Infant Hurt During Turbulence, Raises Safety Concerns

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Turbulence is often encountered on flights, and days ago a United Airlines plane from Denver to Billings, Mont., experienced heavy turbulence. However, this heavy turbulence was rougher than most and caused six people to be injured, including an infant that was thrown from its mother’s arms. Those who were injured were not wearing seat belts at the time the plane hit turbulence, even though airlines request passengers keep their seat belts on when seated. The infant did not have a seat and seat belt system, as the baby was riding as a passenger in his mother’s lap, once again raising safety concerns and questions on whether or not children should be allowed to ride in the lap of their parents.

Parents following Family Vacation Critic on Facebook openly questioned why parents cannot ride in a car with a child in their lap, so why is it permissible on a plane? Currently, all airlines allow children younger than 2 to fly in the laps of their parents, without seat belts. This helps save parents the expense of purchasing a seat for an infant or young child and is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Yet the FAA specifically states: “The safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap. Your arms aren’t capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence.”

The FAA goes on to “strongly urge” passengers to secure children in a CRS during the duration of a flight.

Even airlines recommend parents purchase a seat for their infants and small children. Delta, for example, states: “We want you and your children to have the safest, most comfortable flight possible. For kids under the age of 2, we recommend you purchase a seat on the aircraft and use an approved child safety seat.”

At this time, there is no push to change the current FAA regulations and require all children to sit in a seat with an approved safety system. There are companies manufacturing harness-like restraints for children to wear when seated in a lap that attaches to a parent and a seat belt to help avoid injury caused by turbulence, including Baby B’Air Flight Vest Travel Harness and Baby Bjorn, but the only FAA-approved harness restraint system is the Cares Safety Restraint System, which secures a small child into a regular airline seat.

We want to know: Should lap seating be banned from flights and small children be required to wear safety restraints?

–Lissa Poirot

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