Flying with a Baby on Your Lap: Consider the Risks

If you are thinking about flying with your baby on your lap, consider the risks when making that decision. You may find it is not worth it.

The majority of airlines offer free airfare for domestic flights in the U.S. for babies that are under the age of two if they travel on the lap of an adult.  Children traveling internationally without a seat are usually required to have a purchased ticket (at an infant fare plus taxes and fees). As tempting as it may be to save money by not purchasing a seat for your baby—there are some serious risk factors to consider.

Female in Blue Top Holding Baby in Blue and Gray Stripe Top

The airlines require passengers to be buckled in during takeoff, landing, or turbulence—and all luggage must be secured.  The same should hold true for that precious baby sitting on your lap…but it does not.  If you have ever been on a flight that encountered tremendous turbulence, then you know how rough it can get.  It is usually unexpected and everyone scrambles to get secured—including the flight attendants.  The only one that would not be secured—would be your baby.

Airplane Silhouette and Orange Sky

On August 12, 2016, a JetBlue flight from Boston to Sacramento hit severe turbulence causing injuries to 22 passengers and 2 flight attendants.  The airline had to make an unscheduled landing in Rapid City, South Dakota.  According to news sources, passengers on the flight described the unexpected occurrence as “feeling like they just hit a wall and then the plane instantly dropped down. Passengers that were not belted in were thrown around the cabin.”  Severe turbulence has occurred on many flights, but most do not make the news.

White Airplane Flying on Blue and Grey Sky

This is a disturbing reminder of the risk of flying with your baby unsecured on your lap. 

Free stock photo of eyes, young, face, child

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, “During severe turbulence (without warning, a plane can drop instantly) combined with the laws of physics, it would be very difficult, if not impossible to hold on to your baby.  You have no control on how much you will get tossed around or thrust forward into the seat in front of you.  That amount of force could cause injury or even death to a child.”  They recommend that parents purchase a seat for their child and restrain them in a safety seat with a 5 point harness in the event of an emergency landing or turbulence.

Free stock photo of flying, people, sitting, public transportation

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “children under the age of 2 be offered the same protection as all other passengers, and that it should be mandatory that these children be restrained in an aircraft during takeoff, landing, and turbulence.”

Even though the Federal Aviation Administration still allows lap babies on aircraft, they think it is not safe for babies to fly unsecured.  On the FAA website under the topic of Child Safety on Airplanes, it states “The FAA strongly urges parents and guardians to secure children in an appropriate restraint based on weight and size. Keeping a child in a CRS (a hard backed child safety seat that is approved by the government for use in both motor vehicles and aircraft) or device during the flight is the right thing to do.  Your arms aren’t capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence.”

Free stock photo of hand, young, baby, kid

It is understandable that parents want to save money when flying. Try contacting the airline directly to see if it offers discounted fares for infants (other than the lap baby option). The airline may not list these reduced fares on its  website or on other travel sites such as Expedia, Travelocity, etc.

Flying is still one of the safest modes of travel.   Turbulence during a flight is no cause for alarm and rarely results in any problems or injuries—but knowing the risk that it could present to a baby that is unsecured on a lap is definitely worth thinking about.

For more travel insight, check out my book:

Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s