BOSTON - A terrifying incident on board an Alaska Airlines flight earlier this month has the NTSB urging parents to stop flying with children in their lap.
"We would urge passengers to put their children under two in their own seat, in an FAA approved car seat, so they are secure and safe in case something like this happens," said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy in a recent press conference.
The NTSB says three infants were on boardwhen the door plug blew out at 16,000 feet in the air, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the plane.
All three babies on board were sitting in their parent's lap.
While "lap flying" is technically allowed and an extremely popular way to travel, it is highly frowned upon by the FAA and the NTSB.
"A number of things could have happened, including the child being severely injured or worse result in a fatality," Dr. Hassan Shahidi, President and CEO of Flight Safety Foundation said.
Currently the FAA allows children under the age of two to be held in an adult's lap.
It does not require children to travel in a secure restraint, like a car seat, but they do encourage it.
"The safest place for a child under age two is an approved child-restraint system or device, not an adult's lap," the FAA said in a statement to WBZ-TV.
The NTSB also strongly discourages lap flying.
In a recently issued safety alert, the board said travelers should buy a ticket for all children younger than two and restrain them in a certified child restraint system.
The board has been asking the FAA since 1979 to require children under two be restrained in their own seat, citing concerns that parents cannot securely hold their child in an accident or during turbulence, which is the number one cause of pediatric injuries on airplanes.
"In a turbulence occurrence, especially when it's severe, it's very difficult to hold onto an infant on your lap. They may be thrown about the airplane and injured." Dr. Shahidi explained.
He believes it all comes down to families trying to save money.
"I think this is probably a cost factor for travelers and parents to getting that extra seat. That's probably a big factor," Shahidi told WBZ.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has also called on the FAA to make restraints a federal requirement on airplanes, saying current policies are, "inconsistent with all other national policies on safe transportation."
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the largest flight attendant union in the United States, also wants to see lap flying go away.
FAA approved child restraint systems and installation instructions can be found here.
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