baby

'Please opt not to sit next to my baby on a plane. I'd rather you didn't.'

In real terms, three hours isn’t actually that long when it comes to flying, but kids have this incredible ability to bend time. A day feels like a year, a year feels like a day and what should be a quick zip over to Fiji can feel like a lifetime.

This was all because Max, my toddler son, was hellbent on getting a sultana accepted by his mid-air neighbour. Each rebuttal further fuelled this crazy obsession and for three long hours he constantly escaped my grip to prod and poke the man in question.

In any other environment it would be cute, right? Some pudgy little hand coming at you with a sultana slick with saliva. But something happens when we step into that sardine can of an aeroplane. Kids just aren’t that cute anymore.

And I get it. Even as a mum of two angel-faced beings, there’s only one thing more traumatic than being trapped thousand upon thousands of kilometres in the sky with young children – and that’s when they’re yours and you’re sat next to someone who legitimately hates children.

You can spot them as soon as they board. They check their boarding pass, look for their seat and as their gaze lowers to check out their enforced flying companion there’s a subtle change in body language.

The jaw tightens, the shoulders hunch over and their legs start to drag a little, as if the slower they get to their seat the less time they have to share air with your spawn. It’s like the evolution of man but in reverse.

Then us mammas do something that’s even more exhausting than travelling with kids – we apologise. A relentless rendition of what I call the sorry symphony. And it’s just so monotonous it fades into the background like elevator music.

But could the answer to these travel tribulations be eased with a little thing called transparency? Well, Japan Airlines have started putting a smiling (who are they kidding?) baby face on their online seat map to indicate when a seat is taken by a parent with a child under two.

flying with baby
Japan Airlines have started to indicate to other passengers when a seat is taken by a parent with a child under two. Image: Supplied.
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“Passengers travelling with children between eight days and two years old who select their seats on the JAL website will have a child icon displayed on their seats on the seat selection screen,” the airline revealed.

But it’s a pretty divisive move. In fact, many of my fellow parents got their knickers in a right old twist about it. “We were all young once”, was the overshadowing sentiment on Twitter. Others, over in camp child haters, were fizzy with happiness.

And I’m with the latter, but not because I hate kids. Personally I welcome a world where your in-flight neighbour has knowingly signed up to sit next to you and your brood. Or at worse, forgot to check in online but has had time in the lounge to come to terms with their fate.

It’s a world where us parents don’t have to apologise 45,000 times an hour. Jeez, I’m even holding out that this smiling baby icon will attract some Mary Poppins-style nanna who’ll ease the struggle of flying with kids.

And it is a struggle. Has anyone ever actually managed to master holding a baby, yanking down your undercrackers and being able to wee in that tiny cubicle of a toilet? You either have to hold it in until you land or find a friendly-looking air hostess who isn’t too busy. And they’re always busy!

But should we only be focusing on the under-twos? Why not go even further and pop some icons in for the loud eaters, the heavy breathers and the farters? In fact, what would be even more helpful is a Tinder-style profile that we can peruse pre-seat selection.

After all, imagine flying all that way next to a child-hating businessman who really doesn’t want a sultana thankyouverymuch when there’s a perfectly fabulous kid-loving nanny a few seats away who is simply going to waste.

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