As we reach the home stretch into the holiday season, many of us (including me and my rug rat) will be taking to the skies to see family and friends. Airlines currently allow one child under the age of two to sit on their parent’s lap.
But a debate that has been raging for years has now reared its head yet again, with questions including: should parents be made to pay to buy a seat for their small children; how big must a child be before he/she can no longer be considered a lap child; and should airlines require parents to show proof of age?
I am in no position to judge how parents should answer this question. I can say that we as parents decided to buy a seat for our child, starting when she took her first flight at 10 days old. My reasoning is it’s safer for my daughter and frankly, more comfortable.
I fly Southwest Airlines most times, and I can’t remember the last time I flew on them where there was an open seat. I have seen parents struggle to contain their lap child in a very tight space. I’ve also seen children that look WAY too big to still be considered a lap child. Southwest is one of the few carriers left that offer discount fares for babies.
The Federal Aviation Administration does not require parents to buy seats, but strongly urges that they do. You can see their guidelines here.
I think about all the things I do as a parent to keep my child safe, and I see buying that seat as just another cost of doing that. When my child was younger, my parents bought me the best gift ever: the All-in-One Child Travel Seat from the Sky Mall catalog. It’s an FAA-approved seat that can be used on a plane or in a car, and my daughter loved sitting in the best seat on the plane, outside of the cockpit. Now that she’s older, we use the Kids Fly Safe CARES harness, also FAA approved. It comes in a nice little pouch that my daughter packs in her little Disney Princess rollerboard.
For more on this issue, check out this article from the Consumer Traveler blog and this article from travel columnist Harriet Baskas on the MSNBC Travel website. So what do you think? How do you handle travel with small children?