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No More Lap Infants on Planes?

No More Lap Infants on Planes?
Jackie Reddy

The NTSB has just released the year’s list of its most wanted safety improvements. Many of these ten recommendations apply to various modes of transport, but some – such as the suggestion to introduce child safety belts or restraint systems for children under the age of two – are aviation-specific.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has just released its 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, ten recommendations that are intended to improve the overall safety of America’s aviation industry.

As Paddle Your Own Kanoo notes, the release of this year’s list was somewhat tardy due to the partial shutdown of the U.S. government, but despite this, the NTSB writes that these recommendations serve as, “…our road map from lessons learned to lives saved. We urge lawmakers, industry, and every American to learn more about what they can do to implement and champion these critical safety improvements.”

The NTSB’s annual list examines improvements to be made across various modes of transport, including that undertaken via road, rail and sea. To this end, some suggestions – such as the elimination of distractions like cellphones, impairment due to drugs and alcohol and the reduction of fatigue-related incidents – can be applied to various forms of transport.

This year’s list, however, includes one very specific improvement for the aviation industry: the introduction of child safety systems or seat belts.

The NTSB writes in its recommendations that, “In commercial aviation, the FAA still exempts the most vulnerable passengers—children under age 2— from having to be secured in their own seat, allowing them to travel unrestrained on an adult’s lap. Our investigations have shown that children under age 2 are at risk of serious injury and death when they are not restrained by a child safety system and in their own seat.”

Speaking of the NTSB’s full list of recommendations, Chairman Robert Sumwalt said in a official statement that, “The 2019 – 2020 Most Wanted List advocates for 46 specific safety recommendations that can and should be implemented during these next two years. It also features broad, longstanding safety issues that still threaten the traveling public.”

View Comments (9)


  1. englisha

    February 7, 2019 at 2:31 am

    I’ve always found it amazing that in the US infants under 2 sit on a parents lap without a seatbelt. In Europe and the rest of the world, in my experience, extra child belts have been common place for a long time, which fit as an extension to the parents one. About time the US caught up on this.

  2. GoodFastOrCheap

    February 7, 2019 at 7:02 am

    Maybe if some airlines implemented this it would lead to less crying babies in the air. *shrug*

  3. vj_rama

    February 7, 2019 at 7:22 am

    This can have two very different effects.

    1) Fewer infants on planes due to increased cost of travel for families (extra seat for baby) – quieter cabins for all.

    2) Louder infants on planes due to inability to console baby on parent lap – nightmare scenario.

  4. SpaceCoastBill

    February 10, 2019 at 10:06 am

    A seat belt extension so that the infant can be secured in front of the parent?

    Completely stupid.

    That infant would be instantly cut in half the second any tension is applied.

    The ONLY solution is a restraint seat.

  5. Marilu

    February 12, 2019 at 5:15 am

    @SpaceCoastBill is absolutely correct. The only solution is a separate restraint seat certified for aircraft use. There is a reason the US bans those tack-on belts. Both ways, with or without a belt pose different, but deadly risks. Parents should be allowed to take them out of their seats during flight (absent any turbulence), just as any adult is allowed to move/walk around. As for less families flying, it’s only a 2 year window that allows lap children anyway. It would not be a drastic move to require their own seats. It would also prevent people from sneaking in their 2+ year olds to save money on an extra seat. They usually don’t ask for proof of age when flying domestically.

  6. bennyg2

    February 13, 2019 at 7:53 am

    Most newer car seats can be used on planes.

    As a dad I can say it would be a huge extra thing to shlep and the cost would suck BUT if it really does make our kid safer then can we really argue?

  7. disalex

    February 15, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    There’s a theory that stopping lap babies would actually cause more deaths.
    If people had to pay for their baby to fly more would drive
    Driving is far more dangerous than flying per mile traveled.
    So lap babies may actually be saving infants lives

  8. +/-3dB

    July 24, 2019 at 4:55 am

    My sister-in-law said it best: “My kids lives are worth the price of an airline seat each.”

  9. jrpallante

    July 24, 2019 at 11:40 am

    It is absurd that the FAA ever allowed lap children. That rule clearly ignored all safety factors. I cannot hold a laptop or briefcase during take-off or landing, yet it is ok to have a squirming toddler on my lap? When my kids were of this age (15-18 years ago), most airlines offered discounted infant fares, generally about half price, and we always bought seats for the kids. The infant fares were never advertised, and you could not book them online, but you could get them over the phone. Aside from the increased safety and comfort, my kids also started accumulating their own FF miles when they were just a few months old. Nowadays, I think only Southwest offers infant fares. To be blunt, if you cannot afford a safe seat for your baby, then you should probably reconsider whether you can afford to travel at all.

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