Airplane Archive

Injuries to Kids on Planes – more food (and drink) for thought

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Yet another reason to use a carseat on an airplane

airplaneI’ve always been a proponent of using carseats on airplanes. Turbulence is a cause of many injuries to adults and children each year and it can’t be anticipated. Parents with lap babies can’t hold their kids with a death-grip hold for an entire plane ride, nor would they want to. Harnessed carseats give kids a comfortable place to sit that fits them, keeps them safe, and allows their parents’ arms to be free for other tasks.

There’s another reason brought up in a recent NPR article that had never occurred to me since I’ve always thought 04-13-things-your-flight-attendant-wont-tell-you-coffeeof the big injuries happening from turbulence—head and spinal injuries. Lap babies—kids under age 2 who can ride for free on planes in their parents laps—can interfere with drink service or tray tables and be burned by hot coffee. In fact, burns from hot drinks cause 39% of kid injuries on a plane. Service carts being pushed down the aisle can also pinch fingers.

“I think this is a really important reminder that the same things you need to worry about at home, you should worry about on a plane,”

– Dr. Benjamin Hoffman

Have you ever had a suitcase dropped on you from an overhead bin? I have. It hurts. Imagine what can happen to a lap child sitting in an aisle seat. Children in carseats are placed next to a window seat, which protects them from falling overhead baggage as well.

Many parents balk at spending money on a ticket for a child under age 2 when it’s not required. The only thing in an airplane that’s not required to be secured during takeoff, landing, and rough, turbulent flight is a child under age 2. What’s wrong with this picture? What magically happens at age 2 that makes that child’s health and life so much more valuable that he must occupy his own seat? Injuries to children on airplanes aren’t terribly common, but they can be reduced to zero by simple use of a carseat. That’s cheaper than the cost of the co-pay to the emergency room in your destination city right there.

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

The Ultimate Guide to What You Want to Take on A Plane

Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights!

Lap Babies on Airplane – A Warning All Parents Must See

Flying with Kids & Carseats – the checked carseat controversy

New FAA Rule Regarding Child Restraints

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airplane stockDon’t get too excited. As much as I’d like to say that the FAA’s new rule regarding child restraints is to require them for children under 2…I can’t. Instead the new rule, which goes into effect on October 30 and requires full compliance by February 29, 2016, probably won’t make much of a difference for most parents.

Way back in 2012, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act required the FAA to require airlines to post the maximum width for a child restraint to fit in its airplanes. Now, three years later, that rule has been amended and finalized with some changes. Instead of airlines posting the maximum width of the child restraint, they will now need to publish the width of the narrowest and widest seats in each class.

In a way, that’s a good thing. Because the contours of child restraints can vary so much (some are kind of boxy, some taper, etc.) a one-size-fits-all measurement might not be accurate or even helpful. There are a lot of seats that might be wider than an airline’s stated limit but that will still fit. It would be unfortunate for a flight attendant to declare a child restraint too wide without giving the parent a chance to try it. (Most airline seats have movable armrests, and putting those up means nearly any child restraint approved for airline use will work.)

The new regulation—requiring airlines to post the width of their seats—gives parents some more flexibility. Maybe they’ll decide to pay a little more for a wider seat, or maybe they’ll just breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their child restraint is close to that number, and will surely fit once the armrests are raised.

JetBlue compaison chart

There are some downsides, though. The measurements will be taken between the inside edge of the armrests, meaning that in most cases, people will still be given a sort of unrealistic idea of what can actually fit. I understand that, though. Measuring with armrests up (would it just be one armrest or both?) would be kind of nebulous.

This will also still lead to confusion among parents who see that an airline seat’s measurement is, say 16″ but their child restraint is 17″. That’s probably not any more or less confusing than giving parents the “maximum width” their child restraint can be, but it certainly isn’t any more helpful. Will the child restraint fit or not? (Answer: Probably.) I’m sure there will also be instances where a parent sees that the seat’s measurement is smaller than their child restraint’s measurement and decide to not take the restraint at all.

In the Child Passenger Safety world, we’ve gotten used to regulations that don’t really help anything. It’s taken more than a decade to finally get LATCH standards more-or-less uniform, and even those still don’t make complete sense. The FAA seems to have taken a long time nit-picking over a relatively minor issue that doesn’t even come close to addressing the real issue: Airlines need to make air travel easier for people with child restraints, and the FAA should require that all passengers have seats of their own on the plane.

You can read more CarseatBlog posts about children on aircraft here:

Travel Carseats: The Ultimate Guide to What You Want to Take on A Plane

Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights

An Open Letter to the FAA

Lap Babies on Airplane—A Warning All Parents Must See

Flying with Kids & Carseats – the checked carseat controversy

And here is a list of our recommended seats for airline travel:

Recommended Seats for Airplane Travel

Travel Carseats: The Ultimate Guide to What You Want to Take on A Plane

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Flying with Children

Airplane -rf CCOIt’s a lucky parent who hasn’t had to travel by plane with a young child. Some minimalist parents have it down, but the rest of us use up every last cubic inch of space we’re allotted, stuffing it with things we might possibly need like hair ties, mismatched infant socks, carabiners, and Ziploc bags that get thrown out eventually. Think back to your last trip on a plane alone when there was a small child—what was that child doing? Standing on the parent’s lap screaming? Waving at uncomfortable adults who waved once but then wanted to disengage from the outgoing child? Were you trying to eke out that last bit of nap before descent when that screech jolted you out of slumberland? Did that parent look happy or like she was going to cry herself?

happy flyerKids have that natural tendency to want to move and explore their environments when they’re in their parents’ arms. Parents naturally provide a safe place for a child . . . everywhere except in a moving vehicle, which is what an airplane is. Most of us who have traveled with children and carseats can attest that our kids have been better behaved in their carseats and have found their carseats to be safe pods for them. When was the last time *you* were comfortable in an airplane seat, after all? Kids in harnessed carseats are protected against turbulence and against runway incidents, such as aborted takeoffs and landings, and overshots. And think about it: coffee pots and Coke cans are required to be secured during flight. Don’t our kids deserve the same respect?

04-13-15 incident

Can I take any harnessed carseat on the plane?

Maybe. It must have a sticker on it that says the carseat is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft. That part will be written in red ink so it’s easy to find. Your owner’s manual will also have this wording. Be prepared to show the sticker to a gate agent and/or flight attendant because they may ask to see it as you board the plane.

Pria 85 - FAA certification

Can I use a booster seat on the plane?

Let’s get our terminology down first. A booster seat is a belt-positioning booster used by older kids. It’s used only with a lap/shoulder vehicle seat belt. Since a commercial airplane doesn’t have a lap/shoulder seat belt, no, you cannot use a booster seat on the plane. A harnessed seat isn’t called a booster seat. If your seat has a harness that also can be used as a booster later on, we call that a “combination seat.” Most combination seats are approved for use on airplanes only when used with the harness; that’s because you can install it with the plane’s seat belt. You can, however, take your booster seat on the plane with you as carry-on luggage for your child to use in the car when you get to your destination. If you have a backless booster, it fits perfectly under the seat in front or in the overhead bin. If you have a folding booster, it fits in the overhead bin. If you have a booster where the back comes off, you can pack the back in your suitcase and carry the bottom on with you.

What are my rights regarding carseat use onboard an airplane?

We have an article that explains what you need to know. Also, know where the certification sticker is on your carseat and bring a healthy dose of patience. Between oddly intimate security searches, our knees being jammed into the seats in front of us, and man spread by guys in the center seat, flying saps the last bit of patience of everyone. Flight attendants receive very little to no training on carseats on aircraft, so the best tactic is one of “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” If there’s confusion, it’s OK to show them the carseat owner’s manual and smile. Remember that they can (and have in the past) remove ticketed passengers from flights.

How far should I push the rear-facing issue?

If you’ve been online at all, you’ve heard of travelers who have had problems rear-facing their kiddos: the flight attendant misinterpreted the flight attendant handbook, which requires carseats to be installed on forward-facing passenger seats, and they had to turn their 3 mo. old forward-facing. At some point you pick your battle with the flight attendant (with a smile–remember, he or she is just doing their job) and the likelihood that something catastrophic will happen is slim. Turning an 18 mo old forward-facing on a plane probably isn’t going to end the world. If you’re still unsure, I suppose you could whip this regulatory requirement out.

What are the best travel carseats?

Jan Brown’s Petition to Ban Lap Babies on Planes

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KeyFit 30 on airplaneIn September 2013, a few weeks before the US Government shut down for 16 days, former flight attendant and plane crash survivor Jan Brown started an online petition. The petition charged the FAA to mandate that children under the age of 2 be retrained in an appropriate child safety seat on all commercial aviation flights – for the safety of everyone on board. Her petition gained wide-spread attention and support when YAHOO! News ran this story on September 17, 2013:

Lap kids on planes must be banned for everyone’s sake

For Brown, who has spent 24 years lobbying, speaking and testifying before Congress on this issue, it’s been a personal battle. Brown was chief flight attendant on United Flight 232, a disabled DC-10 that crash-landed in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1989 killing 111.

Unfortunately, less than 2 weeks after that news story ran, our government came to a screeching halt and that was the demise of Brown’s petition – along with a lot of other important business. Now, 12 months later, a new petition has been started and once again we are sharing the information and asking our readers to consider signing it and sharing it within their social networks. Link: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/charge-faa-mandate-children-under-age-two-be-restrained-faa-approved-child-safety-seat-planes/ZqgGZ6QK

FAA Petition - Jan Brown 2014

“Dear Friends & Safety Advocates,

We have created a White House petition in hopes of achieving 100,000 signatures in the allotted one month’s time.  The FAA is controlled by OMB (Office of Management & Budget) and OMB is controlled by the White House, so it appears to be the strongest route to eliminating lap children on airplanes and making everyone from baby to paying passengers safe…and allowing flight attendants to offer safety for all passengers not merely the ‘select’ over the age of two!  Please take a few minutes to sign the petition that can be reached at: http://wh.gov/ilY8c.  If you do not have a White House password it will ask for your e-mail address, name and zip code…there is an opt-out box to check if you do not want White House e-mails and your name will not appear on the petition, only your initials….so your privacy is not compromised and the President will not be calling you [http://cdn-cf.aol.com/se/smi/0201d20638/02] .  But this is where every vote counts and I am eternally grateful for your support particularly since I never imagined advocating for child safety for 25 yrs.  I do want to live to see it happen!                     

Hugs of Thanks, 

Jan Brown

 

For more info on the subject of flying with kids and carseats please see our previous blogs on the subject:

Recommended Carseats for Airplane Travel

Lap Babies on Airplane – A Warning All Parents Must See

Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights!

Flying with Kids & Carseats – the checked carseat controversy

Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know