Flight attendants are renewing calls to ban children 2 and under from sitting on the laps of their adult caregivers and parents during flights, citing safety concerns that have resurfaced following recent incidents of mid-air and severe turbulence.
There are many domestic airlines including American Airlines allow infants under 2 years of age to travel free while seated “on their parent’s lap (of any age), or any accompanying adult 16 years of age or older traveling in the same cabin.”
Sara Nelson is the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the largest union of flight attendants in the US, representing nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 19 airlines. Nelson told the Washington post The union has been advocating for change in lap baby policies for the last three decades.
“G-forces are not something even the most loving mother or father can watch over and hold their child. It’s physically impossible,” Nelson told the Post.
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The union has called on every passenger on a plane in the past sit in their own seats and be restrainedlike a seat belt, and it continues to do so.
“Current practice that only recommends that infants and young children under 2 years of age be in child restraint seats during critical phases of flight is insufficient to protect our most vulnerable passengers,” said Nelson in 2019.
In a summit of safety held last Wednesday, Jennifer Homendy, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said turbulence is “especially dangerous for flight attendants” and causes “3 out of every 4 flight attendant injuries.”
“We released a report in 2021 to prevent turbulence-related injuries. It has 21 new recommendations and four we reiterated on weather reports, increased sharing of turbulence events, the need for flights attendants to sit with their seatbelt buckled during certain periods of flight, and the need for parents to secure children under 2 in their own seats with [Federal Aviation Administration]-approved child restraint system,” Homendy said. “All 25 turbulence recommendations remain open.”
The FAA agrees that children age 2 and younger sitting on another passenger’s lap while flying is not a safe practice.
“Although children who have not yet reached their second birthday are permitted to travel as infants, the FAA strongly discourages this practice and recommends that you secure your child in an approved [child restraint system] in their own seat for the entire flight,” agency advice. “While there is no regulatory prohibition against the use of a booster seat or harness vest (or other unapproved device) for a lap child during the cruise portion of the flight only, airlines have policies that may or may not allow the use of those devices. . Check with your airline.”
Congressional lawmakers are currently reviewing federal aviation rules and laws to reauthorize the FAA at the end of September, which is currently funded through the end of fiscal year 2023.