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Baby Seat Map From Japan Airlines Doesn't Sit So Well With Parents

When will we have to stop apologizing for travelling with kids?

Have you ever sat near a screaming baby on a flight? It sucks.

Have you ever been the parent of that screaming baby, and keenly aware that everyone on the flight resents and is judging you for flying with a young kid, and there’s nothing you can do because you are stuck on a tin can in the sky, THANKS FOR THE SNIDE SUGGESTION, 17C, NO WE CANNOT JUST DRUG OUR CHILD WITH GRAVOL?

That also sucks.

So, while we do understand why so many people are applauding Japan Airlines’ baby seat map that allows other passengers to avoid sitting near young kids, we also think it’s time to stop villainizing parents who fly with babies.

"Look, mommy! Haters!"
Chris Tobin via Getty Images
"Look, mommy! Haters!"

The world recently learned that Japan Airlines offers a tool that, as CNN puts it, “lets you dodge infants when you book your seat.”

“Passengers traveling with children between 8 days and 2 years old who select their seats on the JAL website will have a child icon displayed on their seats on the seat selection screen,” reads the airline’s website.

“This lets other passengers know a child may be sitting there.”

(While representatives for the airline have pointed out that this isn’t a new feature, people took notice this week and this launched a bit of a media frenzy).

Japan Airlines' new baby seat selection.
Japan Airlines website
Japan Airlines' new baby seat selection.

It is worth noting that the airline’s website isn’t anti-baby; in fact, they offer a lot of useful services to those travelling with babies, including an airport baby stroller rental service, help mixing powdered milk, baby blanket rentals, in-flight entertainment for kids, toys, and picture books that you can borrow.

Still, most people (and a number of news outlets) have interpreted the new seat map as a tool to avoid the “horror of screaming infants.”

And this celebratory attitude doesn’t sit so well with a lot of parents who are already sick of the glares and judgment when they board a plane with kids in tow.

“How about working out ways to find out why a baby is so upset and to support the adult in charge of the baby?” one person wrote on Twitter.

“They are babies as we all once were. We need to learn tolerance or will soon start needing a map of seat locations for mouth breathers, droolers, farters, drunks, and perhaps a lot more things in life. What ever happened to life’s surprises?” wrote another Twitter user.

“This will be great news to the certain former babies in the world who insist on whining about being on an airplane with a crying baby as if that isn’t the cost of perpetuating the human race,” parenting website Fatherly noted.

But some parents supported the idea, noting it might not be so bad to sit beside someone who doesn’t groan when they see you coming for a change.

“I have flown alone with four small children and yes, I would like my medal now please. Not because the kids were so terrible on the flight but because of the looks of fear and dread I was given by all of the other passengers when they saw me dragging my sons down the aisle,” writer Jen McGuire wrote in Romper.

“So I don’t think Japan Airline’s baby seat map is the worst idea in the world. It might have been nice to have a designated family area without glaring.”

People really, really, hate kids on flights

A 2018 survey from Airfare Watchdog found that more than half of travellers think families with young children should be required to sit in a separate section of the plane.

And some airlines have already done this: in 2016, Indian airline Indigo announced it was introducing child-free zones (known as “Quiet Zones”) on its flights. Like Japan Airlines’ seat map, this was also met with a mix of celebration and scorn.

Meanwhile, some airlines haven’t made it easy for parents to travel with babies. KLM Airlines recently made headlines for saying it may ask a breastfeeding mother to “cover herself” on flights, “should other passengers be offended by this.” Other airlines have given moms grief for trying to fly with a breast pump.

"No, YOU wear a blanket on your head!"
yaoinlove via Getty Images
"No, YOU wear a blanket on your head!"

And parents have gone to great lengths to avoid angering their fellow passengers, sharing “hacks” to tire kids out before flights (like making your toddler play on the escalator), and handing out pre-emptive apology gift baskets (usually containing ear plugs and some kind of treat).

There’s even a Pinterest category for “airplane goody bags for passengers” (but of course there is).

The next time you see a baby screaming on a flight, consider this: no one is more upset about the situation than that child’s parents, who likely feel helpless, exhausted, and judged. A smile would go a lot further than a glare.

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