Should Babies Have Their Own Seat on a Plane?

Sona Charaipotra

flying with baby
When we first booked our semi-annual trip to California a few months ago, I was worried about how baby Kavya, now 9 months old, would handle the flight. After all, it's nine hours across country, trapped in a disease-ridden box with barely enough space to wiggle your toes. (And our return flight is a red-eye. Yikes.)

I hadn't been thinking about the plane as a death box, though.

Now, thanks to continued controversy over whether babies should be required to have their own seat on a plane, I have been. Lovely.

My husband is an avid, independent traveler. He backpacked overland from China to India, pitching tents in Mongolian fields overnight and eating snakes and who knows what else. (Apparently, snakes are a delicacy in China.) I'm more of a cushy traveler myself, but have been known to rough it occasionally. We knew having a child would change the way we travel. We just didn't realize how much.

So we'd always been relieved -- nay, grateful even -- that the airlines didn't require additional seats for kids under 2. Since she's been around, we've only taken one trip. But we've got big plans. And thus far, Kavi's always been a lap-kid.

Flying with Kavi in her own seat would be a major budget-buster for us. So in a way, I've been hoping that the government says screw it, and leaves things up to the airlines, who know that they'd see a sales decline if they required parents of children under 2 to purchase full-fare seats for infants.

But then there's the whole death box scenario. The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that all children, regardless of age, be placed in their own seats, buckled in like the rest of us. Or better yet, in a car seat-esque contraption. On their website, they note judgingly that “keeping a child in a CRS or device during the flight is the smart and right thing to do.”

Sigh. I know it's true. We buckle Kavi safe and sound into her car seat every time we get into the vehicle. So why shouldn't we when flying? It makes perfect sense. Of course, if I even venture such a suggestion to my husband, he scoffs. If the plane goes down, we're all goners, he says. Which is comforting.

So tomorrow morning, we'll be boarding the first of two long, tedious, cramped flights with a very boisterous and mobile 9-month-old. And we'll be trading off holding her in our laps. With the whole death box scenario playing out repeatedly in our tired, guilt-ridden brains. Should be fun.

When flying, does your little one get their own seat? Or do you cheap out like we do?

Image via Molechaser/Flickr

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