Should Allowing Kids to Sit On Laps On Airplanes Be Banned?

My daughter and I on an airplane.
My daughter and I on an airplane.

There’s no denying it, being able to carry babies and toddlers onto airplanes and hold them throughout the entire flight is not only convenient but easy on a wallet already tapped by paying for the adults’ flights.

Unsecured lap children has been a standard airline safety policy since 1953. But is it really the safest way to fly the friendly skies? A surviving crew member of a well-known 1989 plane crash says no and desperately hopes the government will change regulations.

“I have a lot of hope,” says Jan Brown, founder and co-chair of Safe Seats for Every Air Traveler.

Brown was chief flight attendant on an airplane that crash-landed in Sioux City, Iowa, killing 111. A 23-month-old child was aboard in his mom’s arms. When trouble began Brown told the boy’s mother to put him on the floor. When Flight 232 burst into flames, the mother and child were separated. Brown later has to tell the woman her baby had been killed.

That’s why she says it’s her personal mission to get the government to change the unsecured lap child regulations. She tells Yahoo her group’s petition to the White House is asking the FAA to end the practice of lap children on all commercial flights by mandating children under the age of two years old be required to purchase a seat separate from their adult caregiver and be properly restrained in an FAA approved child-safety restraint seat or system. The group needs 100,000 signatures by October 5th and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Nonetheless, the petition brings up an interesting question for parents.

The FAA isn’t against child restraints, on its website there are warnings that state the safest place for children is in a government-approved child safety restraint and not on a lap. Even the National Transportation Safety Board acknowledges that all children would be safest in restraints.

So, what’s the deal? Well, air travel is far safer than driving on the road and there is a theory, called the diversion theory, that families forced to purchase airline seats for child restrains won’t be able to afford it and will choose to drive. Driving with a child in a car seat, according to the theory, is statistically far more dangerous than flying with a lap child. John Goglia, former member of the National Transportation Safety Board and co-chair of Safe Seats For Every Air Traveler, says the diversion theory is ridiculous. “It’s all about the economics. And if you talk to people who know statistics, they’ll tell you [diversion] is baloney.” Jan Brown calls the diversion theory ludicrous as well. “It’s a smokescreen.”

Jennifer Stansberry Miller, an advocate for airline accident survivors and victims’ families, says, “In my experience with the FAA, they have always been referred to as the ‘tombstone agency’ that does not effect change until people die. What is unfortunate is that children have died and been injured, yet no change. What is the magic number of fatalities and injuries to make this happen?”

What do you think? Do you think the FAA should require children under 2 to have their own seats with safety restraints or should it be left up to the parent to decide?

Image source: Flickr

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