Seattleites love to travel. Both by car around our beautiful state, or by plane.
While traveling by plane, many parents opt to hold their under two year old children on their laps. With airfare being very expensive, it is an attractive option. The FAA allows this option, but does not recommend it. The National Traffic Safety Board has been recommending since at least 1990 that the FAA disallow children from flying unrestrained.
The average 23 month old boy weighs 28 pounds. Anything else 28 pounds on the plane would be required by the flight attendants to be secured before take off or landing. Laptops, carryon bags, purses, even the coffeepot and the soap in the lav are secured. But the smallest travelers are not automatically awarded this luxury.
Twenty eight pounds in a 150 mph emergency (say the landing gear fails, or the plane dips and flips on take off) is 4,200 pounds of force. In an emergency most parents cannot hold onto their children. Children are either held on the lap in the brace position, or put under the seat in front of the parent, or at their feet. None of which is as safe as being in a secured restraint. Children have been known to end up very far from their parents after a crash. When there are ten seconds to get off of the plane before fire or smoke consume you, having your baby next to you where you left them may save their life.
You can read of a parent’s horrific recollection of the loss of her son in this article on the Sioux City plane crash in 1989.
A six mile vertical drop is not likely to have any survivors, and parents often assume that this is the main reason for buying their child a seat and using a restraint. Instead, it’s the runway emergencies on take off and landing that are the most dangerous, plus airborne turbulence.
In addition to the safety aspects of it, holding a squirmy child on your lap for the duration of the flight is a test of nerves. With a seat you simply put your child in their carseat, which they know is non negotiable, and they are strapped in. When it’s time to eat you have a place to sit them so you can feed them, or you can eat yourself with your tray down. You can have a beverage without little hands grabbing at it. While your child sleeps you can read a book or use the tray, or lean back and sleep yourself.
Also, a ticketed baby has their own baggage allowance. You can carry on, and check luggage, just as you would for any other ticketed passenger.
A few airlines still offer infant discounts, but most of course do not. However, whenever traveling with an infant in seat, call the airline and ask.
You can read the FAA’s recommendations online, as well as the many NTSB’s letters recommending that the FAA require children to have seats on board.