Air travel can be intimidating and hectic for the inexperienced. Add a young child to the equation, and it can seem downright unmanageable. However, by planning ahead and being proactive before your flight, you can ensure your child’s safety while reducing a bit of anxiety.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agree that the safest place for a child to ride in a plane is in their own seat, even if lap sitting is allowed. Additionally, children under the age of 2 or weighing less than 40 pounds should be securely fastened in a child restraint seat.
Do not wait until you get on the plane to find out if your car seat is the appropriate size – check in advance! Most car seats will have a sticker or label that reads: “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” If the tag is missing or if there is any confusion, you can measure your car seat. A seat wider than 16 inches WILL NOT fit in a coach seat.
Call the airlines before your flight to make sure the aircraft you are traveling on has emergency equipment, such as life preservers, designed for small children.
Take the time to reserve adjoining seats for you and your child. Note that a child restraint seat (CRS) cannot block the escape path, so avoid exit rows. Finally, place your child in a window seat if possible. Most airlines already require that CRSs be placed in window seats, but even when a CRS is not in use, having your child away from the aisle can keep them from getting hurt by a passing person who loses balance or a serving cart going down the aisle.
Turbulence can occur at random and without warning. Having your child belted can greatly reduce the risk of injury in such a situation. If your child needs to get up, be sure that the seat-belt sign is off before you unbuckle them.
If you child needs to get up for any reason, accompany them. This includes to the lavatory as sharp edges and heavy doors can create injury hazards for children.
If you are traveling with children, especially those young enough to require safety seats, chances are you have more luggage than you can handle. Ask your airline for help if needed. This is especially true when trying to make connecting flights. Not only will airlines often help you with your luggage, they can also inform members at the boarding gate that you are on your way.