Recently I flew to Virginia for a business meeting. My trek from Oklahoma City to Charlottesville took two flights. While on the first leg of my trip and listening to the safety instructions, I started thinking about the lap child seated in front of me. I pulled out the instruction sheet to see what they were telling parents of little ones to do in case of trouble. The picture demonstrating the recommended technique showed a mother holding on tight while hunched over her baby.
I wondered how many parents in an emergency situation would attempt to strap their child down? And how safe would either option would be for parent and child? When I arrived home, I just happened to read an article by a former flight attendant on this very subject. Beth Blair asked readers, “Would you ever sit your child on your lap riding on a roller coaster? How about cruising at 75 mph down the highway?” She explained that the policy of the airlines—that any child under the age of two can fly for free (in the United States) if they sit on an adult’s lap for the entire flight—might not be a good deal. Beth said, “Some parents assume that if the airline allows lap children, it must be okay. After all, the airlines are the experts, why would they put any of their passengers in danger?”
I cringed when I read this because I was one of those parents who believed, “Well, it must be okay if they allow it!”
What parents don’t realize is if a plane did crash it would be virtually impossible to hang on to your child. The force of impact would propel that little 20 pound baby out of his parent’s hands with the force of an 80-100 pound object. Strapping a child to you is also a bad idea. Beth explains, “If the plane comes to a sudden halt or crash, your body will automatically be thrown forward and forced down, on top of your baby, possibly crushing him.”
Even simple turbulence can also be difficult with lap babies. I remember how difficult it was to simply hang on to Addy when things were calm. Sometimes, the last thing she wanted to do was to sit still in my lap for an extended flight. Remember, turbulence is a regular occurrence and can be rough enough to open overhead bins and even throw nonseat-belted adults around.
So what’s a parent to do? Beth also has an answer for that. “I suggest purchasing a seat for your child the next time you fly.” Parents who purchase seats can also bring a car seat to use in their child’s seat. In a follow up article, Beth provided another solution to her readers. Relatively new on the market is a restraining system for children called CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System). For $75, the lightweight device (it weighs in at one pound) protects a child weighing between 22 and 44 pounds. (kidsflysafe.com). Manufactured by an airline seat belt maker, AmSafe Aviation, it is reliable and easy to use. And if you still need to take your car seat, it may be checked with your luggage. You may also consider renting a car seat when you get to your destination.
Allyn Evans (TheAlertParent.com) is a published author, professional speaker and consultant residing in Stillwater.