Flight attendants support enforcing the ban of lap children on airplanes

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  • Published on March 24, 2023
  • Last Updated May 15, 2023
  • In Culture

During an FAA safety summit in early March, a flight attendant union called for updated safety regulations pertaining to young children.

Flight attendants are reiterating their call for updated airline safety regulations that would mandate young children under the age of two travel in their own seats on aircrafts. At the Federal Aviation Admission’s (FAA) airline safety summit in early March, the issue was brought up by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the largest flight attendant union in the United States.

Traveling with a lap child is a choice for parents of children younger than two years old. However, the union warns that in the case of severe turbulence, simply holding a young child is not enough to ensure their safety.

“We’ve seen airplanes go through turbulence recently and drop 4,000 feet in a split second,” Sara Nelson, international president of AFA, shared with the Washington Post following the safety summit. “The G-forces are not something even the most loving mother or father can guard against and hold their child. It’s just physically impossible.”

Despite a resurgence of flight attendants calling attention to this issue, the debate over whether it is safe to fly with a lap child is not new. Following a 1989 crash-landing in Iowa in which three infants suffered injuries and one was killed, Nelson says that the flight attendant union has placed importance on requiring individual seats for infants for more than 30 years.

According to the Condé Nast Traveler, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has also previously recommended that infants be required to use their own car seats while flying. The issue was included in a report of 25 safety recommendations to the FAA in 2021, and in 2019 it was on the agency’s list of top 10 most wanted safety improvements. In a recent statement, Jennifer Homendy, who is the head of the NTSB, recently mentioned that all 25 turbulence recommendations are still up for debate.

Buying children their own seats and securing them in a child restraint system, such as a car seat approved for use on airplanes, are not official FAA safety regulations, but the agency “strongly urges” parents to do so. Certain child safety seats have been given the green light by U.S. safety regulators for use in both cars and planes. Look for the label that says “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft” to know that your child’s car seat has been approved by the U.S. government.

The Doona Car Seat and Stroller is an all-in-one system, and it’s especially helpful when traveling by plane with a baby. If you decide to buy a plane seat for the baby, the car seat’s wheels fold into the seat, making installation on a plane easy.

Using the aircraft seatbelt, installing a car seat is as simple as installing it in the backseat of a car. Condé Nast Traveler also notes that flight attendants can undoubtedly aid with the installation process, and many U.S. airlines allow families with young children to board early to give parents extra time to get settled with the car seats.

Although it is not always possible due to airlines’ complex seat selection fee systems, federal officials have recently taken steps with U.S. airlines to make it easier for parents to ensure that they are seated next to their children for free.

On Thursday, Nelson was scheduled to testify before Congress about lap babies and other safety issues in air travel, marking the next step in the flight attendants’ push for the new regulations. The hearing was expected to be held by the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee of the United States Senate. The response to the request for the new regulation is still pending.


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