Infant Flies Out of Parent’s Arms in Turbulent Flight

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.

infant in flight

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,


Car Seat vs. Infant In Lap: Cost vs. Worth

The information from the FAA and AAP was updated on February 18th, 2014.


Should I Use A Car Seat On An Airplane For My Child Under 2?

I get asked this question a lot because people know that before Kati was 2 years old, we still bought her a ticket. The reason for this extra expense was the result of several weeks of research on the topic of airplane safety. The reason I have not written an article about this up until this point is because I don’t like to write controversial things on this blog. But I am finally going to answer this question so you know why I make the choices I do regarding infant air travel.

traveling with an infant

Travis and I figured out that Katienne did not like to be held while traveling for long periods. I wish we would have figured this out before our 7 hour bus ride from Budapest to Krakow (on which Kati proceeded to scream for all 7 hours). But after that we always bought her a separate seat so she could be in her car seat. Then we started planning for our trip from Hungary to the United States, and I was faced with the decision of paying several hundred dollars more for her to have a seat, or paying $100 for her to sit on my lap. But something was really starting to get to me, money issues aside. I kept thinking about the strict car seat regulations in every country, and it just didn’t make sense to me that the same thing didn’t apply for airplane rides. So I started researching.

The FAA Child Safety website uses very strong language in regard to this topic:

“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly urges you to secure your child in a CRS or device for the duration of your flight. It’s the smart and right thing to do so that everyone in your family arrives safely at your destination. The FAA is giving you the information you need to make informed decisions about your family’s travel plans.”

I also came across recommendations like this from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“Occupant protection policies for children younger than 2 years on aircraft are inconsistent with all other national policies on safe transportation. Children younger than 2 years are not required to be restrained or secured on aircraft during takeoff, landing, and conditions of turbulence. They are permitted to be held on the lap of an adult. Preventable injuries and deaths have occurred in children younger than 2 years who were unrestrained in aircraft during survivable crashes and conditions of turbulence. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a mandatory federal requirement for restraint use for children on aircraft. The Academy further recommends that parents ensure that a seat is available for all children during aircraft transport and follow current recommendations for restraint use for all children. Physicians play a significant role in counseling families, advocating for public policy mandates, and encouraging technologic research that will improve protection of children in aircraft.”

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