Newspaper’s Qualitative Analysis of Infant Seat Rule replicates the Arcane Benefit/Cost Ratio Quantification

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ARTICLE: Do young children need their own airline seats?

The Benefit/Cost Ratio is a creation of economists and has been “codified” by OMB in Circular A-94. The calculation of this econometric model involves terms like “Inframarginal Benefits and Costs”, “Real or Nominal Values”, “Net Present Value and Related Outcome Measures” and a number of other academic measurements. Conversations about the assessment of a B/C Ratio inspire somnambulism in the audience.

The FAA has recently attained such a high level of safety performance across the aviation industry, particularly commercial airlines. Now, the existing safety benefits make it difficult to justify a new rule because its incremental benefits are limited. The interaction of regulations has been found to have constricted industry on a macroeconomic basis.

The linked article is an excellent, simplistic examination of the costs and benefits associated with a proposal to require that all infants be put in an infant car seat in a separate airline seat. The author works through all of the pro’s and con’s of such a draft rule and concludes that such a requirement does not make sense. The individuals quoted well articulate the arguments on both sides in qualitative, non-quantified basis.

From a regulatory basis, the FAA would have to establish a standard and a means of demonstrating compliance. Then, someone, assumedly a flight attendant, would have to examine the infant seat to determine whether it met the standards. All of that assumes that a parent will not hold the baby at the moment of crisis.

A senior FAA executive used to justify the current non-rule by asserting that if parents were required to buy an expensive infant seat and to buy another ticket, they would likely chose to drive and that automobile travel’s lower safety record justified air travel without a separate seat. Truisms sometimes contain greater wisdom than B/C Ratios, but the A-94 standard provides objectivity for all regulatory propositions.

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