This is the second article in the series ‘Tips from a Flight Attendant’ featuring tips for flying safely with children. My friend Sarah has experienced many avoidable accidents involving unruly children onboard flights during her five years working as a flight attendant and she kindly shares some tips with us to help us keep our children safe during flights. Over to you Sarah….
Keeping your child safe during a flight – Although I know it is difficult if you have a particularly active child please try not to let your child get in the way of flight attendants, especially whilst trolleys are being used.
It is also not advisable to entertain your child in the galley area when crew are busy at work, it is a dangerous place. Cabin crew are on the move constantly and it makes it difficult if we have to weave in and out of little people who can easily get hurt by hot water or a heavy tray. Cabin crew will take a break during your flight, when this happens, it is safe to move around the cabin, but please watch out for crew returning with more drinks.
Following the rules – If you have a child in an extension belt you have to use it when seat belt signs are lit. Cabin crew have to comply with airline regulations and cannot make exceptions even if you have a sleeping baby.
During training we are always reminded of an American plane that experienced a severe landing, everyone survived except a baby who was not secured with an extension belt (as it was not a requirement to use them). The baby was thrown across the cabin and did not survive. The extension seat belts really do save lives.
If you know your child is likely to fall asleep, it is best to keep them in the seatbelt on your lap, yes it may be uncomfortable if your baby sleeps for a long period of time but you need to weigh up having to disturb their sleep to put on the extension seat belt v’s them sleeping on your lap.
The same applies for children in their own seat, if they fall asleep, make sure they have their seatbelt on and it is visible. You do not want to have to wake them up to put a seatbelt around them. Try not to let children who have their own seats fall asleep on you as flight attendants cannot offer lap belts if they are over a certain age. This policy is for your child’s safety, they will need to be in their own seat with their own belt around them for take off and landing (and if the seat belt signs are ever lit).
Seating restrictions – When booking your flights and selecting your seats, make sure to read all information with regards to seating restrictions. There are age limits on certain seats due to exits and doors. Also pregnant passengers and babies on laps are not permitted to sit in certain places for take off and landing. Each aircraft layout is different but by selecting seats online, normally a notice will pop up informing you of any restrictions. To avoid disappointment make sure you observe all seating rules.
Paying extra to ensure seats together – If an airline has the option to pay extra to select seats I would recommend spending the extra money. If you leave it to the last minute you risk being separated from your family. While children up to the age of 10 need to be sat near their parent/guardian, this can still mean a separation of up to one row or across the aisle as per aviation rules. Despite cabin crew doing their utmost to move people to accommodate seating a family together, we are not able to make your fellow passengers move, especially if they have paid for that particular seat.
In my experience, even making a public request to passengers that the flight will not depart unless someone allows a child to be seated next to a parent, mostly falls on deaf ears. This can delay a flight and upsets parents and children. Avoid the unnecessary stress by booking seats together at the earliest opportunity.
Unless you book extra seats spare for your family you are unlikely to find a whole row free to give you a little extra space to move about in. My recommendation is as soon as you get onboard ask your flight attendant if they know of any rows free for you to spread out. Most (not all) of the time they will have a list showing the empty seats and can tell you there and then if they have anywhere suitable. Believe me, we would rather move you and your family to a free row, if there is one, to make your life a little easier than give it to the obnoxious people that simply do not want to sit near anyone else!
Using car seats and booster seats whilst flying – This is a tricky one, there are so many different car seats out there. Some car seats are able to be used for takeoff and landing some can only be used during the cruise. Booster seats cannot be used during take off and landing as they cannot be securely fixed to the aircraft seat. If in doubt check airline rules online for more information.
Some car seats that allow the aircraft belt to secure it to the seat and have their own harness, are allowable and useful for those travelling with babies. They can be used during take off and landing so parents do not need to use an extension belt but it is best to consult airlines first to get the specific information with regards to their restrictions.
Using a CARES harness – This is a genius idea for children over the age of 1 (who weigh between 22 and 44 pounds) who like to wriggle out of the useless lap belts. You can hire them from various websites for a reasonable fee. I have seen many parents using them and they look like a great method of keeping your child safely secured in their seat. It has shoulder straps that attach to the main belt, meaning less chance of a wriggling child escaping! Once again though check airline policies on where you are permitted to sit if you plan to use a CARES harness, as on some planes they can only be used in the last row due to the position of tray tables.
Many thanks for reading Sarah’s tips for flying safely with children. If you have other tips to add please do comment below. If you have not already, check out Sarah’s other tips featuring preventing travel sickness and flying comfortably with children.