All Nippon Airways, a Japanese airline that connects the United States to almost all of Asia, has conducted a strange experiment on the babies of the island. In an effort to curb the instances of crying children on flights — a phenomenon that is all too familiar and one that makes many passengers uncomfortable — the airline strapped sensors to babies on a full domestic flight with 34 families and 36 children in hopes of better understanding, and eliminating, the waaahs.
The experiment, by ANA in partnership with Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp and Toray Industries among other prevalent companies in Japan, may be the beginning of a new era of flying. Devices attached to the chests of babies were designed to detect any change in a baby’s vital signs, including pulse and mental activity. If a change in their condition was detected, parents received a notification on their phone to allow their child to have a drink of water or suck on candies, a recommendation that is concurrent with findings that show that allowing a child to nurse, chew, or suck on candies could ameliorate ear pressure due to cabin changes.
While the study is interesting, the fact remains that crying babies are pretty much just a part of life. If you’re a parent, the anxiety of traveling with a baby is all too real. Some parents are relegated to handing out apologizing notes and candies just because of their children, despite the fact that they, too, are paying customers. And in Japan, adults seem to be particularly fussed over crying children.
Childcare experts across the country have bristled at the alarming trend of a population’s inability to handle the noise of children. It’s no secret that Japan has a repopulation issue. Some sociologists and experts in the country think that the lack of children in the country has also led to a population who is unused to the sounds of children. For example, in Tokyo, a family sued a day-care center because the noise of the children playing caused “mental suffering.” As a result of that lawsuit, the daycare built sound-barriers and shortened recess for the kids.
The social climate of Japan begs the question of who the real issue is when it comes to airplanes. Yes, children that aren’t yours — especially crying ones — can be a nuisance. One study showed that they activated fight-or-flight responses in the brain.
At the end of the day, crying babies are as much of a regular on planes as a luggage cart banging into dangling elbows. It’s good to give parents a bit more information about cabin pressure and the discomfort it causes babies. But it should be for the parents benefit, not the passengers. Anyone that annoyed by a crying infant should simply invest in some noise canceling headphones.