Flying with Kids
Advice from John Goglia (NTSB) & the FAA
John Goglia is frequently cited here because of his extensive knowledge and unique perspective on aviation safety due to his experience as both an A&P mechanic and an NTSB member. His May 30 article on advice to parents for safely taking children and infants on airlines is, as usual, informative and accurate. In addition to his insightful tips, there are a few additional advice to be considered.
Member Goglia’s words of wisdom include (summarized; you should read the full Forbes text, linked below):
- “Always purchase a seat (window seat so that the aisle isn’t blocked) for your child, regardless of age; it’s just not safe to fly with a lap child.”
- The FAA does not completely share this opinion. The governmental aviation safety authority has analyzed the risks associated with infants’ flying and it is its policy that lap children are safe. It urges parents to consider the purchase of a seat for even an infant and the use of an appropriate CRS. The NTSB supports the second seat and CRS position.
- The international rules are not required to follow the FAA’s on Child Restraint System (CRS); so BEFORE YOU MAKE A RESERVATION, be sure to check the rules of ANY airline on which you intend to travel with your child. The exact expression of the airline’s rules and even the language which they use may vary. It is best to have a hard copy of the carrier on which you are flying and to use their jargon.
- “Make sure the restraint system is appropriate for the weight of your child.”
- “Learn how to properly secure the restraint system before going to the airport. The FAA has several helpful videos on its webpage.” Below are the FAA’s videos on CRS installation and using the CARES device:
- “Bring a copy of the FAA’s webpage and information for operators which state the FAA requirement that airlines cannot prohibit use of approved child restraint systems if a seat has been purchased for the child.”
- “Bring a copy of the airline’s webpage, if any, regarding child restraint system use.”
- “Notify the gate agent that you will be using an approved child restraint system in a seat you purchased and ask for assistance in ensuring the crew’s familiarity with federal requirements. Be prepared to demonstrate that the restraint is FAA-approved and to educate the agent on federal requirements. It’s better to keep everyone informed during the boarding process so any issues can be resolved early.”
- “Request pre-boarding or early boarding so you have plenty of time to properly secure the restraint system.”
- “Show the flight attendant in your cabin that the restraint is aircraft-approved and properly secured before the cabin door is closed.”
The FAA webpage is very useful. It contains more information than is likely to be retained in a Passenger Service Agent (PSA). Furthermore, as you well know, the boarding gate is rarely a great place to discuss the technicalities of a CRS. ONE WOULD BE WELL ADVISED TO:
- Research the specific airline’s rules on children carriage (use a copy of that and the FAA rules when you call; see next point).
- CALL the airline, explain that you want to purchase a seat next to a window for your child and an adjoining seat for you. [Yes, it will take longer and may cost more than if you make the reservation online, but this dialogue is highly recommended.]
- Ask the agent to include in your passenger name record (PNR) that you will be using an FAA approved CRS.
- Indicate in the PNR that the PSA should allow you additional time to properly install the CRS.
Adhering to these procedures should minimize the risk of the pressure/confusion at the gate which might preclude/inhibit your installation of the CRS/CARE.
Proof of compliance is defined by the FAA as follows:
- “Make sure your CRS is government approved and has ‘This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft’ printed on it.”
- “Additional information is available on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Not all car seats are approved for use in airplanes.”
- Here is the FAA advice on choosing hard case CRS:
- Measure the width of your CRS. It should fit in most airplane seats if it is no wider than 16 inches.”
- “If you’re using a CARES child safety device, make sure it has ‘FAA Approved in Accordance with 14 CFR 21.8(d), Approved for Aircraft Use Only’ or ‘FAA Approved in Accordance with 14 CFR 21.305(d), AMD.21.50 6-9-1980, Approved for Aircraft Use Only’ on it.”
As noted above, knowledge of the airline CRS rules is important to securing your child correctly. Here is a short compendium of some of the relevant links to the airline rules (note with mergers still being integrated [AA/US,DL/NW,UA/CO] the flight crews may rely on their old habits/procedures; so bringing these technical rules may be important):
There is no doubt that all of the aviation professionals who are involved in the boarding process are strongly committed to the safety of each and every passenger. The rules for seating are both complex (as noted above) and changing. When applied in the context of getting all of the passengers on board and pushing back on time, it is possible, if not likely, that there may be confusion. Any parent traveling with a child is subject to considerable stress without having to worry about whether your CRS complies.
Member Goglia has articulated some points which should prepare you for the journey and a few preventative thoughts have been added here.
Using these suggested steps before flight should help you have a safe and comfortable journey on your flight with your precious cargo.