Here is one way to avoid being seated next to a crying baby. Source: Shutterstock

ONE of the most awkward experiences of flying long-haul, aside from the inevitable bodily discomforts such as swollen legs and a stiff back, is a crying baby.

And that is not to say that it is really anyone’s fault. It happens and babies cannot help themselves. Their ears are more susceptible to feeling pressure changes than adult ears because their canals are smaller. Hence, air pressure changes can easily trigger seemingly uncontrollable wailing.

But one Japanese carrier has rolled out a feature aimed at travelers who want to avoid potentially crying babies on flights.

Japan Airlines’ (JAL) web check-in tool now shows where parents with infants have reserved seats on a seat map. The feature, rolled out as part of JAL’s “Smile Support” travel service, allows travelers to pick a seat in the farthest corners of the cabin – if they wish.

“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. This lets other passengers know a child may be sitting there,” JAL’s website wrote.

Needless to say, it lit up the internet. “Thank you, @JAL_Official_jp 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,” venture capitalist Rahat Ahmed tweeted.

He had arrived in New York after his JAL flight.

What followed was an internet firestorm, with both supporters and naysayers getting entangled in a battle of opinions. “Answered prayers”, airline specialist site The Points Guy titled a post on the subject.

“At least on Japan Airlines, you’ll have a higher chance of either scoring an empty seat next to you, or sitting next to an empathetic seatmate. As for those travelers who want to avoid being seated next to infants at all costs: Your prayers have been answered,” the article read.

Another called the map an unnecessary offering. “Japan Airlines seat map helps avoid screaming babies. Why not just have noise-canceling headphones?!” while some pointed out that babies are not the only “problem”. “Will airlines also have maps for obnoxious passengers that drink too much, remove their shoes, hog the armrest or recline in my lap?” one Twitter user asked.

That having said, JAL’s new feature did not guarantee that passengers would be out of earshot of a screaming infant. This is because the icon would not appear if passengers booked their flight through a third party or were part of a tour group, or if there was a last-minute change of aircraft.

So, your best bet? Do yourself a favor and get a pair of noise-canceling earbuds for your next long-haul flight.

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