Answered prayers: Airline seat map now tells you where babies are seated

Sep 25, 2019

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Travelers, rejoice: The Japan Airlines seat-selection map now shows travelers where babies will be seated on upcoming flights.

This is great news for everyone who travels on JAL, including travelers who fly with children and who generally don’t mind being around them — and travelers who don’t. Parents with small children can easily “establish their territory,” so to speak, by booking themselves and their lap children in their seats of choice from the get-go, while people who prefer to keep their distance can (hopefully) select seats elsewhere.

TPG reader Kevin Yang forwarded us this tweet by JAL passenger Rahat Ahmed, and we checked to confirm that the airline had added baby icons on its long-haul flights. Based on anecdotal evidence, it appears that the seat-selection map is most accurate close to the departure date, which makes a lot of sense. For instance, a New York (JFK) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) flight for Friday, Sept. 27, three days from now, shows an icon for one baby on board in seat 46G.

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However, a flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo Narita on October 27 currently doesn’t display any tiny travelers.

No infants are currently displayed for JAL’s Vancouver to Tokyo flight on October 2, although the Tokyo to Sydney route shows one baby in 46F.

And there’s one infant in 46D for Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) on October 1:

Based on the original Twitter poster’s screenshot, as well as the Seatguru map of JAL’s Boeing 777-300 configuration, you’re most likely to be near children around the center seats in Row 46 and the center and right-side seats of Row 23, which can be set up with bassinets for infants and lap children.

Image courtesy of Seatguru.
Image courtesy of Seatguru.

Ahmed also shared with us a screenshot of JAL’s “baby on board” policy, which explains that seat selections may not accurately reflect seating arrangement for travelers with infants if tickets were booked through third-party agencies or as part of a tour package.

Image courtesy of Rahat Ahmed.
Image courtesy of Rahat Ahmed.

TPG reviewers have had good things to say about JAL in first, business, premium economy and coach class. Now with this seat selection tool, Japan Airlines may just have bumped itself to the top of our “favorites” list for families traveling internationally. Not only does JAL offer a rental service for children’s booster seats on select routes with advance notice, the airline also offers free airport strollers, diapers in sizes M and L, snacks and age-appropriate meals for babies up to age 2, and children between ages 2 to 12. Depending on availability, your little one may even receive a small complimentary gift from the airline.

Related: Best international airlines when flying with a family

While small children undeniably come with some extra requirements, plenty of TPG readers have found ways to continue their travels apace, even with kids in tow. In fact, many parents swear by traveling with them as early as possible, even if they won’t remember it: Practice makes perfect, and kids (as well as adults) do better with consistent exposure to new experiences.

Airlines don’t always get it right, either, when it comes to booking children. In 2018, Delta accidentally upgraded a three-year-old to first class, leaving her parents in coach. Some airlines have even been accused of splitting up families in order to earn additional revenue. It’s nice to see JAL doing things right, just like Southwest does in the United States.

So if you’re considering an overseas trip with your little one, go for it: 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.

Featured photo by Ryan Patterson/TPG.

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