Until airlines switch on and realize that child free cabins would be popular with many passengers, you are pretty much in the lap of the gods when it comes to avoiding sitting near a baby on a flight.
No method is fool-proof of course but you can take a few precautions to try and minimize the risk of sitting by an infant.
What is so wrong with sitting near a baby?
This is a question that only someone who has never flown on a long haul flight close to a baby that hardly ever stops crying and screaming would ask.
Don’t get me wrong – I generally like kids, particularly toddlers. I understand that the baby might be in some discomfort due to pressure changes in his or her ears, and that is a shame. I also feel sympathy for the parents who might try very hard to pacify the baby and feel bad for the passengers sitting around them.
BUT ….. no-one actually wants to have to endure this on a flight so if you can minimize the possibility then why not?
Hands up anyone who can honestly say that when they have been one of the first to board a flight, and take their seat, that when they see parents with young children, and/or a baby, walking down the aisle towards them that they haven’t said in their head “Keep going. Don’t sit near me” and then heaved a huge sigh of relief when they did. I know I am guilty (if that is the right word).
How to avoid babies on a flight
Number 1 below might be the start of something good (I hope) and may make it possible to guarantee that you don’t end up sitting near a baby in the future. Possibly the long awaited “Child Free” cabins are just around the corner.
1. Infant Seat Map
Japan Airlines have this month (September 2019) included a baby symbol on its seat booking plan to help passengers avoid sitting near a baby. This will show the seats that have already been booked where a baby, or young child under 2 years of age, is traveling on its parent’s lap. You can then select a seat away from theirs.
However, the system will not guarantee that you aren’t near children as:
- There are no designated child areas so children can still be anywhere in the cabin
- If someone with a young child books after you they can still select the seat next to, or close to, you if one is free
- The seat map only shows children under two traveling on their parents lap, not where any child with its own seat is sitting
- It is only available if booking online
- If there is an aircraft change the whole seating plan could totally change
Perhaps other airlines will follow Japan Airlines example. We will have to wait and see.
2. Don’t sit near bulkheads
Although sitting in a row immediately behind a bulkhead or section separator might seem attractive as you may get some extra legroom you should avoid them. They are not only popular for families with young children, as the kids can play on the floor, but that is also where baby bassinets are located, if they are provided by the airline.
3. Choose an emergency exit row
Children are not allowed to sit in the rows immediately next to the emergency exits of an aircraft for safety reasons. So if you book one of these seats then you should at least guarantee that you are not next to a child. You could still be sitting near a baby though as there could be one immediately in front or behind you of course.
Emergency exit seats usually have the added advantage of having extra legroom too.
4. Choose a red eye flight
Many people suggest choosing a flight time such as a very early or overnight flight. This may mean you are less likely to be on a flight with so many young children as many parents avoid these flights because they are more stressful when traveling with children.
How true that is I am not entirely sure. Choosing one certainly makes your journey less pleasant, whether children are on the flight or not, so I am not sure it is worth it. Also you may have little choice than to go with an overnight flight, and therefore so will parents. If traveling from the US to Europe then these flights are predominately overnight for operational reasons.
5. Fly business class
This is not an option for many due to the high cost of business class, or even first class travel. Children are not excluded from flying business or first class but they are less common in those cabins so you should be relatively safe.
If you do choose business class then don’t choose to sit in the rear row of seats as you may have a screaming baby immediately behind you in the first row of economy perhaps only separated by a think partition.
6. Take precautions
There have been times when I have felt the parents of children near me should have taken “precautions” but in this instance I do not mean that kind. I mean taking something on board with you to make your flight quieter should you find yourself near a crying baby or other noisy child.
You have a few options:
Noise cancelling headphones
These are my preferred choice and I use them most of the time on a flight, whether sitting near children or not. They always make my flight more restful.
Whilst they are not designed to block out speech they can go some way to cancelling the monotonous crying of a baby. They are active, which means that the electronics within them produce an opposite sound wave to the noise to cancel it out. They do a great job with cancelling engine drone and the sound of the air rushing past the fuselage.
You can use them with the onboard entertainment system as well as with your phone, tablet etc.
The headphones I currently use are the Paww WaveSound 3 Bluetooth 5.0 Wireless Active Noise Cancelling Over Ear Headphones. The are one of lightest active noise cancelling headphones on the market and I can wear them for hours without any problem.
If money is not an issue then check out the Sony headphones which are probably the best available on the market.
Noise cancelling earbuds
Just like noise cancelling headphones, these do a similar job but are actually inserted in the ear. I find them uncomfortable after a while so I don’t use them.
The most popular noise cancelling earbuds on Amazon are the TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Earbuds.
These are the cheapest option and work simply by blocking the sound from entering your ear. Obviously you cannot use them if you want to listen to the onboard entertainment system or with your tablet or other device.
One of the most popular types on Amazon is the Vibes High Fidelity Concert Earplugs.
You may find my article on The best gadgets to make flying more comfortable useful too.
Why do some parents think everyone should love their kids?
I was looking at a Facebook thread following the Japan Airlines announcement above. It was incredible that so many parents commenting were calling those that welcomed the announcement “miserable moaning b&%$·/ds”.
Obviously they have never had to endure someone else’s child screaming for an entire 10 hour overnight flight from Los Angeles to London like I have.
I can guarantee that these same parents will also do what they can to avoid sitting near a baby or other passenger’s children when their children have grown up.