As new parents, we feel exposed in so many ways: A crying baby in a quiet space is like a catcall for judgment, breastfeeding means our once-hidden boobs become public domain, and an infant can go from adorable to poo-splattered in mere seconds. So when we hear that our parenthood is about to be outed in a new and novel way, our initial response is to get our (aching) backs up.
But the more we think about Japan Airline's new online booking feature—an update to the seat selection tool that discloses where any children aged eight months to two years old will be sitting—the more we like it. Getting on a plane with a two-and-under is riddled with so many sources of anxiety, chief among them the prospect of sitting in close proximity to a hater. The last thing we need cutting through already-precarious attempts to entertain, feed and put an infant or toddler to sleep is a hearty helping of side-eye and a symphony of exasperated sighs.
Imagine that anyone sitting near you on that long-haul flight was mentally prepared for the prospect and came equipped with ear plugs, sleeping mask and whatever else they needed to pretend you aren't there. Brilliant! Or, better yet, what if parents of other children chose to sit nearby (power in numbers, right?) and offered little ones a chance to entertain each other. Could that sweet, grandmotherly woman have actually chosen to sit across the aisle because she loves babies?
Japan Airlines isn't the first to offer this service—according to The Guardian, All Nippon Airways has been noting children's seats "for a while"—and it's not without its exceptions. Anyone who books through a third-party site won't have access to the same seating chart, nor does it apply for large tour groups. And if the airline changes its aircraft last minute, reserved seating can change.
It's really never OK for travellers to be assholes to parents of babies on planes. Do you think we enjoy it when they wail in public? Or that we'd prefer not to have any rest on a 12-hour flight? But as parents, any opportunity to hedge our bets and have a slightly lowered chance of sitting next to that type of fellow passenger is a welcome one.
Now if only they could come up with a way to lull our travelling kids to sleep...