The Child Passenger Safety in the Air and in Automobiles forum was held last week in Washington.  Here members of the NTSB, the FAA and the Association of Flight Attendants all agreed that a young child is safer when buckled into a safety restraint on an airplane than when just held in a parent’s lap.  Despite this consensus, the FAA has never required parents to purchase a separate airplane seat for a child under two, and it has no plans to change this policy.  The reasoning seems to be that such a requirement would discourage air travel for families with children under two and put more cars on the road, where the likelihood of harm is statistically far greater. 

Many flight attendants have stressed the difficulty of being able to safely hold onto a child during turbulence or a crash.  In a plane crash, a 20-pound baby can fly with the force of a 100-pound missile, putting other passengers in danger.  The Child Safety on Airplanes document on the FAA website states that an approved child restraint system (CRS) is the safest place for a baby on an airplane, and offers these guidelines:

  • Children weighing less than 20 pounds use a rear-facing CRS
  • Children weighing from 20 to 40 pounds use a forward-facing CRS
  • Children weighing more than 40 pounds use an airplane seat belt

The FAA suggests that parents ask the airline about a discount when booking an extra seat for their baby.  They also recommend that if the parent decides to hold the child, they should check with a flight attendant after boarding to see if there is an empty seat that could be used to secure the child.

Photo by Up Your Ego.

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About The Author

Christie Erdman, a guest contributor to the Healthy Travel blog, is a recent graduate of the University of Richmond with a degree in Economics and Marketing. She enjoys traveling, and had the opportunity to spend a semester studying at Universita Bocconi in Milan, Italy during her junior year.

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