Airplane Child Safety Restraints
Former NTSB Member, frequent writer on all manner of aviation issues and current (or perhaps constant) safety advocate, John Goglia, has persistently articulated sound arguments in support of the use of approved child seats on airplanes. His persistent efforts appear to have convinced United Airlines to review what child restraints are permissible on board.
From his Forbes article, here is a precis of his most recent experience on this issue:
- “One of those complaints came from a mother (…traveling with her young son on a United flight…In what she described as ‘the worst experience I have ever had a on a plane,’ she was prevented by a flight attendant from using a kid seat even though the seat was approved for aircraft use and she had bought and paid for a seat for her child. In addition to being prevented from using the seat – contrary to federal law – she was threatened with having to get off the plane and then told she ‘couldn’t get off the plane because the door was shut’ and was ordered to comply with what the flight crew told her.”
- “I can certainly understand your frustration at having read the FAA guidelines on child safety seats and then being told to do something different. Ultimately the rules are at the discretion of the captain and crew of the flight. You are certainly able to either deplane if you are in disagreement, however…[the crew] have the ability to make such decisions as the one you described.”
- “So I contacted United to ask for its comment on the complaint and the response. To United’s credit, it went back and looked into what occurred and why it happened. In this particular case, the mother was using a rear-facing child seat – which is perfectly legal and which federal law allows a parent to use – but United’s manual contained information that might have been misunderstood by the crew. Rather than just re-train this one particular crew, a United spokesperson said the airline would be putting out a reminder in its monthly flight attendant bulletin on the FAA kid seat requirement, emphasizing that kid seats can be rear-facing.”
That is a significant advance in aviation safety and there is no doubt that the level of response from United is testament to Member Goglia’s stature.
In addition, here are some added steps which may make the goal of better protecting children more of a reality:
- Ask A4A, RAA and IATA to sponsor presentations at their next meetings at which Mr. Goglia (or others) would describe the regulatory bases and safety benefits of the available, approved child restraints;
- Encourage the Chair of theNational Safety Council Deborah A. P. Hersman (formerly NTSB Chair), to further publicize NSC’s blog entitled For Children to be Safe on Airplanes, They Need Their Own Seats and perhaps add a list of seats that are approved as well as create a video on the proper installation of the various options. Increased dissemination of passenger information will enhance the safety of children in flight and that would be within the scope of the NSC’s mission.
- The FAA has a website, well populated with information on child safety. The DoT Secretary of Transportation Foxx has a very aggressive agenda on a number of safety issues; he should tour the US to present this information on local media outlets. This sort of campaign should empower travelers with relevant safety information.
- The prices of these important safety devices run from $30 to $350. For some travelers who may only fly once with a child or who may be likely to travel more than once—during which time the child might outgrow the first purchase, the expense might deter parents from buying this equipment. An initiative by NSC[i]/FAA/A4A/the seat manufacturers might make them available for rent at reasonable prices. As with many safety enhancements, insurance companies may provide incentives for the distribution of risk reduction equipment.
As always, Member Goglia, great job and hopefully your story will incentivize the FAA, DoT, NSC, A4A, RAA, IATA and insurance companies to do even more.
[i] The NSC Board is populated by representatives from an insurance company, a union and multiple large corporations.