Taking a Domestic Flight in Japan with a Baby: 5 Things to Know

Recently, we flew with our daughter for the first time, taking three flights – two on ANA and one on Jetstar Japan. With all of those being domestic flights around Japan, I thought I would put together a list of some of the things that are worth knowing before taking such a flight with your baby.

Like on all other flights, infants up to two years old can fly without having their own seat reserved (their name still must appear on the reservation as a lap infant) or fly in their own seat. We did the former. In fact, given that flights around Japan are very short, I can’t imagine a situation where it is worth booking an extra seat unless you are traveling with more infants than adults or you could use some extra baggage allowance.

With that out of the way, let’s jump in.

Flying in Japan with a Baby
My daughter’s first flight.

#1: Baby Carriers Can’t Be Used on Jetstar Japan

Depending on the airline, when flying with a lap infant, you will either have to simply hold your baby or will be provided with a seatbelt extension that you put through your seatbelt before securing your baby with it. In the case of the two airlines we flew it, ANA didn’t provide a seatbelt extension while Jetstar Japan did.

With ANA, on the first flight, my wife was “holding” our daughter in a baby carrier as she was already asleep in it when we boarded. On the second ANA flight we took, I held her. On our return flight to Tokyo Narita with Jetstar Japan, though, we were told the baby carrier could not be used throughout the flight.

Flying in Japan with a Baby
On ANA, our daughter was able to comfortably sleep in a baby carrier.

While I would understand if it was only during take-off and landing when a seatbelt extension needed to be used, it made the flight considerably less comfortable given that the carrier couldn’t be used in flight either. In fact, according to the Jetstar website, while Jetstar Airways and Jetstar Asia allow the use of baby carriers at cruise altitude, Jetstar Japan does not.

I do not know why that is the case with Jetstar Japan considering that both Jetstar in other countries and Jetstar’s partner in Japan, JAL, allow baby carriers to be used. In either case, though, the inability to use a baby carrier definitely means that we will be avoiding Jetstar Japan when flying with a baby in the future even if it means paying extra for one of the other airlines.

Speaking of other airlines, I couldn’t find anything explicitly prohibiting the use of a baby carrier on any of the other airlines’ websites.

Jetstar Japan Seatbelt Extension
Seatbelt extension on Jetstar Japan.

#2: ANA and JAL Provide Bassinets and Child Seats on Request

Considering that both of the flights we took on ANA were very short, we didn’t take advantage of this. That said, if you are taking a longer flight – e.g. Tokyo to Ishigaki or Sapporo to Naha – then requesting a bassinet if flying on ANA might not be a bad idea.

While bassinets are available on all domestic aircraft operated by ANA except for Airbus A320s and Dash 8 Q400s, their number is limited. As such, if you want to use one, make sure to call ANA to reserve it as soon as you book your ticket.

Unlike ANA, JAL doesn’t offer bassinets on domestic flights. Considering that most of the flights are shorter than two hours, that is understandable. What the airline does offer, though, is free rental of child seats that can be used by children under 3 years old.

Like with ANA’s bassinets, it is best to reserve a child seat by calling JAL as soon as you book your ticket. The one thing to keep in mind, though, is that, unlike bassinets, infants using a child seat need to have their own seat paid for – i.e. the service is not available for lap infants.

As far as I could find, none of the low-cost and other airlines in Japan offer bassinets or child seat rental.

#3: Strollers and Child Seats Can Be Checked-in for Free

When flying domestically within Japan, you will not be able to gate-check a stroller. Instead, you will have to check it in at a check-in counter before going through security. That said, regardless of the airline you are flying with, you will generally be able to borrow a stroller that you can then return at your departure gate for free. Alternatively, you can take use a baby carrier like we did.

As for checking a stroller (or a child seat) in, you can do so free of charge whether you are flying with ANA, JAL, or one of the low-cost airlines like Jetstar Japan or Peach. While the stroller (or child seat) itself doesn’t count toward your checked luggage allowance, keep in mind that with low-cost airlines you might have to pay a separate fee for your actual checked luggage depending on the type of fare you book.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that while ANA and JAL are loose about enforcing carry-on luggage allowance, the low-costs are stricter and lap infants do not get their own carry-on luggage allowance.

Flying in Japan with a Baby
ANA put our stroller in a plastic bag.

#4: Some Airlines Including ANA and JAL Offer Priority Boarding

Depending on the airline you are flying with, you might be able to be among the first to board the aircraft, giving you enough time to settle down before departure.

On our trip, both ANA and Jetstar Japan offered priority boarding for those traveling with children. With ANA (and JAL), priority boarding for those traveling with children among others takes place before general boarding. As such, when traveling with my daughter, I can board earlier than when traveling by myself with an ANA Platinum status.

Peach is among the airlines that do not offer priority boarding for those traveling with children, instead having these groups board together with the rest of the passengers.

#5: ANA and JAL Have Giveaways for Children

Last but not least, you might want to keep in mind that both of the full service carriers – ANA and JAL – have giveaways for kids. While not critical to the journey in any ways, these giveaways – like a small wooden plane and a luggage tag – that my daughter got on her first two flights are a nice keepsake (and for the time being until she gets older, a nice decoration for my home office).

I believe JAL also gives out small model planes and some other items. I also remember seeing on TV a JAL flight attendant putting some candies inside a cup and putting a lid on it, essentially making a rattle – smart!

Flying in Japan with a Baby
Wooden airplane handed out by ANA.

These items will generally be provided proactively. One thing you can ask for in addition to those is a boarding certificate. Depending on the flight attendant that fills it out for your child, you might even be lucky to get one with some cute drawings on it that will make for a great piece of memorabilia from your child’s first (or 100th) flight.

Flying in Japan with a Baby
Thank you to the flight attendant that took the time to prepare write and draw this!

Summary

The real test for me and my wife will be next week when we fly with our daughter from Japan to Europe. That said, taking a couple of domestic flights beforehand provided good practice grounds. It also gave me the chance to start learning about a new aspect of air travel – flying with a baby.

While in many ways doing so is similar regardless of where you are, there are some things particular to Japan. I tried to list those and then some above. In case you are planning to take some domestic flights around Japan with your baby, I hope you found the five things above helpful.

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