Should I fly with my child on my lap or In a car seat?

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Planning a vacation or family visit that involves a plane ride? There are so many considerations parents must factor in, like a million packing decisions to make and the significant cost of air travel. It’s not surprising that many parents are looking for answers to the question “Should I purchase another seat or fly with my child on my lap?”

Most safety experts would agree air travel is the safest mode of transportation. Crashes of major commercial carriers are extremely rare, but turbulence, rough take offs and landings are not quite as rare. These are some of the reasons why you should carefully consider where your baby will be sitting during a flight.

We all know that when traveling on an airplane the laws of physics apply. What we don’t often think about is that crash forces increase exponentially when incidents occur. Planes fly at up to 500 mph and take off and land at roughly 250 mph. If you have your 20 pound baby on your lap and the plane comes to an abrupt stop that child would weigh approximately 2,500 lbs. Should a plane take a quick dip in altitude during flight, your baby’s weight increases, as does your own. Holding onto such extreme weight is difficult and at times near impossible. For these reasons, the FAA recommends (but does not require) buying a seat and putting your smaller child in an approved FAA car seat. See this video from the NTSB – Airline Child Passenger Safety: NTSB Airline Child Passenger Safety.

Click here to see Transport Canada’s recommendation.

Airplanes, Car Seats and Kids

There are many questions that arise around lap babies on airplanes.

  • Is it convenient? Not necessarily.
  • Do all seats fit on every airplane? No.
  • Are you exhausted by the time you land, get a car seat on and off the plane along with your child, carry-on bags, strollers, etc.? Yes

Here are some additional thoughts to consider as you weigh your decision:

  • Not only do you protect your child, but it gives them something familiar in a not-so-familiar atmosphere. Let’s face it, air travel is not easy for adults. Just think how your child must feel schlepping through the airport with thousands of strangers, TSA frisking down the family and stroller, hearing loud announcements, listening to disgruntled passengers who need reassigning; the list goes on and on. Put yourself in their shoes. Having their own car seat gives them a sense of security. Not only will they be more comfortable, you will too.
  • When you arrive at your destination, the car seat will be in working condition. The airlines can’t damage it. No need to rely on rental companies or relatives to have the right seat. Installing will be easy because you are familiar with the car seat. It’s a win, win for everyone.

Looking for more aircraft installation tips? Check out Diono’s YouTube channel for aircraft installation videos!



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The radian® rXT car seats are designed with your child’s security and safety as top priorities.

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