Lessons from US Air Flight 1549


It seems apparent from the interview with Matt Lauer today that at least one baby on board US Air flight 1549 was a “lap baby”.

This is one lucky little kid.  The male passenger sitting next to the mother offered to “brace” the unrestrained baby for impact and she handed him over.  I’m not sure what he did but he deserves credit for doing something right because the baby appears uninjured during today’s interview with his parents.

Now, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t think parents should count on the intuitions of the guy seated next to them to protect their children in a crash.  Sure, you could get lucky (this mother and child surely did) but I wouldn’t take those odds to Vegas.  Especially not when there’s practically a sure thing – an FAA approved carseat.  

Of course, the chances of your plane crashing are very, very small.  And most of us realize that we (and our children) are MUCH more likely to be injured or killed on the ground in a motor vehicle.  But still…. that doesn’t excuse us from making poor decisions for our children up in the air just to save money.   

Yes, I know lap babies are technically “allowed” but that in itself doesn’t make it a good idea.  In some states you’re technically “allowed” to marry your first cousin.  That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, know what I mean?  

Children under 2 can’t advocate for themselves in travel situations.  If they could – imagine what they would say when they found out you weren’t planning to buy a ticket for them.  This is how I imagine it ….

“Great.  Juuust great.  You save some dinero and I get to be the potential lap rocket if something goes wrong.  Why don’t you just sit unrestrained on the floor and let me have the ticketed seat (with carseat and seatbelt, of course).”  

I know some parents feel like they have no choice but to fly with a lap baby.  They can offer endless excuses and justifications for their actions.  Some might be legitimate.  But every traveling parent needs to ask themselves if they could live with their choices if something went terribly wrong.  Would the  “no choice” arguments and justifications really hold up in hindsight?  I hope none of us ever needs to answer that question.

What is so disheartening to me is that we know how to protect these kids and the answer is simple.  It doesn’t require a 10 year study, a congressional hearing or a trillion dollar budget.  It only requires that you purchase a ticket for each and every child that will be flying with you and use an appropriate, FAA-approved child restraint.


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