The Federal Aviation Administration recommended today that children weighing 40 pounds or less sit in FAA-approved child safety-seats when flying.
"The safest place for a child on an airplane is in one of these seats, and not in the parent's lap," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt at a Washington, D.C., press conference. The Association of Flight Attendants also joined in the recommendation.
In addition to the air travel safety implications, the FAA flight safety suggestion also means added cost for families with children under two wishing to follow the recommendation. Current rules allow children under the age of two to fly for free if they sit on the lap of an adult passenger.
While the FAA says it is safest for children under the age of two to sit in their own seats, the administration is not making this a requirement because it argue that the extra cost may push families to drive to their destinations instead of flying. The FAA maintains that a child is safer on a plane, even if sitting on a lap, than in a car.
Veda Shook, the president of the flight attendants' association, said if families have already purchased tickets for upcoming trips, and did not purchase tickets for their young children, parents can still bring their children's car-seats to the gate. If there are extra seats available on the airplane, the seats may be used for the child's car-seat. If there is not any additional seating room, the child seat can be checked at the gate for no extra charge.
If a child's car-seat is approved by the FAA for air travel, it should be noted on the side of the seat. Booster seats without seat backs are not approved for air travel.
"We want to make sure moving forward that everyone has the right information so we're all on the same page," Administrator Babbitt said. He continued that child safety-seats, "if approved, should fit all the approved seats on aircraft, if properly put in."
The new recommendations for child safety seating in airplanes comes after recently updated recommendations for child safety seating in cars.
Parents have been told for years that they can make the switch when infants reach the age of 1 and weigh at least 20 pounds. But the about-face would be delayed substantially under new child car-seat recommendations released in March by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"The first recommendation [is] that all infants and toddlers remain in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they outgrow the height and weight limits of the seat," said Dr. Dennis Durbin, a pediatric emergency physician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the lead author of AAP's new policy statement.
The updated recommendations delay the rite-of-passage moment when parents are able to switch their infants from the rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing seat.
"They were able to see us," said Asanga, a mother of 2-year-old twins who said she was from Potomac, Md., but declined to give her last name.
Her husband, Joseph, said, "We could point things out to them. We could tickle their toes."