As parents, our number one concern is child safety. And so I ask, have you ever taken advantage of an airline’s “lap child” policy? My next questions: Would you ever sit your child on your lap riding on a roller coaster? How about cruising at 75 mph down the highway?
A “lap child” is where children under age two are allowed to fly for “free” (here in the United States) if they sit on an adult’s lap the entire flight. Parents sometimes book a lap child hoping that the plane isn’t sold out so they can use an empty seat in their row.
During my years as a flight attendant, I would cringe every time a family boarded with a lap child – because I believe there should be no such thing as a lap child. Why?
Physics plus a worst-case scenario can equal a devastating outcome.
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? These parents probably don’t realize something that I learned in my first flight attendant training class (I’ve worked for several airlines). If a baby is being held on the parent’s lap and an airplane crashes, the force of impact can be so strong that a parent’s arms will be comparable to spaghetti while the child’s weight, as it is propelled through the air, will multiply several times. In other words, your little 20 pound baby can turn into an 80-100 pound flying object that can not only get killed but also kill another passenger upon impact. In fact, I’ve seen children fall out of their parents arms during abrupt landings – and those were during a typical flight sequence.
This next topic isn’t discussed often, because it should be a non-issue. Never fasten your lap child into your seat belt. 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. I’ve witnessed several moms try to “sneak” this tactic even after I told them it was not allowed and extremely unsafe. Each mother asked something along the lines of, “But what’s going to keep my baby safe if something bad happens?”
My response was always accompanied by a slight shrug and a look of compassion, “I suggest you purchase a seat for your child the next time you fly.”
Crashes aside, what is even more common is something air carriers endure daily – turbulence. Numerous times I, an adult, had to be held down by passengers in the middle of the plane’s aisle upon hitting a bout of clear air turbulence. I witnessed a man, not wearing his seat belt, who hit his head on the overhead bin when the plane hit a patch of unexpected bumps. The turbulence from that storm was so bad on that flight, I had bruises on my shoulders from my jump-seat harness. Thankfully, there were not any lap children on board that evening.
I find it disgusting that the airlines and FAA allow children to sit on their parents instead of being secured in their own seat. Forget the statistics that say flying is safer than traveling by car – we’re talking aviation safety not automobile safety. The point is, turbulence happens every day around the world, airplane crashes do occur and lap children have died in survivable airplane crashes due to the reasons I mentioned above. The only way to guarantee your baby is as safe as they can be, especially during take-off, landing, and turbulence, is for the child to be fastened into their own child restraint system.
In the meantime, I beg parents to purchase a seat for their child for safety sake. And I plead with the airlines and FAA to withdraw their policies of allowing lap children. Not all parents may understand the dangers of a lap child – but you do.