Just when you thought the Japanese couldn't be any more considerate or polite, along comes this piece of news. Japan Airlines, the national air carrier, has announced that its new seat-booking function will identify the presence of screaming babies on your flight.
They'll get their own little icon. Any time an adult who is travelling with an infant reserves a seat, that seat will have a picture of a child visible to others who are choosing their seats online. See a kid – book a seat far away.
It's good, in many ways, and I can see how it would be helpful. However, the JAL system is also problematic. It serves to further demonise young children on flights, young children who aren't doing anything wrong by being there and who often aren't any more annoying than plenty of other people on board.
In the interests of fairness, these are other annoying factors that JAL and other airlines should really begin to reveal.
*Special note: I don't say this because I'm particularly bothered by any of these people. I say this to point out the unfairness of JAL's system.
Where are the recliners?
Photo: Getty Images
If someone is planning to tilt their seat back from the moment the seatbelt sign goes off until the plane begins its final descent, I would very much like to know. I'd rather eat my meals without the tray-table jabbing me in the chest, if that's OK with everyone else.
Who's got gas?
It's just a reality of flying that some people are going to end up getting gas. The air pressure in the plane cabin can cause gas inside our bodies to expand, which means a release is necessary. Some people are more prone to this than others – so wouldn't it be nice to know where those people are sitting?
Where are the talkers?
Some people love a chat on a plane. Some people do not. As a member of the latter group, I would love it if all the talkers could be grouped together and they could just go nuts down one end of the plane.
Where is the food served from?
As soon as I smell food being served on a plane, I start getting antsy. I've seen the menu; I've chosen my dish. But what if I'm last in line? What if they start serving the people at the back first, and I'm up front? Or vice versa? Plus, I'm hungry! Let's do this! I'd love to know where the food will be served from so I can be first.
Who drinks a lot?
A plane isn't a frat party, though every now and then you find yourself seating next to someone who thinks it is. I'd rather be somewhere else.
Who likes to take their shoes off?
Photo: Getty Images
I'll put my hand up here. I take my shoes off when I fly long-haul. My feet swell up and it gets really uncomfortable wearing shoes for 14 hours. I can understand how people might not enjoy the sight of me or anyone else slipping off their shoes as the plane begins to ascend – so should we have to declare our intentions?
Who's afraid of flying?
I'm not a nervous flier. However, if I find myself sitting next to someone who is, I start to worry about every little bump. Better to be with the confident travellers.
Aeroplane seats are designed to accommodate medium-sized people. That might be unfair, but it's unfortunately a fact. So if you're particularly broad of shoulder or large of girth, you have every right to fly in the same manner everyone else does – but I would rather sit next to someone smaller.
Who's planning on wearing a singlet?
I really don't want to spend several hours – or more – rubbing some guy's bare shoulders. If you're going to wear a singlet on board, do us all a favour and let us know.
Who's going to stand up as soon as the plane lands?
You know the guy – because it is normally a guy. He needs to get off the plane before everyone else. He needs to be out of his seat as soon as the plane lands, yanking down hand luggage and shoving people out of the way. I would prefer to be nowhere near this guy.
Who needs to pee all the time?
Oh great – you chose the window seat but you need to go to the toilet every hour? This is going to be a long flight.
Where are the smelly people at?
Not a huge fan of deodorant? Got a hellish flight schedule and won't be able to have a shower for more than 24 hours? Then it would be kind to all involved if that could be flagged and you could be avoided.
Do you think it's fair for JAL to identify where infants will be sitting on your flight? Are there other annoying traits you wish could be flagged? Are babies on board really that bad compared to everyone else?
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