Japan Airlines Introduces Feature To Help Passengers Avoid Screaming Infants

A JAL 787 in Seattle (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

It may be controversial, but the latest initiative by Japan Airlines is bound to prove very popular among a certain group of passengers. The Japanese carrier has introduced a feature in its website booking process that signals the seats that are likely to be occupied by infants “between the age of 8 days and 2 years”.

This precaution will allow prospective passengers who would like to avoid having screaming babies in their proximity during a long flight to select a seat away from these locations where the presence of an infant is more likely. It is, however, possible that child icons are not displayed in certain situations, says the airline, such as when seats are booked as part of a tour, or using award tickets, or via third party agents that do not use the airline’s website.

These seats are usually the bulkhead seats, those near physical partitions dividing the plane between different classes or sections. This is because the bulkhead is usually a wall that can be used to install the bassinette where babies can sleep during the cruise part of the trip.

Frequent fliers are generally well aware of the risk they take when they select seats in bulkhead areas since it is quite common that infants will be located in those seats which usually provide a bit more legroom.

The initiative has sparked a lively debate on social media. “Thank you, Japan Airlines, for warnings me about where babies plan to scream and yell during a 13-hour trip.  This really ought to be mandatory across the board” said Rahat Ahmed, a businessman from New York on Twitter, adding a note addressed to Qatar Airways that made him fly with three screaming babies on a flight from JFK to Doha, Qatar.

Some parents of young children did not take Mr. Ahmed’s remark well, interpreting as a sign of intolerance towards families with toddlers, and some of them sarcastically suggested how there should be indicators on seat maps also for other types of annoying travelers: “ 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” posted user GSundar on Twitter.

So far other carriers have not followed suit and will not add the feature to their online booking engine. An American Airline spokesperson told the New York Times that the carrier is “happy to transport adults, children and infants,” while Southwest Airlines, with its open seating policy, underlined that passengers are free to sit wherever they want once onboard.

Vanni Gibertini

Vanni fell in love with commercial aviation during his undergraduate studies in Statistics at the University of Bologna, when he prepared his thesis on the effects of deregulation on the U.S. and European aviation markets. Then he pursued his passion further by obtaining a Master’s Degree in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University in the U.K. followed by holding several management positions at various start-up carriers in Europe (Jet2, SkyEurope, Silverjet). After moving to Canada, he was Business Development Manager for IATA for nine years before turning to his other passion: sports writing.
Vanni Gibertini