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Lap Children on Planes: Unsafe!

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You know how airlines say that babies under age 2 can fly for free if they sit in your lap? Well, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is now advising paprents to plunk down the cash to get Baby his or her own seat.

Woman using laptop with daughter on airplane

Deborah Hersman, chairman of the NTSB, told CBS, "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. The laws of physics don't change for babies. They need to be restrained, too."

The Association of Flight Attendants issued the following statement: "AFA does not believe that allowing a child under 2 to be held on the lap affords the child the same protections as the other passengers. For that reason, AFA has advocated for the use of child restraints during takeoff, landing and turbulence for 15 years. After all, per the Federal Aviation Regulations, everything on board an airplane must be secured or properly stowed for takeoff, landing, and often during flight -- except children under 2 years old."

Moms: Do you travel with your babies on your lap?

next: Warning: BlackBerrys and Children Don't Mix
32 comments so far | Post a comment now
Danielle June 11, 2010, 5:15 AM


Melanie June 11, 2010, 5:57 AM

All parents know it isn’t “safe” to have their small child fly on their laps but it’s a choice that parents have to make. I personally fly many times when my son was under 2 and he always sat on my lap. One of the main reasons I chose to have him as a lap child was because he and I flew alone. I didn’t need to add a carseat to my carry on load. Not to mention the money saved. When he turned two I got him a C.A.R.E.S. system to wear.

DM June 11, 2010, 6:57 AM

I think this is ridiculous. Why is it so unsafe? Yes, everything should be secured properly for takeoffs and landings. I think that a mother holding her child while buckled together is perfectly safe. I never understood why people have car seats for their child on an airplane. If and airplane crashes I really don’t think a car seat is going to help!! Just like those dang floatation devices your seat should turn into!! REALY??? If you survive the ACTUAL crash of an airplane it’s by GOD’s grace, not any type of car seat or seat belt.

Danielle June 11, 2010, 8:13 AM

It is SO unsafe because a baby or child could hit and die when his/her head hits the top of the cabin injuring his spine. A plane can plummet because of nasty turbulence. If you aren’t educated in this area you just leave your life in someone else’s’ hands. I’d never compromise the safety of my children. I’d fork out the extra $.

Jillian June 11, 2010, 8:18 AM

I think the majority of people who hold a child in their laps make the decision based on finances..If airlines offered a reduced rate for children maybe more parents could afford to buy seats for their young children.

MB June 11, 2010, 9:18 AM

I just recently traveled across country and held my baby on my lap… many factors lead to me keeping her on my lap… the airline that we flew with charged full rate for an infant seat… and I exclusively breastfeed… so during takeoff and landing I was able to feed and make the flight and pressure changes more comfortable for her because I decided to keep her on my lap. It was with a heavy heart that I made this decision but after sitting behind a woman who had her screaming child in a carseat I feel better about my choice! FYI there were 4 babies on the plane 2 in carseats two on laps… the two on laps did not cry in pain once while the other two did… also the 2 parents who paid extra for the seats for their children did not properly restrain their children… so I highly doubt that their children were any safer than my lap child!

Sara June 11, 2010, 9:45 AM

It’s also not safe to walk down the street without a helmet on your baby because you might trip and fall and hit your babies head.

Exactly how many injuries are there in lap children every year? You’re more likely to die going to the airport than be hurt in a plane and the ability to evacuate your child quickly is probably equals out safety wise when it comes to the plane crashing.

Anonymous June 11, 2010, 11:11 AM

I think moms need to get their kid a seat since the chld on YOUR lap winds up CRAWLING ALL OVER ME!! And god forbid I address the situation - the look at me like I’m the devil. I’m considerate of other passengers and get my infant/toddler their own seat I think a lot of moms are too selfish to do so or cheap. IF you can’t afford the extra ticket DON’T FLY

tennmom June 11, 2010, 11:38 AM

It is a safety issue. I do agree that there should be a discount for children because of the safety issue but if a parent can’t afford a seat for their child they may should not be on that flight in the first place.

Melanie June 11, 2010, 12:12 PM

My child flew 8 times between 10 months and 2 yrs and never once disturbed the people around us. 99% of the time people didn’t even know he was on the plane until we were leaving. My son behaves better on a plane than most adults likes yourself. Just because you have a bad experiance with one child does not give you the right to classify all children as not worthy to fly. If you don’t like flying with the masses and ALL people big and small than rent a private plane!

Maria June 12, 2010, 3:28 PM

I always forked over the extra money when the kids were under 2. Having them on your lap is not safe during heavy turbulence AND it has been shown that in a crash (however unlikely that may be), children with proper restraints have a much better chance of survival.

Cheryl June 14, 2010, 3:30 AM

It will go back and forth for days that some moms have flown with no issue without the car seat and others swear by the restraints. I think that instead of making a recommendation, they should make it a rule then. If it is so very important then say everyone that is getting on the plane should have a seat. I think the reason it is not a rule is because not as many babies are getting injured in this way as we are being led to believe. Where are the news stories of the kids injured because they were unrestrained?

Leah June 14, 2010, 6:21 AM

Clearly YOU are the adult that cause issues on planes. Like anonymous I was always considerate enough of other passengers and CARED ENOUGH about my children’s SAFETY to purchase seats for them. And if I could not afford to I did not fly. There are other transportation options

For folks like you whose don’t like to parent and allow their children to slop all over other passengers (for you are completely lying that the child never left the confines of your lap during flight - that is impossible)YOU should be concerned enough to buy your children a seat or get on the train.

Ridiculous that people actually convince themselves that it is okay to keep a child on their lap for an entire flight. That NEVER happens. The child winds up all over the person next to them and all over the plane while the parents act like everyone is expected to help care for their special little snowflakes. As a parent I would never pull such a unsafe, inconsiderate stunt.

Anonymous June 14, 2010, 9:01 AM

Lots of self righteous moms on here today! Not everyone flying with children are on their way to vacation. To suggest that money is not a reasonable consideration is elitist at its best. To suggest that those of us who have done this do not care about our children as much as you do is insulting and ridiculous. I have in fact flown with my child on my lap, she did stay on my lap for the entire 5 hour flight and the people in front of me did not even know she was there. Kudos to all the rich, perfect parents that can afford the extra seat.

Gigohead  June 14, 2010, 9:08 AM

I recently traveled with my infant son and we opted to pay for a seat. Not only was it comfortable for him, it was comfortable for us as well. I can’t image holding my son for three whole hours. He would have become so fussy and irritable. Instead, he slept for two hours and ate comfortably in his seat. I fly on Jet blue and I didn’t pay too much for the seat and no I’m not a rich person but I don’t feel that stashing the $150 for a round trip ticket is going to make me any richer.

Anonymous June 14, 2010, 10:36 AM

@Gigohead, that was not directed at you, but you know what, $150 is alot of money to alot of people, some of which have to fly, today, with an infant. Should they not go to because they cannot afford the ticket? Train travel is no cheaper. My daughter hates the carseat, so she would have been wailing the whole time in the seat anywhere, as she did on the 3 hour drive to grandma.

Lexi June 14, 2010, 12:21 PM

Then put her in the car and let her wail but don’t subject YOUR child to a passenger who paid FULL price for his seat while you technically 2 for the price of one - since your child CLEARLY did not stay confined to your area the entire flight.

As a former flight attendant I have yet to see ONE parent able to contain their child on their lap for the entire flight. They are being selfish. I’m sorry, if you can’t afford a seat you need another mode of transporation. PERIOD.

Anonymous June 22, 2010, 2:12 PM

It’s not like all people WANT to fly with their child on their lap. My husband, daughter and I just found out we need to fly in less than a week to take care of my mother-in-law who is experiencing a sudden and rapid decline in health. Basically, we’re going to help out while she dies. She lives on one of the HI islands so ticket prices are sky high. It’s $800 for one ticket. We will bring our carseat to the gate and pray for an extra seat, but if it doesn’t happen she’s going to be a “lap baby”.

I wish I had the cash for the extra seat (for safety reasons) and would love to not have my bored child on my lap for 6 hours. However, I don’t have an additional $800 laying around and we’re in a critical situation. Even though I would prefer to wait and save for an extra seat, we HAVE to fly NOW. The airline isn’t giving a discount and unless we want to swim, take a cruise or UPS ourselves there… there’s no other mode of transportation. So, I’m sorry if my kid pisses you off, and would NEVER crawl into a strangers lap by the way. But maybe you could keep in mind that not all mothers are thrilled having to fly in the situation either and have a lot more on their mind than your petty attitude. Whether you are paying $800 for a plane ticket or .50 cents for the bus, it’s ALL public transportation and you need to deal with the diverse crowd that comes with that. If you don’t like it, rent a private jet.

Personally, I get worried when I see a sick person spreading their germs throughout the cabin. However, I know they are flying because they have to. Not because they are maliciously trying to make my life harder.

dena July 11, 2010, 11:51 PM

I have often traveled with a baby under 2 on my lap and they actually give you seat belts to put around your baby (it attaches to your belt). Not as safe as a carseat, perhaps, but safe enough. On international flights you have to have it fastened during take-off and landing, and if there is turbulence— same rules as any other passenger.

And it saves me a lot of money, which enables me to visit my family overseas, something which would be hard to afford otherwise.

Anonymous August 14, 2010, 4:00 PM

You idiots, especially dm, know nothing about why these recommendations are in place. Not all incidents lead to crashes. Aborted takeoffs, hard landings, turbulence and abrupt stops are other possibilities that happen more often than you’d think. Takeoff and landing are the most critical phases of flight, and if for any reason, the pilot has to slam on the brakes at 120 knots, don’t you want your child to be restrained??? If you’re traveling on the freeway at 60 mph and want your child held in, how is that different from when you’re traveling at several times that speed?? You’re traveling fast enough for a tray table to slice you in half, or someone’s reclined seatback to crack your skull.god forbid any of you idiots ever encounter anything slightly irregular in flight.

If you don’t believe me, there are several airline incidents where the only people killed onboard were lap children/infants because there were no safe brace positions for them. The weight of the parent/inertia usually kills the child.

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