"Sorry not sorry" has always been my philosophy when it comes to my kid's outbursts in public places—yes, even on airplanes. I'll do my best to keep him quiet and happy, but he is a child, just like everyone else around us once was. Sometimes children and babies cry, and parents should not be shamed when this happens. Finding yourself in a public place with a crying child doesn't make you a bad parent, it just makes you a parent.
That's why I was curious about the news that Japan Airlines has created a warning system so that people can see where children two and under might be sitting. You may have seen the headlines about this development in the past few days" "Airline introduces baby seat map to allow passengers to avoid infants" or "Japan Airlines unveils tool to tackle horror of screaming infants."
The basic idea is that when you select your seat, the plane's seat map will have a little baby-face icon if there is a child two or under sitting there. The reactions to this idea vary. Some parents are irate, others are simply perplexed. Some frequent business travelers are rejoicing and wondering why other airlines haven't thought of this yet. There are even moms who are looking forward to having the chance to fly away from their children, free from others' tots.
But you really have to read the fine print here—on the airline policy and regarding small children, too.
The airline states, "Child icons are not displayed in the following situations: Seats booked as part of a tour or using award tickets. Seats selected through means other than the JAL website. Child icons may not be displayed correctly if there is a change in aircraft." Also, parents of small children have a lot on their plates and might be booking their flights after you.
The map isn't a guarantee that a baby won't get the seat next to yours.
Plus, babies' lungs are calibrated to reach long distances. Choosing a seat four rows back from a baby doesn't mean you're not going to hear them. And finally, the map is ignoring the fact that 3-year-olds—who aren't going to show up on the map—can be difficult when it comes to listening, sitting still or being quiet. So, many people might prefer to sit next to a 3-month-old rather than a preschooler.
While many headlines suggest Japan Airlines is doing a disservice to parents with this policy, that is not the intent. The airline is trying to come up with a solution that helps parents and people who don't have kids. Some people don't want to sit next to a baby, and parents often worry that they may be sitting by one of those people. Japan Airlines was trying to come up with a solution to the stress on both sides. Japan Airlines is actually pretty helpful for parents traveling with kids. It offers strollers to borrow in the airport for anyone who decides to check theirs or leave them at home. Baby blankets and picture books are also on hand to lend to little ones on the flight.
Sometimes, babies are going to cry in public. That's just a fact of life. Most parents do their best to calm their little ones, especially on planes. And, as Twitter users frequently remind us, sometimes babies are actually the least disruptive passengers on a flight.
Maybe airlines should invent an icon to alert us to the location of barefoot, headphone adverse adults. Babies don't have the cognitive ability to control their volume, but we can all control the volume of our smartphones. In no way am I suggesting parents flying with children are more important than any other passenger, only that babies are humans, too.
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