JAL seating map with child icon stirs controversy

A Japanese airline seat-booking system that shows where young children will be sitting on flights is stirring controversy through overseas media and social networking services.

Seating maps on the Japan Airlines website show which seats are reserved by parents traveling with children younger than 3 years old.

JAL started the program in 2013, but it grabbed the spotlight last week when an American passenger thanked the carrier in a tweet for warning him "about where babies plan to scream and yell during a 13-hour trip."

The man wrote that it should be mandatory for other airlines as well.

The tweet triggered debate on social media.

Some parents of young children and people who do not want to be annoyed by yelling babies expressed support for the idea. But critics say it could cause worries among families with children and be discriminatory.

Influential overseas media have reported on the controversy with such headlines as "Want to Avoid Babies on Flights?" and "Japan Airlines introduces a 'very Japanese' option."

A JAL public relations official says the system was introduced at the request of parents traveling with small children who want other passengers to know in advance where the children will be sitting.

The official added that the carrier will try to make air travel comfortable for all passengers.