The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recently announced updated recommendations for airplane travel for infants and small children. The new guidelines change the agency’s guidance for how to ensure the safety of these littlest travelers. Also joining is support of the new recommendations is the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA). Our Chicago airplane crash attorneys believe the new guidelines are an important step in protecting children from serious injury.
Late last month the FAA, via administrator Randy Babbitt, held a press conference to announce the new recommendations. These recommendations are targeted not only to parents and other caregivers, but to the airline industry itself. The recommendations deal exclusively with children weighing forty or fewer pounds, leaving children above that size are withing the adult safety guidelines.
The FAA states that its new guidelines are based upon the belief that securing infants and children under forty pounds in an approved safety seat, properly attached to the child’s own airplane seat, will greatly increase the safety of these passengers.
Under current FAA policy, children under the age of two do not require a safety seat, or even a seat. These smallest passengers can fly for free as a “lap child,” a child whose assigned seat is simply the lap of an adult. Thus, while the adult uses a seat belt and is safely restrained, these littlest Americans are not.
The FAA’s changed recommendations come in response to changing standards from other institutions. In March of 2011, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) worked together to change their own guidelines for automobile safety for children to minimize children seriously injured in car accidents. The changed guidelines altered many of the previous recommendations, setting new standards for age, weight, and safety-seat direction.
The FAA has chosen to make its new recommendations optional, not mandatory. This means that airlines will have the choice whether to adhere to the current policy, or move to the new one. With travelers already balking at the current price of airline travel, it is unlikely that many airlines will choose to alienate family travelers by requiring the purchase of additional seats for children — even though it is safer for the child.
The FAA’s decision not to enforce the new recommendations springs directly from this cost issue. The FAA maintains (and our Chicago car accident attorneys agree) that airplane travel is a safer option than motor vehicle travel, both for children and adults, than highway travel in the family automobile. The FAA also maintains that flying, even as a lap child with no approved safety seat or harness, is considerably safer than auto travel.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago airplane accident attorney at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.