Mother Holds Baby On an Airplane

I most commonly fly on military aircraft but I do have to fly on a commercial airliner from time to time. When I have, it’s common for me to see a brave mother with small infants or children in tow patiently trying to get to her seat so she can finally sit down and take a breather. Finally making it to her seat, she gets all of her gear stowed, sits and begins to pay attention to her kid(s) in preparation for the flight. Soon the flight attendant closes the main cabin door and makes an announcement to secure all items and turn off electronic devices in preparation for take-off. OK LET’S FREEZE RIGHT THERE!

This is the point where I will notice the young mother is still holding her infant in her arms and it makes me cringe in disbelief. Doesn’t she know how dangerous that is?! I know the bond between a mother and a child is strong but not enough to overcome the laws of physics. In a crash situation or severe turbulence, a child becomes one simple and horrific thing – a projectile. *watch a video below to see how the effects of a 35MPH impact simulation affect a child on its parent’s lap*

That was at a velocity of 35MPH. A 737, for example, will exceed speeds well over 100MPH to take off or to land. Severe turbulence can be at greater than 25 knot changes in Indicated Air Speed (IAS) and, 2500 – 2999 feet per minute (FPM) changes in Vertical Speed (V/S). Simply put, if there is enough force to toss you against the seat belt, there will be enough force for unsecured objects to be tossed about (which is how the Federal Aviation Regulations define Severe Turbulence).

Having an unrestrained child in a vehicle is not only considered reprehensible, it’s also illegal in all 50 states. Why is there a double standard for aircraft and automobiles? An unsecured infant is not only a hazard for it’s own safety, it also poses potential injury to anyone that it hits along its trajectory. I’m required to secure my bag beneath my seat that weighs less than 10lbs because of the risk it poses yet an unsecured infant who weighs about twice that isn’t as a potential hazard as well?! That’s a very sobering thought to me.

Obviously take-offs and landings are the most crucial times of flight, but what about just flying along at 37,000 feet? Just like a pothole in the road, turbulence can happen without warning. Who hasn’t been on a flight that was a little bumpy especially if we were flying around some rain showers or other weather? This is such a common event yet people still operate under the assumption that nothing bad will ever happen to them. The FAA also believes this is an unsafe condition. In fact they’ve created a PSA talking about flying with a child unrestrained and unexpected turbulence. [mp3t track=”″ title=”FAA PSA” flow=”y”]

My humble opinion is that this should not be legal. This is in no way an indictment of parents with small children, and I’m completely aware not everyone can afford a second seat in a commercial aircraft. I believe all the major airlines do offer reduced fares for a child in a safety seat (this is the option FAA highly recommends). However, I don’t think anyone will agree that holding a child is a ‘safe’ option but believe that the industry has turned a blind eye. It seems logical that there should be regulations in place that would better protect all passengers without putting extra burden on parents of infants.

Not sure what options are out there for folks who still want to enjoy the ability to fly with their child for free while being able to provide an added level of safety. Here’s one company’s design *see below* that utilizes a vest/harness concept that goes over the infant and is attached to the seat belt in front of the adult. Perhaps products like these are the answer.

*Note this is NOT an FAA approved device for take-off and landing*

So what do you think the answer should be? Should the regulations change?

Here are some additional links to child safety while flying from the FAA and a few airlines:

Southwest Airlines
American Airlines
Delta Airlines
United Airlines
Flying with Children Guide

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