Have you ever experienced severe turbulence during a flight? I’m talking way past little bumps and jolts? If you have, chances are you’ll never forget it. I can think of one particular flight out of JFK on a crazy windy Spring morning. My stomach does flips just thinking about it.
Now think about this – the plane can’t take off if my purse is on my lap, right? And there’s like 3 pages of regulations on how the coffee pot needs to be properly secured. But babies? Sure, they can ride totally unsecured because apparently babies are able to defy the laws of physics on an airplane!
Okay, so we know that’s not true. But have you considered what happens to lap babies when the plane suddenly, and without warning, drops several hundred feet in an instant? This video from NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) really spells it out. Please take a few minutes to check it out and pass on the information to other parents.
The FAA’s continued allowance of lap babies is shameful and ludicrous. Unfortunately, many parents will continue to take advantage of this “freebie” because it saves them money. Of course, they’ll have to cough up the dough for the Little Prince/Princess to have his or her own seat on the plane once they pass their second birthday. So what’s the big deal with requiring it for all children regardless of age? Traveling is expensive. Heck, kids are expensive! But please don’t be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to your most precious cargo. Buy a ticket for your child regardless of their age, bring a 5-pt harness carseat on board and buckle your child in it just as you would in the car. Your children will not only be safe in case of turbulence or (Heaven forbid) in case you have to make a rough emergency landing but they’ll be happily contained in familiar surroundings. And if you’re really lucky they’ll just fall asleep so you can have a relaxing and, hopefully, uneventful flight.
Looking for more helpful information on flying the friendly skies with kids? Check out our related blogs on the subject:
Recommended Carseats for Airplane Travel
Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights!
Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know Pt. 1
Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know Pt. 2
For the amount we pay for flights, proper child restraints should be provided by the airline. Or, a small rental fee could be charged. It is ridiculous that the harnesses cost $70. They probably cost $5-10 to make. The prices are hiked up because they know people will pay to keep their children safe. Why not only charge $20 for them so every family can afford them? Or, make airlines carry them.
Some foreign carriers don’t even allow you to purchase a seat for infants from 0-2, as it goes against their local regulations – and unfortunately the FAA regulations don’t apply. We wanted to buy a seat for my infant for our upcoming trip to Italy on Meridiana, but they don’t permit it. Even if there were to be an empty seat next to us, we have been told that we would not be allowed to use an FAA approved car seat. I plan on looking into straps / harnesses to attach him to the seatbelt better for the duration of the flight, or perhaps using a baby carrier so he is at least attached to me during the flight in the event of turbulence (even if none of those things can be used for take off / landing). Do you have any better suggestions for me?
We recently had our rear facing carseat taken away from us on a 12 hour flight on KLM. It was taken away because it would not allow the person in front to recline, and that was “not allowed.” We asked to be reseated and were refused – there were 6 other babies on the flight, all flying as lap infants, and they had accommodated 3 of them in bulkhead seats with bassinets and would not move any of them so that our PAID FOR child seat could be used.
Our child’s safety was traded away for the comfort of the person in front of her.
Meanwhile, they required us to put a belt around her, attached to my seat belt. You could tighten in plenty, but it would loosen at any movement at all – rendering it utterly useless.
(For the record, we had contacted the airline ahead of time to let them know we were flying with a rear-facing carseat. We had requested bulkhead seats. We were told to ask at the gate. We asked at the gate and were refused because “our child has a seat, and these other babies don’t, so they need the bulkhead for the bassinet” (nevermind the 3 other babies who weren’t getting it either). We stated the problem with reclining and were told the person in the aisle in the seat ahead of us was a singleton so if we put it there and he was unhappy he could be moved – nevermind that you’re not allowed to install car seats in the aisle seat. We reiterated the problem with fit and were told to let the onboard crew figure it out – they said it should’ve been dealt with at the gate. We were also told by the flight attendant to use an airline approved car seat in the future – when ours IS airline approved. She also tried to claim it didn’t fit between the arm rests, when it did. We will never fly KLM again.)
Let’s imagine that car seats are required by airliners. Parents with young children would have to pay for three seats rather than two. Many parents can’t afford paying for the extra seat and would have to choose other forms of transportation such as driving. Driving cars is many times more dangerous than flying so would the child really be safer? Some stats I got from this website: http://www.examiner.com/article/how-much-safer-is-it-to-fly-than-drive-really the odds of dying per mile in a car is 1 in 100,000. The odds of dying in a plane per mile is 1 in 100,000,000,000.
The odds of dying in a car per trip is 1 in 10,000,000 and in a plane 1 in 720,000,000. If you can afford another seat, then great, but don’t let that keep you from taking a plan because it’s much safer than a car!
@K – every airlines has a policy on the usage of child safety seats that you can review before your flight so there will be no surprises. Are you flying on a U.S. carrier or an overseas carrier? Have you checked out the other blog links at the end of this article? They have info that will be useful to you. Good luck and safe travels!
also, what about children that are older than 2? i have heard that there is very little chance they will let you take your seat in. i am traveling with my 3 year old overseas, it’s just me and him. if i take my car seat for him which i will have to lug around the airports god knows how during those 2 transfers and then eventually will get told that i can not use it, that will just be too much to bear.
My question is, how are you supposed to have your baby strapped in a car seat for, say, an 8 hour flight? and also, we are talking about, say, 1000 $ difference in price if you choose to purchase your baby his own seat. Not going is not always an option. that’s a tough choice..
No worries, TANNA – thanks for all the info!
Goodness, sorry, the formatting didn’t carry over. It would be much easier to read with gaps between paragraphs :-/
This site is such a great resource! I thought I’d share my first plane travel experience with respect to the car seat for others to compare. Sorry for the length!
The basics: on my own with one 7 month old in a Chicco KeyFit 30 (no base), one short flight on a prop plane, two hour connection, and a 6 hour flight on a 737. A bungee cord was helpful to attach the CS to my checked rolley bag and I just carried the seat through the airport. On the return flight, I had purchased an umbrella stroller that I gate checked. The CS rested well in it, I was surprised. (Baby was in a carrier.)
The airlines, all within the US, were easy-ish to work with, though I stressed about not boarding early. They must have done away with it because of the premium on onboard storage space. It just means they have to wait for me 🙂
The KeyFit fit perfectly between the seats, even with armrests down. On the prop plane, the seat in front could not recline, but on the 737, it could because the tray table was indented. The seatguru website was helpful for an idea of the dimensions:
We were bumped from all the flights I originally booked, so we sat all over. The CS needed to be in a window seat, except in the bulkhead row, where we were told it was ok in the middle. Keep in mind the arm rests in a bulkhead row may not fold up because they contain the tray table! We had to move from the seats in front of the exit row because they push forward in an emergency (obviously can’t sit in the exit row either), so gate agents don’t always know the regulations. I did have to carry the CS above the seats down the aisle, which was hard with an infant strapped to me, but it wasn’t bad.
The short end of the belt buckle had to be forced under the belt path, which was tricky, and I’m not used to belt installs. The videos here helped, as did making sure the CS was pushed to the side near the longer belt end (also helped in cars). You can always ask for a belt extender while boarding.
One final thing: having a seatbelt locking clip was invaluable. Many cars & cabs we traveled in had self locking belts, but there was always a large distance between each lock. The clip made a tight install possible. The cab drivers were very patient with the CS install, I was pleased.
I think DS will outgrow the seat soon and I’m wildly undecided on a replacement. Good luck, fellow travelers!
Wow! What an eye opener. With holiday season upon us I’m sending this link onto everyone I know. It helps to be armed with all the relevant info when dealing with stubborn airlines.
Check with your airline to see if you carseat will even fit in the seat you buy. I purchased a seat for my then 6 mth old with Spirit. Their seats are considerable narrower than other airlines. My airline approved infant car seat would not fit in their seats and the flight attendants we increadilby unhelpful with no car seat training. They questioned if I should even be putting her in her own seat and suggested I just hold her. They eventually moved us to a “big” front seat but they did not give me enough time to get the carseat to fit. The doors were closing and we were not ready. I was forced to hold her on my lap. It was a disaster of a trip and to top it off, they removed her from the manifest of our return flight and I could not get her seat back. Trying to talk to their “customer service” personel in some foreign country is impossible. I spent almost my entire vacation on the phone trying to get her seat back. (And there were empty seats on the plane but I couldn’t get her car seat back from checked bags.) Needless to say, I will not be flying Spirit again with my kids and when we do fly again, I will be carrying the FAA regulations saying that reasonable accomidations must be made to fit a child carseat.
Emily I’m sorry you’ve had bad experiences. Next time you fly, I suggest printing off the FAA regulations that prove that no US airline is allowed to stop you from using an FAA approved seat for a ticketed child https://carseatblog.com/8037/guest-blog-flying-with-a-car-seat-know-your-rights/
Britax seats are huge and not very plane friendly, so we usually recommend travel friendly seats like the Scenera and Maestro which fit easily. As far as rental car seats available at check-in, we recommend never renting a seat that you don’t know the history of.
Just a thought- if consumers never push airlines to be more car seat friendly, will they ever have a reason to become car seat friendly? I say come armed with the regulations printed off and a friendly smile every time you fly, and gently correct the ill-informed airline attendants. If enough parents start doing this, they will (hopefully) catch on.