United Airlines scare prompts parents to question lap baby safety

SACRAMENTO - When parents travel with infants on an airplane, most of the time they will hold that child on their lap and just hope that there is not any turbulence during the flight. But once turbulence hits, everything you think you know about the safety of air travel can change in a split second.

This past President's Day, 114 passengers on a United Airlines flight from Denver to Billings, Mont. encountered unexpected turbulence and people went flying. Two of the passengers were hospitalized, and there was a mother who was unable to hold onto her infant. The baby went flying and for what probably seemed like an eternity for that mom, who had to go searching for her child in the midst of the chaos that followed. The baby was thrown over several rows of seats and landed safely in another passenger's lap. Fortunately, everyone survived, but now a lot of parents are questioning the safety for babies in the air.

Most people have not experienced extreme turbulence, similar to that United Airlines flight. But when it happens, it becomes physically impossible to hang onto anything in your lap.

So what is a parent supposed to do? The FAA strongly urges parents to use a child restraint system.

And other parents have purchased separate seats for infants and brought their car seats along for the flight. The FAA does not require that method for children under 2 years of age, because they say it would significantly raise the net price of travel for those families.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates all airline accidents, does not feel the FAA guidelines are good enough. They suggest that all passengers have their own seats on planes, and urge parents to use child-restraint systems when traveling with kids.

Lap children typically fly free in the U.S. and are charged 10 percent of the adult fare on international flights.


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