Turbulence can be dangerous on a plane, and it’s a good idea to wear your seat belt even when the seat belt sign is off. Problems are extremely rare, but jarring when they occur.
Here’s an image from the Lufthansa flight from Austin to Frankfurt that diverted to Washington Dulles earlier this month:
My wife was on that flight she sent this pic This is what the inside looked like food everywhere, people who didn't have the seat belts fastened got hurt mostly cause it came as surprise without seat belt sign on and lighting hit the plane badly went 1k ft down & up pilot said pic.twitter.com/NJi2JC6shk
— Stryker Fadhel (@ModerMuna) March 2, 2023
And here’s a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Phoenix experienced severe turbulence injuring several people enroute to Honolulu back in December:
BULLETIN: 36 passengers were injured, 11 seriously, when a Hawaiian Airlines flight hit turbulence. Flight 35 from Phoenix to Honolulu landed safely. The airport declared a mass casualty incident. Follow @Mighty990KWAM for breaking news. pic.twitter.com/ahYc86XQaK
— KWAM NewsTalk Memphis (@Mighty990KWAM) December 19, 2022
Recently incidents have renewed calls for the FAA to ban lap infants, children under two who are permitted to travel without their own seat – and without their own seat belt. Flight attendants union head Sara Nelson, naturally, is making this an issue. She’s wanted a ban for awhile.
And when something bad happens to a baby or a toddler, it’s horrible, and you want to do something about it. A child with their own seat and a car seat or CARES harness is the safest option, and many parents choose that. Should we force all parents to do so? I’m not so sure.
- That last time a child without a seat died in turbulence was 1994. That’s 29 years ago.
- In contrast, “About 150 children younger than 5 drown in bathtubs, buckets, toilets and other containers in and around the home each year.”
In terms of actual risk, this doesn’t seem like it ought to be among our higher priorities. Meanwhile banning lap infants on plans – requiring families purchase seats for children under 2 – may make those children less safe.
- Flying is safer than driving
- Making flying more expensive encourages driving
It never shows up in the safety statistics for flying, but more people driving means more people in car accidents, and the resulting fatalities are representative of a phenomenon referred to as ‘statistical murder’.
Making air travel more expensive for families means making travel less safe for families who are forced to use other means of transportation instead. So I’m not sure requiring families to spend more on travel makes their children safer. But it’s a great issue. The next time something bad does happen, Sara Nelson can say “told you so!” And she bears no responsibility for car accidents, because she leads a flight attendants union.
Meanwhile, my advice to parents who can’t afford that extra seat? Fly Southwest. Their open seating policy means that on any flight that isn’t completely sold out you’ll probably have an extra seat free. Because nobody wants to sit next to a screaming baby! Fly especially at off peak times if you can to improve your chances even further.