Sometimes people ask me, “How can you justify spending a thousand extra dollars on a seat for your baby?” You see, I have had at least one child under two for most of the last seven years, and I have bought infant-in-seat tickets many times. After some serious research a few years back I learned that infant-in-lap air travel is not safe. Today’s headline about a baby flying out of their parent’s arms during turbulence on a flight from Denver to Billings strengthens my resolve regarding this issue. By the way, I don’t consider making the safest possible choice for my child to be spending extra money. For me it is a necessity.
People always think I’m being judgmental when I say this, but infant-in-lap air travel is unsafe, period. It isn’t a matter of opinion once you look at the overwhelming evidence.
Since my father-in-law is a pilot, let me give you a little known fact about turbulence. Pilots cannot see turbulence on their equipment. They can see large storms, but turbulence can occur without any storms present. They only way they know for sure there is turbulence for sure is if it is reported by another pilot that has just flown there. Spotting turbulence is considered more of an art for pilots, than it is a science. Even with all of the devices and predictions available today, there is no sure way to know whether or not there will be turbulence, or how severe it will be.
In fact, according to this article, there is a type of turbulence that is completely invisible to the pilot.
“Even though pilots are taught to avoid turbulent air by looking for cumulus clouds, turbulence can strike even in the absence of clouds. This type of turbulence—especially dangerous because of its invisibility—is known as clear-air turbulence. It accounts for most turbulence-related injuries, mainly because pilots have no time to warn passengers and flight attendants to get strapped into their seats. Nearly 7 out of 10 turbulence incidents are the result of encounters with the clear-air variety.”
In today’s article from the Denver Post, one of the passengers of United Flight 1676 said,
“The drop was so forceful an infant flew from a parent’s arms and landed in another seat nearby. The baby seemed unharmed, just scared.”
We do know that five people from that flight were actually hospitalized because of their injuries. In my opinion, the couple with the baby was very lucky that their baby was unharmed.
Did you know that in 1989 after the Sioux City, Iowa crash landing of United Airlines Flight 232 where two infant-in-lap passengers died, the NTSB recommended that the FAA make child restraint systems mandatory? If you think I’m being hyperbolic, please see this guy’s very detailed article on why infant-in-lap is a bad idea. Although it was written in 2008, it is by no means outdated.
I’m not going to go on and on about this subject, if you are interested in other facts and figures about the safety of infant-in-lap seating, you can take a look at this article I wrote a while back where I quote the FAA and the AAP.
Safe and Happy Travels,