NWMR: Family air travel and lap kids — The Bump
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NWMR: Family air travel and lap kids

Do you usually purchase a seat for a child under 2? While I know it's safer, it's such a hard call because of cost. We have previously flown twice with a child as a "lap child." We're thinking of going on a trip this spring (one, direct flight) and our airfare will be about $300pp. I thought we'd do "lap baby" again but of course then I get all worried and want to do the "safest" thing and buy a ticket. But, it's $300 more ($1500 as opposed to $1200). It almost makes me just not want to go at all and just postpone until next year when I don't have to make the call.  

We have a free place to stay but still, man, now that we have to buy four or five tickets, and now that we have to rent a car b/c we can't just fit with DH's parents, this trip really adds up. We're looking at almost $2,000 just for air and rental. Ugh! And I used to debate about buying a $300 ticket for myself to go somewhere! I should have traveled more when it was easy. :)
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Re: NWMR: Family air travel and lap kids

  • JessAnnJJessAnnJ
    2500 Comments 250 Answers 500 Love Its Second Anniversary
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    edited January 2014
    We've flown 3 times with our 1 year old and she was a lap child all three times. In all of the flights I have taken I have never seen a child strapped into a cat seat, but leading up to each flight I felt extremely guilty about my decision not to buy her a seat. In addition to the cost, another problem we have is that she hates being strapped into her car seat. I think she will scream if we put her in her seat and I will end up taking her out which will defeat the purpose of buying her a seat.

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  • DD1 always preferred to sit on my lap even when we bought a seat. I guess it depends on the child.
    Mommy of two girls: DD1 4/14/9 DD2 4/15/11
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  • sdlaurasdlaura
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    edited January 2014
    Yes, I have never flown without buying a seat for my daughter. I can't imagine not having that extra space. She sleeps really well in her carseat and then I don't have to worry about my carseat getting damaged while checked or renting one that I don't know the history of. We do a lot of air travel.
    BFP #1 9/2010 (lost our baby at 21 weeks) BFP #2 8/2011 (ectopic pregnancy) BFP #3 10/2011 (chemical pregnancy) BFP #4 12/2011 (Abigail born 8/15/12) BFP #5 5/2013 (Griffin born 1/23/14 with heart defects, now repaired!)

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  • I used to fly with DS as a lap child, and it wasn't bad.  He usually slept or was pretty chill.  We took DD as a lap child when she was 14 months, and it was a nightmare.  I knew ahead of time that her temperament is not suited to being a lap-child, but I thought we could get away with it for one trip with relatively short flights.  It was horrendous.  She didn't sleep at all, and the only time she was semi-calm was during the final flight when I put her in the Ergo on my lap, and she used me as a human trampoline.  So not worth the money we saved.
    DS born 8/8/09 and DD born 6/12/12.
  • We fly with DD all the time and have only done lap child one leg of one flight. We do not recommend it.  If you can afford the seat, buy it. 
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  • I've done it both ways but since the first time we purchased a seat for dd1 we've never looked back. Of course, it would be nice to save the money but between it being safer and more comfortable for the whole family, I've seen it as a good investment. Now that we have two kids, we have the 12 month old in her seat and use the CARES harness for the 3 year old. This has the advantage of requiring us to lug just one seat on board and provides the safety of the FAA approved restraint for the big girl. She can use the tray and entertain herself better.
  • LO flies about four times a year in his carseat (not on our dime) and something else that's really nice about it is that he falls right asleep. Even as a 2+ year old. I can't imagine him napping if he was just in a seat in a harness, or even in our laps.
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  • We fly pretty often and just brought my DD's seat with us on the last flight we took.  It was amazing.  I'll never fly without her seat again.  She needs her own space and it was much less stressful with naps.  We told her that we sit in our seat on the airplane and she did it wonderfully.

    I have learned a lot more recently about the dangers of flying with lap babies so we will be buying seats and bringing car seats whenever we can.  You can always look into a cheap and lightweight travel seat if the car seat you have is big and heavy.    
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  • I would say it depends on the length of your flight.  We have flown both ways but when DD sat as a lap child, we were in first class and it was a 8 hr red eye so we slept on the chair together.  We bought DD her own seat when we had an 8 hr day flight. It was nice to have all the space for her to move since she was up half the time.

    When DD had her own seat we did not bring her car seat but brought a CARES harness.  She was 1.5 yrs old (95% percentile for weight and height). 


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  • I'm not a parent yet, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.....

    But I can't figure out why people understand it's unacceptable to drive even a very short distance in a car unless your child is in a carseat, but think it's perfectly safe to put a child on an airplane without a carseat.  While air travel is very safe, I can't understand not doing everything you can to make your child safer.  If there was ANY kind of incident on takeoff or landing (which are the msot dangerous phases of flight, because it's where the highest density of aircraft are, and it's close to the ground!) or turbulence in the air, a child held in arms is a projectile.  It's fundamentally no different than holding a child on your lap in the car.   Plus, you can taxi for MILES in an airplane between a the gate and the runway. 

    I fly for a living, and by regulation we have to remain strapped into the aircraft (via five-point harness) any time the engines are running.  I wouldn't dream of taxiing without being strapped in.  I can't imagine a baby not being buckled up...
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  • FWIW, I figure if the airplane seatbelt or my arms aren't good enough for a plane crash, then I'm not sure his carseat would be any safer.  And the odds are so small that something would happen so I don't worry much about safety on planes.
    Because your arms are not a car seat, nor is as baby sling/carrier

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONRUpvbM2yc

    and yes, runway emergencies, severe turbulence and emergency landings are much more common than you think.  A car seat isn't going to save your child from a 30,000 feet nose dive, but it will save your child in many survivable emergencies that you would not be able to hold on to your child.

    The child only needs to be in the seat when the seatbelt sign is on (taxi, take off, landing, turbulence etc), when it is off you can hold them etc.  Everything in the plane is strapped down during these times, why wouldn't your baby be?

    If it was safe for people to fly unsecured, they wouldn't have seat belts on a plane at all.
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  • edited January 2014
    So I read that one of the arguments against requiring lap children to be restrained on airplanes is that the alternative for some families would be diverting air travel for car travel.  In other words, the FAA doesn't require children under 2 to be restrained because they predict (using economic & statistical models) that families with small children would then choose to drive instead of fly, which would in turn mean more deaths!

    Anyway the full report is somewhere online and the NTSB also wrote up a response report which is interesting to read here: http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/recletters/sr_a-95-51_diversion_analysis.pdf 

    The NTSB pretty much calls BS on the FAA report and said DUH kids under 2 should be restrained because freaking EVERYTHING on a plane has to be restrained except for a child?

    So anyway the gist of it is that yes children can obviously be injured while on your lap in case of turbulence but the argument for not requiring them to be restrained has more to do with a cost analysis of people flying vs. driving, which is interesting to me. 

    So, in conclusion, if you can afford to pay for a seat and you would not choose to drive instead of fly for a particular trip, then you should pay for the seat for a small child.  But if the cost analysis makes you opt for driving then you're more at risk driving and should instead fly with the child on your lap.  

    Does that make sense? When comparing a lap child restrained vs. a lap child unrestrained, the lap child restrained will always be safer, but when comparing a lap child unrestrained on a plane vs. a child in a car seat in a car, the lap child on the plane will always be safer (statistically) due to the large amount of car crashes. 

    Ramble over. 

  • We don't fly a lot, but when DS was still "free" I just flew Sun Country exclusively. I heard a tip that they reserve the back row of the plane for children traveling alone (regardless if there are any booked). So as soon as the door shut, I asked to move myself and DS to the back row and each time they allowed me. True, he didn't have a carseat to sit in, but we were much more comfortable.
  • I've flew with DD 4 times before her first birthday. The longest flights were 6 hours direct and another that was a 5 hour layover sandwiched between a 5 and 7 hour flight.

    Buying her an extra seat would have meant $700 and $1100 more for her.

    It was cramped.  But we managed.  Once we did get an extra seat because the flight wasn't full.  Southwest was great about letting us know that there was an open seat for DD AND let me bring her carseat on...even when the plane was fairly full.

    I've never experience turbulence to bad that DD would have been in danger outside of a carseat. I've never skidded off a runway though I agree with PP that in a collision there is no way a human would be able to hold on to a child under that force of impact.  And in a catastrophic crash a car seat isn't going to make a bit of difference.

    We have two more flights scheduled before DD turns 2 and do not plan on buying her a separate seat.

  • I'm not sure why people keep calling it an "extra" seat... your baby is a person too, your seat isn't "extra" your husbands seat isn't "extra" either.  If 3 people are flying, you buy 3 seats, if 10 people are flying you buy 10 seats.

    I don't really get the flying vs driving study, I wouldn't pack all my kids and drive from NY-CA to save a couple hundred dollars (or even $1,000), on the other hand there is no way I would fly from NY to DC, I would just drive.  Maybe there are people out there that would fly places that are less than 10 hours away, to me it sounds like a waste of money- it's sad that "enough" children have to die before they make it mandatory to buy a seat.  One child should be enough.
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  • There's no accounting for the lack of regulations.  Peanuts have to be secured for the flight.  My kid, and yours are a lot more precious than snacks.
    Formerly known as elmoali :)

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