Are “Lap Children” Safe on Planes?
For our upcoming January/February 2010 issue, we’re preparing tips on how to survive a plane crash. Don’t despair! The story’s not as morbid as it seems as your chance of being in a plane crash is about the same as giving birth to identical quadruplets! (1 in over 11 million). Fact-checking the story got me thinking about so-called “lap children,” kids two years of age and younger who sit on their parent’s lap while flying.
Is this a safe way for little kids to travel? Apparently the Federal Aviation Administration does not require infants to be belted in during flight though they do recommend parents use child restraint systems (CRSs) during take-off, landing, and turbulence. It strikes me as odd that kids have been required to be buckled up in cars since 1982, but they’re still not required to be similarly secured while on planes.
The FAA said in 2005 that it doesn’t mandate the use of safety seats on planes because this would require adults to purchase a separate seat for the infant, and that when forced to buy an additional ticket, many families will choose to drive rather than fly. And, as driving is a statistically much more dangerous way to travel, permitting kids to fly as lap children is seen as the lesser of two evils.
Most domestic airlines don’t charge for kids to fly as lap children, hence the perpetuation of this dangerous practice. Restraining your child in a CRS requires a separate seat, for which most airlines charge full ticket price. For many parents hoping to travel with their kids, it’s often too steep a price to pay, especially in these tough economic times, if flying with Junior as a lap child is free. While I’m not a mom and thus not personally faced with this decision, I’m inclined to agree with Consumer Reports contributing editor and aircraft dispatcher Bill McGee. Last summer he opined in USA Today that “[i]f a trip is too expensive for a child’s seat, then that’s a trip that shouldn’t be taken.”
What do you think?
Photo: Bertabetti via Flickr
- Nat Geo Expeditions