5 On Your Side

NTSB: Give babies their own airline seats

Posted June 9, 2010

— As the summer travel season begins, the National Transportation Safety Board is urging parents to buckle baby carriers into airline seats instead of holding infants in their laps aboard planes.

Under current Federal Aviation Administration regulations, children younger than 2 can fly for free if they sit in a parent's lap.

"Saying it's OK to have a lap-held child sends the wrong message to parents. It's not OK to have a lap-held child in an aircraft," NTSB Chairwoman Debbie Hersman said. "The laws of physics don't change for babies. They need to be restrained, too."

Airplane; air travel Safety board wants infants buckled up on planes

The NTSB and the Association of Flight Attendants have tried for years to convince the FAA and airlines to require seats for all passengers, including babies. Still, many parents prefer holding their children for free instead of buying a ticket for them.

"It's unconscionable that it's allowed," former flight attendant Jan Brown said.

Brown was a crew member on a United Airlines flight that crashed in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1989. A 22-month-old boy was among the 112 people killed in the crash; his mother, who was buckled in, survived.

"Not all the love in the world could hold a child under those conditions," Brown said.

The FAA encourages parents to use child safety restraints, but officials said they aren't ready to make it a rule. The agency fears that parents will opt to drive to destinations rather than buying plane tickets for their babies, and FAA officials said they believe driving is more dangerous than flying.

"One thing we do know is that restraints save lives and that everyone needs to be restrained, especially our most vulnerable passengers, and those are our children," Hersman said.

Crash situations aren't the only danger, officials said, noting air turbulence can turn babies into projectiles.

Terra Converse, for example, was flying with her baby, Jake, on her lap and lost her grip during heavy turbulence. He flew out of her arms and slammed into the overhead compartment, but luckily suffered only minor injuries.

"I was scared to death," Converse said. "That was so hard not being able to protect him."


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  • kittiboo Jun 15, 2010

    I was going to try to fly my 2.5 year old next month without her seat (just using the plane's seat belt) but I think I'm going to bring the carseat on board- she'll be comfortable in it and I can make sure she stays strapped in (she could wiggle out of a regular belt).
    We've always gotten her a seat and used the carseat before. A pain to carry through the airport, but ours isn't too heavy and I can make a loop out of the LATCH straps to carry it on the stroller.

  • hollymic Jun 15, 2010

    My daughter and I have flown. She had her own seat. I was able to check her car seat as luggage.
    I was so glad that I could. She was around 3 or 4 when we flew. The only thing that happened was I didn't leave her alone. She fell asleep as soon as we took off and when I tried to make her more comfortable she woke up.

  • Doodlelover Jun 11, 2010

    If parents want to hold their babies/toddlers in their laps, fine. But don't get all mad and sue people because your baby is now wedged in an overhead compartment. I still can't believe it's actually free to bring your child onboard, when I have to pay for my dog who doesn't sit in a seat either... Weird. My dog actually sleeps while your child does not. Maybe a child fee would eliminate bringing small babies on planes. I think them buying a seat is just fine! I mean they can't ride in your lap while driving, like Miss Britany Spears attempted to. Why should another motorized vehicle be any different? And yes k8ered is right, it is a SERVICE not a right to fly in a plane. Get with the program Myra Jones.

  • melsy203 Jun 11, 2010

    k8ered...well said!

  • k8ered Jun 11, 2010

    "I think they should provide young children with a free seat if they are with a parent. Ticket prices are already outrageous. Some people may not be able to afford a seat for a young child."

    So the government should be able to mandate that a private carrier give free service? Because that is, in essence, what you are saying. I'm sorry, if you can't afford to fly your WHOLE family, then drive. Air travel is not a right, it's a service you pay for. Why should the airline give away seats for free that they could otherwise sell to a paying passenger? Personally, I think the NTSB is giving sound advice here, and for your child's safety, you should pay for them to have their own seat that will accomodate an appropriate child restraint system.

  • myrasjones Jun 10, 2010

    I think they should provide young children with a free seat if they are with a parent. Ticket prices are already outrageous. Some people may not be able to afford a seat for a young child.

  • jet2rdu Jun 10, 2010

    From the FAA:
    “While not mandated, the safest way for a young child to travel on an airplane is in an AIRPLANE APPROVED car seat. Car seats are needed to protect the child against turbulence. In non-fatal accidents, in-flight turbulence is the leading cause of injury to airline passengers and flight attendants.”

    In order to be certified for use on an airplane, the car restraint has to met the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Check the labels on the side of your car restraint for a sticker (words will be printed in red for seats manufactured after 1985 ) for verification that your seat is safe for airplane use and states:

    “This Restraint Is Certified for Use in Motor Vehicles and Aircraft."

    Remember that not all seats are certified for aircraft use, so some will not have this label.

  • LongTimeComing Jun 10, 2010

    We got an unbelievable amount of grief from flight attendants for bringing a carseat on board for our 9-month-old. They tried to bump him on a full flight, we got our tickets checked, rechecked and checked again, and one FA actually said, "You know that's not really going to help him in an accident, right?" I told her that it would help him in turbulence, which I hoped was more likely than a crash. She left us alone after that.

  • cary1969 Jun 9, 2010

    yes..put your money saving in place of your childs safety.. these people shouldn't have kids.