Readers Say

Flying with infants on your lap isn’t safe, according to readers

Nearly 400 readers sounded off and 53% said infants should be banned from sitting on a parent's lap while flying.

A plane heads in for a landing at Logan International Airport. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

When we asked readers if infants should be banned from sitting on a parent’s lap while flying, nearly 400 people answered and the majority said yes.

However, opinions on the matter were pretty divided, as 202 readers — or 53% — said infants should have their own seat on a plane, while 180 readers — or 47% — said parents should be able to keep infants on their laps while flying.

Should infants be banned from sitting on parents' laps while flying?
Yes, it's best for infants to be secured in their own seat.
No, parents should be able to sit with infants on their laps.

Currently, many domestic airlines allow children under age 2 to fly free and sit on a parent’s lap. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 19 airlines, wants all passengers, no matter how small, in a plane seat with a restraint due to potential turbulence.


“We’ve seen airplanes go through turbulence recently and drop 4,000 feet in a split second,” Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, told The Washington Post. “The G-forces are not something even the most loving mother or father can guard against and hold their child. It’s just physically impossible.”

The group raised the issue at this month’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety summit and also listed it as a priority in the upcoming FAA Reauthorization Bill.

Ahead, discover what readers think about the issue.

Yes, infants should be banned from sitting on parents’ laps while flying

“The importance of safety should supersede cost!” — Jena from Lynn

“My brother and sister-in-law are airline pilots and they said that unsecured infants become projectiles if there are drops in altitude, severe turbulence, or an emergency. Flying cheaper is not a reason to risk the life of an infant or toddler.” — Elisabeth W. from Newton

“If a parent held their child on their lap in a vehicle it would be deemed illegal.” — Richard T. from Tyngsborough

“As a travel agent for over 35 years I’ve heard many comments from families after traveling they had wished they purchased the extra set. Personally, I believe it’s safer for a child [to be] in a child seat.” — David L. from Salem, N.H.


“Parents cannot in all circumstances protect the child.” — Diane R. from Massachusetts

“This will feel like an unnecessary expense until one baby is seriously hurt. I’d rather that not happen at all.” — Z. Savory from Carlisle

“Common sense. A car travels 60 MPH and you must use an infant/child seat. A plane travels nearly 10 [times] as fast. Lap child policy has been more about saving the cost of an extra seat versus making the child comfortable. When our children were young we paid for the seat and used the appropriate infant/child seat.” — Peter from Chelmsford

“There are instances of turbulence on airplanes that are not predictable which could lead to a unsecured infant being thrown from their parent’s lap and injured. I am surprised this has not occurred and it should not have to happen in order to get all passengers on a plane to be belted in during their flights. Infants have no way to protect themselves. I understand it is an expense for a family to have to buy another seat but is their child’s safety worth the risk that they are now allowed to take when flying with an infant?” — Michael S. from Bensalem, Pa.


“As an airline employee for over 30 years, safety is the main priority. When not restrained, the potential for an infant to become injured during turbulence is very real. For the safety of the child and other passengers, infants should be required to occupy a seat and remained buckled whenever possible.” — Linda C. from Beachmont

“The only reason people don’t secure their infants is to save money, which is foolish and selfish. Infants are far too vulnerable, and turbulence too dangerous for them to be restrained only by a parent’s arms. Having everyone in their own seat protects everyone. Also, in our litigious society, airlines are foolishly opening themselves up to lawsuits.” — M.A. from Nashua, N.H.

“There is absolutely evidence that this is what is safest, but airlines need to be more accommodating of infant car seats for this to happen. I have purchased tickets for my own infant, but was met with hostility because an infant car seat will restrict the seat in front of it from reclining — flight attendants were of no help in dealing with the angry person in the row ahead of me. Unless things change, you can’t win with how things are currently.” — Sarah R. from Brookline

“Common sense.” — Mike M. from Charlestown

Parents should be able to sit with infants on their laps

“Have you ever flown with a child 2 or under??? Most will not be able to stay in their seat” — A mom from Boston

“Young children will most likely want to sit on a caregiver’s lap, move between caregivers. The idea of mandating a seat (and now introducing car seats to what parents are lugging) will disrupt travel, boarding, etc. No one wants a screaming baby in a car seat that might be otherwise entertained by the caregiver. This might work for some, but 2 is a more reasonable age to introduce his or her own seat and staying restrained.” — Meg from Boston


“U.S. airlines should do as they do in Europe and provide an infant seat belt that straps onto the parent’s seat belt. That way, the child can stay with parent (less likely to scream the entire flight), and no need to pay for additional seat. My guess is US airlines want the [money].” — Marcus from Medfield

“Show me the data showing harmed infants due to turbulence before I agree the cost to fly with an infant should double.” — Diane K. from Tyngsborough

“Having flown several times with my child from age 3 months to 15 months, including a trip to London, there is NO WAY my infant would have ever sat in a seat without being hysterical. He wanted and needed to be held by me. If airlines want to also reduce their costs or make children’s tickets at a [reduced] cost perhaps starting at 1 1/2, maybe. However airline tickets are WAY too expensive to spend on a child that will no doubt end up in my lap anyway.” — Carrie F. from Marblehead

“The instances of turbulence are so remote that they do not outweigh the advantages of comforting infants during flight. My wife would often breastfeed our infant children during take off to sooth them and put them to sleep, and then again upon landing to ease the pressure on their ears. Giving them a bottle in a car seat does not replace the comforting they receive from their mom in those loud, bumpy, and unfamiliar moments.” — Eric from Needham


“I have young children and even when buying them a seat, they end up in our laps or else they throw tantrums.” — John from Southborough

“Infants are safest in their parents arms period. Airlines trying to force families to pay more based solely on the feelings of flight attendants and not on any hard data or examples of risk is ludicrous.” — Jim F. from Weymouth

“Airline ticket prices are through the roof and make traveling — even to visit family — cost prohibitive. Many parents flying solo with children don’t want to lug a car seat through the airport and onto the plane with them. This is from a single mom who doesn’t have a choice but to travel alone with my baby.” — Joanna from Boston

“The number of auto accidents that would result from families choosing to save money by driving instead of flying would mean more deaths.” — Beth J. from Lake Oswego, Ore.

“When traveling with her 8 month old, my daughter in law keeps her restrained in a (Bjorn) carrier for safety.” — Ummy from Stoneham

“As a former expat who used to do long haul 12 hour trips with babies and toddlers, it is simply unfeasible to expect the infant/toddler will stay in the purchased seat. Children of this age generally feel more comfortable ON a parent, and will be much quieter this way. If a seat is purchased and the child is MADE to sit in it always, other flyers will be subjected to A LOT more noise, potentially screaming and crying throughout their flight, really the parents worst nightmare. Currently some carriers, at lease Qatar Airways and Emirates, place families with infants in seats with a front baby bassinet that straps the kid in, and with turbulence parents are made to place the child there. It is also a place for the child to sleep generally that is safe.” — Carissa B. from Halifax


Responses lightly edited for length and clarity.