WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration warned yesterday that children flying without assigned seats on airliners are especially prone to injury during periods of air turbulence.
“Aviation continues to be the safest way to travel, but passengers need to be aware that unpredicted turbulence does happen,” said Linda Hall Daschle, acting FAA administrator.
Daschle held a news conference in the main terminal at National Airport to kick off the FAA’s “Turbulence Happens” campaign. The campaign will include public service advertisements showing mothers putting small children into child restraint seats on aircraft.
Daschle said that air turbulence is the major cause of in-flight injuries, with about 60 passengers and crew members injured each year. Those most at risk, she said, are children younger than 2, who may travel with a parent free of charge without an assigned seat.
The FAA campaign is an outgrowth of an industry debate over the use of child restraint seats on aircraft.
The National Transportation Safety Board and other organizations want regulations requiring child safety seats on airliners. But the FAA last year decided not to require safety seats, which would necessitate the purchase of airline tickets for children younger than 2.
Daschle praised Dallas-based Southwest Airlines for offering discounted fares for such children.
Ginger Hardage, a spokeswoman for Southwest, said the airline endorses “FAA recommendations that an infant or a child that weighs under 40 pounds be secured in an appropriate child safety restraint.”
“Our fares,” she said, “allow for parents to purchase the seat for the child at a lower rate so the child can travel with them safely.”
Fort Worth-based American Airlines also urges parents to use child safety seats on its flights, but it guarantees a seat for a passenger younger than 2 only if a ticket is purchased. American will offer a free extra seat to travelers with children if a seat is vacant.
Heather Paul, executive director of the National Safe Kids Campaign, said about 10,000 children fly every day on a parent’s lap. Paul, who joined Daschle at the news conference, said she hopes the FAA campaign will make parents aware of the dangers of traveling without a child safety restraint.
Daschle, who estimated that 32 million people will travel by air during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, urged that:
Families travel at off-peak times, when seats are more likely to be available for children.
Children weighing less than 20 pounds be placed in rear-facing safety seats.
Children weighing 20 to 40 pounds be placed in forward-facing safety seats.
Parents make sure that children heavier than 40 pounds use standard seat belts during flights.
Author: Michael D. Towle; Star-Telegram Writer – Washington Bureau
Copyright 1996, 1997 STAR-TELEGRAM INC.