Whether or not it's safe for an infant to fly on an adult's lap has been a subject of debate for years. Differing opinions and various trade-offs associated with carrying babies on planes have turned a travel custom into a travel controversy.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows those under the age of two to fly for free if they are held by an adult. Plane tickets are an expensive commodity, and 85% of parents choose this option over buying a separate seat for their infant. But many officials say that in the case of a plane crash or even rough turbulence, infants are not secure on the laps of their parents.
As safe as a child may feel in your hands, an unexpected event while flying leaves babies at the mercy of gravity. Horror stories throw weight behind these warnings: In 2012, a plane crash left 8 of 9 passengers unharmed. The only fatality was a 6-month-old baby, who at the time was being held in his mother's lap. Five years earlier, another accident involving a small plane occurred with a different outcome – the lone survivor was a 3-year-old child, discovered strapped in her car seat among debris.
Officials continue to inform parents about the safety hazards that their infants face when flying. Car seats are considered the best option because they have been tested on planes and most come with an FAA label saying it has been approved for use. But parents who have several young children may find it unreasonable to lug around multiple car seats, let alone pay for multiple plane seats. And although some airlines provide special infant chairs, airlines are not required to do so.
For most, the largest problem is the financial burden that comes with buying another plane ticket. The decision is ultimately left up to parents; however, it is important to be aware that there are options regarding how infants travel on planes. For more information, the FAA provides a page on travel and airplane safety for both infants and toddlers.
“Should small children have their own plane seats?” CBS News. August 15, 2014.
“Should Car Seats Be Mandatory For Infants On Planes?” Huffington Post. January 8, 2013.