Sometimes you stumble across information on the Internet that can knock your socks off or scare the pants off you — until, that is, you cool off and remember it’s the Internet and there’s a lot of different ways of looking at the world. But a few days after running across this free chapter from the book Jet with Kids, I’m still left shivering a little bit.
Last summer I wrote a trio of essays about the hellishness of traveling alone with my toddler on cross-country flights. In this essay about Delta’s idiotic boarding policy (in which “those who need more time” have to make way for “those who need more time to guzzle champagne”), I expressed surprise at their insistence that I was not allowed to either buckle my son in with me during takeoff and landing, nor was I allowed to strap him to me using my Ergo carrier at any time (completely opposite, by the way, to my experiences on European airlines, which required me to use an infant lap belt and didn’t mind if I kept him in the Ergo the entire flight). As I said, the instruction to “‘just hold him’ makes about as much sense on an airplane as it does in a speeding car: none.”
It seems I’m not alone. The free chapter from Jet with Kids went into far more depth than my little rant. There is nothing safe, it seems, about traveling with an unsecured child on your lap. Not for you, not for the child, and not for the other people on a plane.
The reasoning behind using car seats is that there is no possibly way a human can physically hang onto a child during a car crash. The forces at work are too great. The same is true of turbulence or crashes on a plane.
There are some heartbreaking stories in this chapter, especially when we come to the former flight attendant who turned activist because, after a plane crash, a passenger reminded her that she’d told the passenger to put her infant on the floor for safety. She never saw the child alive again.
The most shocking reading, however, came from the section about the FAA. While admitting that the practice of flying with children on people’s laps is completely unsafe, the agency also seems to say that the only reason they don’t outlaw it is that people will choose to drive rather than fly if they have to pay for their small children to travel, too. In other words, airlines are allowed to seriously endanger children’s lives because they might lose money if people knew the real risks of traveling with children on their laps.
The practice seemed crazy to me at the time, and now I can only say that it seems insane. Every now and then you run across something in your country’s laws that shock you, and this is one of them.
The free chapter linked to above is well worth reading. It’s coherent, well researched, and honest. While I haven’t read the rest of the book, the reviews on Amazon have been glowing with regards to flying with children. I was especially impressed with the responses from airline employees and traveling parents.
I’m gonna go out and get me a copy. And the next time I fly with a child under two years old, I’m saving up and buying a seat. Because no amount of savings can make that risk worthwhile.