Airplane Archive

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 

Britax Update – FAA Certification for Frontier 90, Pinnacle 90 & Pioneer 70 Harness-2-Booster Combination Seats

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All current Britax Harness-2-Booster Combination Seats (Frontier 90, Pinnacle 90 & Pioneer 70) will be certified for aircraft use in early February. This change will be retroactive to all current models, and an FAQ and addendum will update this on the Britax website soon. An updated manual will follow in early February.

 Britax Frontier 80 FAA Certification Label

 

The updated instructions for airplane installation will instruct you to route the aircraft’s lap-only seatbelt in front of the ClickTight compartment. This installation method will ONLY be approved for installation on an airplane. Since the Pioneer 70 lacks the ClickTight feature, you will route the plane’s lap belt the same way you normally would on this particular seat.

More details to follow soon. We’ll share ’em when we have ’em!

 

Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights!

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Updated January 2016

When my son was 8 months old we flew from California to Chicago to visit relatives. Although I was not yet a Child Passenger Safety Technician, I understood the importance of using car seats, even on airplanes. So, as a diligent mother, I purchased him a ticket and installed his Britax Wizard rear-facing.

On three of our four flights, we had no problems. On the last one, though, the flight attendant insisted that I turn my son’s seat forward-facing because the passenger in front of him wouldn’t be able to recline. I knew the car seat should stay rear-facing, but with no proof and a plane full of anxious passengers, I acquiesced rather than put up a fight.

If only I had known about the Federal Aviation Administration’s Advisory Circular regarding Use of Child Restraint Systems on Aircraft, things might have been different.

The Advisory Circular, which was updated in September 2015, details the FAA’s policies regarding child restraints on planes, and anyone traveling by aircraft with a child in a car seat would be wise to print out a copy and take it onboard. (Please note that the FAA regulations apply to U.S.-based carriers operating inside or outside of the United States. If you’re flying a foreign airline these guidelines won’t necessarily apply.)

To make things easy for you, the traveling parent, I am going to tell you exactly where to find the pertinent information so you can print out the Circular and highlight what you might need.

Parents are Allowed to Use Child Restraints: The Advisory Circular includes wording that no airline “may prohibit a child from using an approved CRS when the parent/guardian purchases a ticket for the child.” It also states that if the child restraint doesn’t fit in the specific seat assigned to the child, the airline needs to try to accommodate it in different seat within the same service class. You can find that information in Sections 10-d and 10-f on page 8.

Rear-Facing vs. Forward-Facing: Since the complaint we hear most often is that parents were forced to turn a child forward-facing, be sure to highlight Section 19 on pages 14-15 if you plan on using a rear-facing car seat. It states: “CRSs must be installed in forward-facing aircraft seats, in accordance with instructions on the label. This includes placing the CRS in the appropriate forward or aft-facing direction as indicated on the label for the size of the child.” Flight attendants often misinterpret the rules to mean that the child restraint has to be installed forward-facing, not just on a seat that’s facing forward. So in addition to highlighting, you might want to underline the part about “appropriate forward or aft-facing direction.”

Window Seats vs. Other Seats: The rest of Section 19 (page 15) discusses placement of the child restraint. Windows are preferred, but other seats might be acceptable as long as they don’t block other passengers from exiting the plane.

Children Over 40 lbs: Section 24 on pages 16-17 states that parents can use a restraint for a child of any age or size as long as the restraint is “appropriate for that child’s size and weight.” That can be important if you’re using a car seat for an older child, especially one over 40 pounds.

Boosters with Harnesses are Allowed: Are you traveling with a combination seat (a harnessed seat that can also be used as a booster), and think the flight attendant might say you can’t use it because boosters are banned? Just point out Section 17-b on pages 13 and 14, which explains that those restraints are fine as long as the harness is being used (provided your seat really is approved for airline use with the harness, of course).

Worn-Off Labels: Have the stickers worn off of your car seat? No problem. Section 12-b on page 10 says that you can use the seat if you provide a letter from the child restraint manufacturer stating that the seat is approved for airline use. If you have the manual (which you should!), that will suffice, too.

Foreign Seats: Is your seat from another country? That’s ok. As long as it bears a sticker showing that it has been approved for aircraft use by the UN or a foreign government, American-based airlines are required to let you use it. (Section 9-b on page 6 and Sections 12 and 13 on page 10.)

Once you have boarded the plane, highlighted copy of the Advisory Circular in hand, what do you do if you are challenged? Be firm but polite. Air travel tends to put people on edge, but you’ll win more battles with kindness than hostility.

Take out your Advisory Circular and point to the pertinent rule. Ask the flight attendant if he has information that contradicts the FAA’s guidelines, and if he does, ask to see it.

If the crew continues to give you trouble, only you can decide how far to push the issue. Regardless of the outcome, make sure you file a complaint with the Department of Transportation (by mail, phone, or online) and your airline.

Hopefully, though, your preparation will pay off and you can fly happy, knowing your child is as safe as possible.

 

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

Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know Pt. 1

Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know Pt. 2

Lap Babies on Airplane – A Warning All Parents Must See

Flying with Kids & Carseats – the checked carseat controversy

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The issue of how to best handle flying with kids and their carseats is something that comes up repeatedly on the Car-Seat.org forum. Many safety-conscious parents will bring the carseat with them knowing that their child will need to use it once they reach their destination. I applaud all those parents for doing the right thing! However, for a variety of reasons, most parents don’t actually bring the carseat onto the plane and use it for their child during the flight. I suspect that many of those checked seats that I see on the baggage carousel belong to children who wound up as lap babies on the flight. For the record, here at CarseatBlog we always recommend that you buy a ticket for your child (regardless of their age), bring their carseat and use it on the plane.

Regardless of why parents chose to check their carseats, the fact remains that most travelers flying with CRs in tow do check them instead of lugging them through security and using them on the plane. And seats checked with regular luggage probably get tossed around and manhandled the same way luggage does. I somehow doubt that the baggage guys suddenly look at the carseat and decide to handle it with care so they don’t crack the EPS foam, know what I mean?

Checked carseat

But what if you’ve already traveled with your carseat and checked it? Perhaps even multiple times? Is it still safe to use? That’s the controversy.

There are some child passenger safety advocates that will argue that a checked carseat could have sustained significant damage during the time it was out of your sight and should be replaced as a precaution. Some might actually go so far as to suggest that the checked carseat is now “as good as crashed”. I personally think that stance is a little over the top but I understand the logic behind those opinions. I’ve seen how beat-up my luggage is sometimes when I reach my destination. Plus, many frequent flyers have witnessed first-hand some of the abuse that luggage endures as it’s loaded and unloaded from the aircraft.

What we’ve lacked in the past is any type of official policy or statement from the CR Manufacturers regarding checked carseats.  The instruction manuals are full of do’s and don’ts and even show us how to install the [harnessed] carseat properly using the lap-only belt on the aircraft. But there has been absolutely no attention given to encouraging use of the CR on the plane, and subsequently no mention of what you should or shouldn’t do if you’re flying but not planning to bring the carseat on board.

Just recently, the Manufacturers Alliance for Child Passenger Safety issued a statement for CPS Technicians/Instructors on the subject:

Car Seats Gate-Checked or Checked as Luggage
Car seats are designed to withstand most motor vehicle crash forces. In general, the MACPS does not consider a gate-checked car seat or a car seat that is checked as luggage to be one that has experienced forces equivalent to a motor vehicle crash. Once the destination is reached, it is recommended to inspect the car seat to make sure no visual damage has occurred and all aspects of the car seat function properly.

(August 2012)

 

I think that’s certainly a reasonable policy but I would really like to see all CR Manufacturers take it a step further and include language in the instruction manuals that encourages the use of the CR on the plane and discourages checking it with regular luggage. Gate-checking the carseat should be encouraged if and when it isn’t possible to use it on board the aircraft for the child. If nothing else, a gate-checked seat is much less likely to be lost than a seat that was checked with luggage.

I appreciate that the MACPS has taken the time to address the issue. I trust that they looked at the issues seriously. I’m not a carseat engineer, nor do I play one on TV, so I’m going to defer to them on this issue and trust that they know what their products can withstand.

On this end of the table, we’re going to continue to advocate for securing children in aircraft with the same passion and dedication that we have for securing them in motor vehicles. With that in mind, let’s list the top DO’s and DON’Ts of flying with kids and carseats.

  • DO buy a plane ticket for your child, even if they are under age 2. Lap babies can be seriously injured during turbulence and in cases where emergency maneuvers are required (aborted take-offs, emergency landings, etc.)
  • DO use an FAA-approved child restraint with a 5-point harness for kids under 40 lbs.
  • DO bring your child’s carseat to the gate even if your child is under age 2 and you haven’t purchased a separate seat for them. Most flight attendants will make every effort to seat you next to an empty seat (if the flight isn’t full) in order to accommodate your properly restrained child.
  • DO gate-check the carseat if it’s not possible to bring it on board and use it for your child. Items that are gate-checked have less opportunity to be mishandled and are much less likely to be missing when you land.
  • DO know your rights! Well-intentioned but misinformed flight attendants can ruin even the best laid travel plans so be prepared!
  • DON’T check your carseat with your regular luggage if you can help it.
  • DON’T rely on car rental companies to provide an appropriate child restraint. There have been too many horror stories over the years regarding outdated, dirty or lack of available appropriate seats.
  • DO your homework and read our previous blogs on kids, carseats & airplanes:

 

Check out our related blog posts on flying with kids and carseats:

Lap Babies on Airplane – A Warning All Parents Must See

Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights!

Recommended Carseats for Airplane Travel

Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know Pt. 1

Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know Pt. 2

An Open Letter to the FAA