A new feature introduced by Japan Airlines aims to help travelers avoid sitting near crying or screaming babies, with their new seat map showing where passengers are traveling with a young child.
When booking, a "child" icon - resembling a baby's face - appears on seats booked for people traveling with a child aged two years old or younger, giving other passengers the chance to book away from them if desired.
A post by a venture capitalist praising the feature triggered something of a heated Twitter debate, which ended with the man walking back his original comments somewhat.
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.— Rahat Ahmed (@dequinix) September 24, 2019
Please take note, @qatarairways: I had 3 screaming babies next to me on my JFK-DOH flight two weeks ago. pic.twitter.com/kQYQFIqqCD
Rahat Ahmed tagged the airline in his post, thanking them for the "warning" of where babies "plan to scream and yell during a 13 hour trip".
"This really ought to be mandatory across the board", he added, before addressing Qatar Airlines: "Please take note ... I had 3 screaming babies next to me on my JFK-DOH flight two weeks ago."
The airline's website explains that the new feature "lets other passengers know a child may be sitting there", but cautions that the tool does not guarantee that passengers will be completely out of earshot of a fussy baby. They also noted that the icon might not appear when a traveler has booked their ticket through a third party or if there was an unexpected change of aircraft.
Fact of life or not, traveling with young children can be a stressful experience, for other passengers but not least of all for the parents tasked with shushing, minding and entertaining their young companions.
So it was unsurprising that Ahmed's tweet proved divisive, with many heaping praise on the innovation of the airline and just as many calling for understanding, tolerance and noise-cancelling headphones.
One user replied that "All these people who can't stand sitting next to young kids need to get over themselves- try and be considerate and realise that there are worse things in the world than sitting next to a crying child".
I used to feel and say exactly what you have just said - but after having my own son, I am very sympathetic to parents travelling with kids. If you're not happy with a screaming child in the cabin then I am more than happy to you to try and reason with them ;)— Andrew Lim (@andrewlim85) September 26, 2019
Another said: "I used to feel and say exactly what you have just said - but after having my own son, I am very sympathetic to parents travelling with kids. If you're not happy with a screaming child in the cabin then I am more than happy to you to try and reason with them."
Other fiercely supported the feature, with one user saying: "If someone has ever been sitting next to or in close proximity to an infant or a child on a flight for several hours where you cannot escape, you get the feeling that death is a good option."
One person even went so far as to suggest a new working model for airlines: "I've been saying for ages we need a 21+ or 18+ only flight. I would gladly pay a fee for such a flight."
I've been saying for ages we need a 21+ or 18+ only flight. I would gladly pay a fee for such a flight.— Tarek Haidar (@TarekHaidar) September 26, 2019
In a follow-up tweet, Ahmed tried to walk back what ended up being a heated comment, saying that "adults can be just as bad as babies", "empathy is important and every situation is different" and "where babies sit can be one of many indicators that help travelers plan flights".
He also reassured Qatar Airlines that they were, in fact, still one of his favourite airlines.