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Flight attendants renew push to ban lap-babies on planes after turbulence events

Flight attendants are renewing the call to ban babies from sitting on their parent’s lap amid incidents of severe turbulence during recent flights.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union, which has nearly 50,000 members, is pushing for airlines to require all passengers, regardless of age, to have their own seats on a flight.

Most airlines currently allow children under 2 years old to fly for free on their parent’s lap.

Sara Nelson, the international president of the union, said the issue has remained a priority for flight attendants for decades due to the safety concerns.

“We’ve seen airplanes go through turbulence recently and drop 4,000 feet in a split second,” Nelson told the Washington Post, referring to a Dulles flight earlier this month that saw seven injured and an infant flying out of their mother’s arms.

“The G-forces are not something even the most loving mother or father can guard against and hold their child,” she added. “It’s just physically impossible.”

Most airlines currently allow children under 2 to fly for free on their parent’s lap.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Parent and child on plane.
A flight earlier this month saw a child fly out of their mother’s arms due to turbulence.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The union raised the issue last Wednesday at the Federal Aviation Administration’s safety summit and submitted its demand of “a seat for every soul” to Congress.

The FAA’s current regulation reads: “A seat and an individual safety belt are required for each passenger and crew member excluding infants, who are in other than a recumbent position.”

Despite the rule, the FAA echoes the recommendation of health experts who have previously joined the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA’s call to ban lap-babies.

In its “Flying with Children” overview, the FAA writes: “The safest place for your child under the age of two on a US airplane is in approved child restraint system (CRS) or device, not in your lap. Your arms aren’t capable of holding your in-lap child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence, which is the number one cause of pediatric injuries on an airplane.”

A 2014 study by researchers at the University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital found that 90% of infant deaths on flights between 2010 and 2013 were of children under age 2.

Nelson said her union was originally spurred to action following a 1989 incident, in which United Flight 232 crash-landed in Sioux City, Iowa, resulting in the death of an infant along with three other babies injured.

Child in plane aisle.
The FAA states that “the safest place for your child under the age of two on a US airplane is in approved child restraint system.”
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Following protocol at the time, flight attendants had told parents to wrap their babies in blankets and place them on the floor.

“Sadly this has been more than a 30-year priority for our union,” Nelson said. “We must have children safe on the plane and in their own seats with a proper restraint device to make sure it never happens again.”

The union’s recommendation comes as lawmakers are working on the FAA’s reauthorization bill, which expires in September.

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