The handwritten note read “lavatory for crew members only” in Korean. The 10-hour flight was bound to Seoul’s Incheon airport from Amsterdam on Monday. Angry users online accused the airline of discriminating against South Korean passengers because the sign was written in Korean.
— ㅎㅕㄴ모양ㅊㅓ (@hyunmoyang) February 11, 2020
"Dear KLM ... Today, you made it quite clear that you discriminate against race. Using Coronavirus as an excuse. You owe my friend and Korea a HUGE apology," wrote one Twitter user on February 11.
In addition, there are numerous tweets with the hashtag “BoycottKLM.”
— Rob Jacobs (@robster16) February 14, 2020
— [潛龍]수련중인 이무기 (@KimMirr) February 14, 2020
— 날씨시스트 레아 브루니🏳️🌈 (@CherryBreakfast) February 13, 2020
During a news conference in Seoul on Friday, KLM representatives publicly apologized for the incident, promising to ensure that it doesn’t occur again.
"This is a human mistake, and we don't take it lightly," said Guillaume Glass, a regional general manager for the Air France-KLM group, Reuters reported. "We are deeply sorry that this was viewed as discrimination, which was absolutely not the intention of the crew.”
Glass also claimed that an English notice was added in the plane bathroom following customer complaints, and that the original sign having only Korean text was an oversight.
South Korea’s transportation ministry released a statement Wednesday warning KLM for its “discriminatory measures,” Reuters reported. A ministry official also confirmed to Reuters that Dutch Ambassador Joanne Doornewaard “expressed regrets” over the incident to Transportation Minister Kim Hyun Mee.