Don’t want to sit near babies on a plane? This airline has the answer

Japan Airlines seatmaps show where babies are sitting on your flight, so that you can get as far as possible away from them.

By David Flynn, September 15 2021
Don’t want to sit near babies on a plane? This airline has the answer

There are many things which can spoil your flight, and most business travellers would rank 'crying babies' very high on that list – especially when trying to sleep on an overnight leg, ahead of a busy day of meetings.

So what if the seating chart for your flight showed where infants were sitting, allowing you to choose your own seat so it was potentially well out of earshot?

That's what Japan Airlines is doing, with special icons which indicate a seat booked for a child under two years of age.

"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," Japan Airlines explains. "This lets other passengers know a child may be sitting there."

Baby on board: Japan Airlines' seatmap helps you keep well away from the kids.
Baby on board: Japan Airlines' seatmap helps you keep well away from the kids.

Airlines usually fix bassinets at the bulkhead rows – typically the first row of seats in the business class, premium economy and economy cabins – although if the aircraft has more than one cabin for a travel class, as sometimes happens with business class and often in economy, that means several bulkheads and several babies.

Savvy travellers will often avoid the bulkhead row for that reason, even though those front row seats often have extra legroom and let them be among the first off the plane – but it's a roll of the dice when there's a baby on board, and infants can also be seated elsewhere in the plane and cradled by a parent.

JAL's system isn't foolproof, however.

It currently works only for bookings made directly with Japan Airlines, which means it won't flag toddlers booked through a travel agent or other third-party, or as part of a larger tour group. Seats snared using frequent flyer points also slip through the net.

Other airlines embrace kid-free zones

Singapore Airlines' budget offshoot Scoot takes another approach: it has created a child-free zone by banning children from its 'ScootinSilence' economy cabin.

Located at the very front of the economy section, this self-contained cabin of Scoot's Super and Stretch extra-legroom seats has been declared off-limits to passengers under 12 years.

"No kids under 12 allowed here," promises Scoot, with the child-free seats available for a small fee added on top of a regular economy fare.

Malaysia Airlines went even a step further with its now-retired Airbus A380s, controversially declaring the first class cabin and the small economy cabin at the rear of the superjumbo's upper deck to be kid-free zones.

What's your take on Japan Airlines' approach, and should other airlines not only adopt this but extend it to travellers under say 12 years of age?

Also read: Your guide to flying Qantas with children and Your guide to flying Virgin Australia with children

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 316

I don't mind the little ones, once they have had a squawk for a while they normally drift off to sleep, what I would like to know is where the poorly controlled 3-5 year olds are that kick your seat, jump around and generally annoy everyone around them, they are the ones I want to avoid.

Some little ones can scream so loud that they probably wake up the pilots.

22 May 2011

Total posts 72

Best idea ever.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 648

Ooops, I see some possible controversy arising with this, as a policy.

Whilst I think - personally - that this is a great service enhancement for passengers, I sadly recall all the fuss with QF and their policy of a few years back with males being seated next to children. There are those within the wider community who may well suggest that this is an unacceptable option whereby potential paedophiles could choose their seat and possible victim of choice. Not my belief, but I do recall the controversy this style of policy has previously generated.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 271

Interesting point. You would like to think parents of kids that young wouldn't leave them unattended, if the range went higher I could definitely see the issue though.

I believe that children 0-2 have to be accompanied...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 648

I've read reports on other sites that the policy applies to children from two months old through to twelve years of age.

As David points out, only bookings made directly through JAL (not via travel agents or OTA) will be nominated with this icon in their booking.

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 27

I have to say my heart sinks when I see the parent arriving with a small child to sit 2 rows from me after paying many thousands of dollars for the comfort of Business class. I have the worst experiences on Singapore Airlines where I have not had one flight where a screaming child has not been the centre of all the attention during the flight. This is not from the cabin crew but from all of the passengers in Business class tossing and turning due to the unrelenting noises. The cabin crew seem to think that it is OK that the baby screams and nobody else cares. I know that my comments are going to cause backlash from parents travelling with children but too bad. If you are going to insist on bringing small children into aircraft cabins, please consider those that have paid a premium for their travel and DON'T annoy everyone in 1st or Business. Economy is a nice area where you can all sit together as a family of 3 and stay awake with all of the others that can't sleep for various reasons. Bring on more airlines that ban children in premium cabins!

That's the opposite of my experience with SQ. When on an overnight flight with my kids (then aged 7 and 10) they were giggling (not too loudly, but apparently loudly enough) at the comedy shows on the IFE after the cabin was darkened. After a while a cabin crew member told them to turn it off and be quiet. I had no problems with that as I respect others' right to peace and quiet.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 648

I'd bet that the same FA's wouldn't have dared speak to your kids in that same manner, had your kids been 17 and 20 years of age.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 441

Well doesn't sound like you people have any children of your own. It's not that easy to control your kids and prevent them from crying. In fact, it's impossible. Any child younger than about 5 or 6 is going to cry for various reasons. It is what it is.

If there are airlines that want to ban young children from flying in certain parts of their aircraft, OK, that's their choice and these are the airlines you should consider travelling on.

Anyway, right now hardly anyone is travelling and most people aren't going to bring their children with them on flights unless absolutely necessary. The mask mandate is very problematic especially for children and most countries and airlines outside of Australia and New Zealand require all passengers aged 2 and above to be masked in order to fly. The USA is particularly strict about this, even though mask mandates have been loosened in many states since May. This is due to a Federal order that applies to all public transportation.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

16 Oct 2018

Total posts 2

Bit short sighted, Gswift.

I do insist on bringing my children on planes when I travel - I can't leave them at home! I recently flew Singapore business overnight with my 18m old and 4 year old. More annoying where the businessman that snorted for the 7 hours rather than blowing their nose. Retirees that turned their lights on to go to bathroom every 30 minutes we're worse again!

31 Oct 2018

Total posts 5

Now if only there was a way to flag the obnoxious wanna be frequent flyer. You know the ones I'm talking about. They expect the world of the crew, keep their window shade open when everyone else is sleeping, watch their iPad without earphones, have loud conversations with other passengers (even ones they don't know), recline their seats in economy, especially during a meal service, oh, and are always the first ones to roll their eyes when they see a kid seated near them!

Would happily sit next to a kid for 14 hours rather than that self entitled twat.

If you don't want to sit next to my kid in business, you should fly first. And if we happen to be flying first and you still want to avoid my kid, work harder, be more successful in life and fly in a private jet!

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 318

If I don't want to sit next to your kid in business then why shouldn't I have a choice not to sit there, if the airline provides me with that choice via the seatmap? It's no skin off your nose where I sit, you wouldn't even know that I have chosen not to sit near your child.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 441

I like airlines that don't force you to close the window shades on a long flight when it's daytime. Some passengers feel more reassured when they can see what's going on outside. Obviously this isn't possible if it's a night time flight, when it hardly makes a difference if your shades are up or down.

I like the B787, which doesn't use manual window shutters for this reason. They use a system where the windows darken but you can still see outside if you want.

In my experience, THAI Airways has a policy of making you close the shutters during the cruise phase of a long-haul flight. Singapore Airlines by contrast, doesn't seem to care and on SQ flights many passengers keep their shades open. With Air NZ they weren't particularly strict either, but the last time I flew a long haul flight with them was around 11 years ago.

I definitely agree with your comments about children on planes. It is what it is. People need to be more tolerant.

Between the turbulence and the noise of jet engines, as well as the uncomfortable seats (unless you're in business class but even then, having flown business many times they're not nearly as comfortable as your own bed) I'm not expecting to get any quality rest time. I also don't consider the 3 or 4 hours of sleep I might be able to get on a typical long-haul flight anywhere enough to feel rested upon reaching my destination. Therefore, if at all possible, I seek out daytime flights or I stopover en-route to my destination. That way I can go straight to bed upon arrival or at least I won't feel so drained compared with talking a long overnight flight.

Hi.

I would have thought that now we no longer have smoking on aircraft you could load the same way.

Fill 'with children' from the back, and 'without children' from the front.

No one wants to travel with crying babies, or kids constantly kicking your seat, and parents thinking this is OK!

Until my own children could travel without disturbing others, we did not travel by air!

22 May 2011

Total posts 72

Perfectly said nekillim2016!

You can ask an adult to stop doing things that annoy you - you can't ask a baby. We can't ask animals to stop doing things either - so we shouldn't allow that as well (thankfully unlike the US, we don't).

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 318

I would absolutely use this feature if it was available on an airline, and is there any good reason for any airline not to implement it? It doesn't make a difference to parents, doesn't impact them at all, but it's obviously going to make a difference to some other passengers including those of us who want to relax during the flight, to work or sleep.

01 Jul 2021

Total posts 9

I can understand why babies start crying there not used used to the noise of the planes and truth be told I have never really had a bad experience with crying babies on flights. plus I don't think babies are the problem its the 3 to 5 years that misbehave and scream and the parents don't do anything to stop them they are the problem.

JTG
JTG

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 48

I find it atrocious that we are treating any person of any age differently. Respect should be given to every person on the flight. While I have been disturbed from sleeping on many a flight, on very few occasions is it by children. The main reasons I have had my sleep disturb is the serving of food and drinks, people chatting noisily,  people bumping me while walking in the aisles and the number one  reason is turbulence.

If that meeting is of critical importance you should travel well in advance so that you are properly rested. Don't blame children on your own poor time management

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 318

"Respect should be given to every person on the flight": I agree 100 per cent with you, but you do realise that the concept of respecting others and being considerate of others is not within the grasp of a one year old baby?

"If that meeting is of critical importance you should travel well in advance so that you are properly rested": very nice in theory, doesn't always work in practice. One reason we fly business class is so that we can be rested.

07 May 2020

Total posts 136

Well, what if I don't want to sit next to someone who has been medicated with an experimental agent? What else are the airlines going to think up? If it is a full plane then someone will have to sit next to the baby and also next to the medicated adult. Have we become a society of control freaks?

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 441

We have indeed. 

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 623

Long haul and ultra long haul is no place for an under 8 year old. Children can't be 'cooped up'; its a futile and laboured exercise in 8/10 cases in my experience. Parents running around keeping their kids busy, quiet entertained and fed without even a minute for themselves to lay their seats flat(surely Y would have been more practical let alone cheaper?)! - right through to the other extreme of parents who don't give a flying hoot about the ruckus their toddler is causing. I will qualify that I have indeed seen superbly behaved babies and children but on the whole my heart too sinks and it's generally a disaster.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 May 2018

Total posts 40

This would be great... I have had a few bad experiences with howling/screaming babies on long haul flights... worst was a flight from La to Syd.. this baby didn't cry.. it screamed for hours, despite the best efforts of the hosties... the mother was proud of her efforts.. she had left her parents place in up-state New York.. a 3 hour drive to JFK, then to La before the trip across the Tasman..a couple hundred+ irritated flyers... they ran out of alcohol before the half way point. Balanced with that.. a young couple with two under 3's in Business going from Bris to Melb.. one next to me.. great flight.. happy child/mother..some people just have the skills with youngsters. and as a frequent flyer (before corona)..at times I'm happy.


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