The Aviation Minute: Child Restraints on Airplanes

By Robert Mark on May 8th, 2014

TAM Final LogoRGBWhen my wife and I were married a long time ago, we promised ourselves that if we ever had kids and wanted to travel on an airplane, we’d just fork over the extra money for a ticket. To us, the risk of injury should they fly out of our hands during an accident or in turbulence simply wasn’t worth the few hundred dollars we’d save.

Years later when we decided to take our then infant daughter on an American Airlines flight to LAX, we learned most of the flight attendants didn’t know much about car seats on airplanes.

Today, there is still nothing that requires a parent to put any kind of restraint on a child under two years of age. They’re still permitted to ride on their parent’s lap even though there’s no way a parent could hold them down in a crash. The 1989 crash of United 232 proved that.

So why do we permit kids to ride around in an airplane without a seatbelt when we’ve had laws for decades that prevent the same thing in a car? Here’s what I learned.


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2 Responses to “The Aviation Minute: Child Restraints on Airplanes”

  1. Greg Morris Says:


    A great piece as usual. I completely agree with you regarding mandating approved child restraints on airliners. My wife and I are expecting our first child in just under three months, and one of our key car seat purchase criteria was would it work on an airliner. Any parent who chooses to keep a child on their lap does not appreciate the threat posed by even moderate turbulence to an unrestrained infant or child.

    Greg Morris
    Gauntlet Warbirds

  2. Andre Says:

    In New Zealand under 4’s have the option of a seat, a child restraint system or sit on the lap of an adult WITH a separate belt attached to the adults. The airlines give you a simple belt loop, but it works great. The child is restrained, and separate from the parent so no battering ram effect. Not sure where NZ got the rule from.

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