting epidemy around the world. Also crews are much more vulnerable because they get very exosted after long and often flights and not sleeping getting week already. BUT This is not an occasionally human mistake! This kind OF ALL TIME occasionally mistakes happening very very often and not just in the airplanes! More in Airports chek in and out, going through airport security and control! This attitude very often is from Western emploies toward Eastern and African people… Read more »

Bennyan Kim

Altho I wish to give some benefit of the doubt to the crew, it would appear to be harder for the crew to write the instruction in Korean than in English or Dutch. Considering that the virus started in Asia, it is easy to see why ppl can view this as racist.

Gerry S

Listen world. Hear Farzkou. He speaks passion. He speaks truth. This IS a new millennium. We can do better

Lew

Get over it. Too many snowflakes in this world of ours.

Jojo

Indeed. The funny thing these arrogant South Koreans don’t see is the fact they simply don’t believe a white persons explanation about the situation. I bet if the purser was Korean it was ”just a mistake” and no racism. Foolish South Koreans don’t see THEY are the racist here. This is , in a nutshell , how people in Netherlands think about this incident.

Eddie Guild

Everyone is offended by just about anything its called the snowflake generation if you touch them they melt! Should learn not to be so sensitive to these kind of things.

Lou

Storm in a tea cup. Build a bridge, people.

Ted Chong

Regrettably majority of all Europeans are biased against Asians !

bob

You realize you are the racist now with this useless generalization?

H K

What a very biased reporting of events… “While not intended as so, the action of the crew on the flight was viewed as discrimination.” Should be, “While the crew denied any intention to discriminate…” “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.” The English version was posted after a photo was taken and the passenger refused to delete it. Fear of… Read more »

Dutch

I think the fact the Korean passenger mistrusted the white purser is the real racist thing here. If the purser was Korean nobody shouted racism, but was it seen as a mistake. You South Koreans who support this filming passenger are liars and hypocrites. Most Dutch are making fun of you foolish people, just sayin’. And I think KLM and Dutch gov should demand excuses and compensation from Seoul for this absurd witch hunt against white people. Shame on you South Korea!

Jojo

The South Korean passenger is the racist here, because she refused to believe a white person. I bet if a Korean (or other non-white ) purser explained to her it was ”just a mistake” and no racism.

bob

The South Korean passenger is the racist here, because she refused to believe a white person. I bet if a Korean (or other non-white ) purser explained to her it was ”just a mistake” and no racism.

Jomi

The fact the Korean passenger mistrusted and didn’t believe the WHITE purser is the real racist thing here. I bet if a Korean (or other non-white) purser explained the situation nobody shouted racism, but was it seen as ”just” a clumsy mistake. So basically it’s hatred against white people. You South Koreans who support this filming, and very rude passenger should be ashame of yourself. And I think Dutch gov should demand excuses and compensation from Seoul. I’m sorry we Dutch don’t fall for your cheap, false racism narrative.

bob

The fact the Korean passenger mistrusted and didn’t believe the WHITE purser is the real racist thing here. I bet if a Korean (or other non-white) purser explained the situation nobody shouted racism, but was it seen as ”just” a clumsy mistake. So basically it’s hatred against white people. You South Koreans who support this filming, and very rude passenger should be ashame of yourself. And I think Dutch gov should demand excuses and compensation from Seoul. I’m sorry we Dutch don’t fall for your cheap, false racism narrative.

bob

That’s not the key staff , you really think KLM CEO travels to South Korea for these fake accusations?