Lap Babies & the Agencies & Parents Who Don’t Care About their Safety

Articles like this (NTSB: Give babies their own airline seats) annoy the hell out of me. Why? It’s not that I’m against giving babies their own seats. It’s stuff like this (emphasis mine):

The National Transportation Safety Board is urging parents to buckle baby carriers into airline seats instead of holding infants in their laps aboard planes.

Under current Federal Aviation Administration regulations, children younger than 2 can fly for free if they sit in a parent’s lap.

Not requiring. Urging. Well, every day I urge parents to stop being such jerks in public. Guess what? Urging doesn’t do jack shit. These agencies need to grow a pair and stand up to these idiots. Don’t even waste your time “urging.” It’s a god damned joke.

My emphasis again:

The NTSB and the Association of Flight Attendants have tried for years to convince the FAA and airlines to require seats for all passengers, including babies. Still, many parents prefer holding their children for free instead of buying a ticket for them.

*coughcheapskatescough*

The agency fears that parents will opt to drive to destinations rather than buying plane tickets for their babies, and FAA officials said they believe driving is more dangerous than flying.

Oh, please don’t make me laugh. I still haven’t recovered watching from the Robert Klein comedy special last night. (Please tell me you saw that! Good stuff!) These damn agencies actually want us to believe that they are “saving lives” by “encouraging” people to fly versus drive? This is all out of the goodness of their hearts? Give me a break. These people are about as genuine as BP!

So it’s all about fear of losing revenue, right? They think that parents will determine driving is cheaper than flying. Who can honestly say that driving is cheaper than flying these days, especially when we are dumping millions of gallons of finite oil resources into the ocean! I don’t want to do the math or research on costs of driving vs. flying because there are too many variables and I’m lazy, but my guess is that for shorter trips, maybe driving is cheaper. Longer trips, not so much, especially when you factor in wear-and-tear on your vehicle. If you want to go visit your mommy every year twice a year and she lives four states away (middle states, not those piddly East Coast states), that all adds up in time, gas expense and wear on the vehicle.

But more importantly though, who the hell is driving to Hawaii or Europe? Show of hands – I’m really curious! Yea, that’s what I thought. Yet you don’t see these asshats requiring children strapped into their own seats for overseas travel, now do you? If this was only about encouraging people to fly versus drive for safety reasons, then they would only offer the free lap babies on flights where one could opt to drive instead, right? That would only make sense. There is (albeit slightly) higher risk for overseas flights, so if they were concerned about safety, they’d want to keep infants safer on those flights. But they don’t.

Seriously, FAA and airlines don’t care about safety. Clearlythey don’t. They care about money. Period. Right?

At this point, this becomes a whole lot like the smoking bans debate. Now, I don’t want to know what side of that debate you are on because that argument is a dead and rotting horse corpse, but I do recall many business owners screaming that they would be put out of business if smoking was banned in their establishments. Yet later, after smoking bans had been in place for a while, business owners were reluctantly admitting that business had picked up as the non-smokers returned and smokers continued to patronize them and grudgingly smoked outside. All the hysteria was for nothing.

These days its the airlines who are playing this Chicken Little game. “If parents stop flying because they can’t afford to pay for seats for their children, we’ll go out of business!! The only people who fly at all are people with children under the age of two! Our business will be decimated!”

Calm down and stop being ridiculous. Even IF demanding children be put in their own seats actually does keep people from flying with infants, trust me, many of us will start flying again once the unofficial “ban” on babies takes effect, more than making up for the supposed lost revenue. Can you imagine a flight with no screaming infants and no toddlers racing up and down the aisles because his mommy couldn’t keep hold of him? BLISS! If anything airlines should be DIScouraging small children on planes and it would likely be GOOD for business.

Additionally, what do you think happens to all these parents who are traveling with their children-under-two-for-free after the child turns two? Do they all just stop flying for the next sixteen years? Somehow I don’t think so. But even if they did, what do they do with the loss of that revenue? Obviously they make it up somewhere, just as they would if they lost revenue from butthurt mommies with infants.

Maybe I’m missing a piece of the puzzle, but I think the airlines are being incredibly stupid about this. I’m pretty sure they could make MORE money by requiring parents pay for seats for all children. These parents today are the instant gratification crowd, and they are not about to postpone their vacation because they can’t afford to pay for a seat for Junior! They’ll find a way to pay for that seat. They’ll beg, borrow or put it on the credit card they never plan to pay off. They are not about to practice the art of delayed gratification. Nor are they likely to drive; here’s a secret: they generally don’t like their kids any more than the rest of us do! They certainly do not want to be trapped in the car with Junior for six or eight hours! If they have to suffer, then damn it, they want everyone else to suffer right along with them!!

Ultimately, I don’t think the airlines really believe they’ll lose money on this. I think they assume that the planes will fill up anyway, and if it’s not the baby in the seat, then it’ll just be someone else and they’ll still make money. And with as crowded as flights are these days, maybe that’s true. But if it is true, then if the mommy with the lap baby refuses to fly, there will certainly be someone else willing to pay for the seat she was going to use. Right? So then what is the problem?

Here’s the bottom line: Airlines worry about the PR nightmare of changing the policy. While they must know that eventually they will be forced to change the policy, like the rest of us putting off that dentist appointment because we just don’t want to deal with it, they procrastinate. They know that as soon as the policy is changed, all the idiot, unemployed mommies with nothing better to do with their lives will start harassing them for their “right” to put their children in danger in the interests of saving a few dollars. (After all, mommies need that money to buy the latest cell phone, coach bag or video game system! They shouldn’t have to deprive themselves just because they have kids, don’t you know!)

But that is what really bothers me about this whole debate. Parents who don’t really give a shit about the safety of their kids. Oh, they SAY they would die for their kids, but if turns out that protecting their children might cost them a few bucks, their resolve crumbles. “We’ll risk it,” is their attitude. Lovely. Oh, that’s great. I wonder what other shortcuts they are taking to save money at their child’s expense? If it wasn’t required by law, would they even use car seats in the car? Probably not.

The bored housewife mommies will surely argue that they’ve flown dozens of times with a child on their lap and nothing happened and that the likelihood of something happening is almost nil, so it’s completely fine of them to take the chance to save a few bucks. Strangely enough, the airlines force adults to buckle up on those same flights where the chances of something happening are slim. If it’s SO unlikely that something will happen, why does anyone need to buckle in?

If anything, consenting adults should the only ones allowed to not buckle up. You’re grown, perhaps you can brace or protect yourself, and, having weighed the risks, you’ll forgo the seat belt. Fine. But these small children should be protected – that’s in the very job description of PARENT!! For fuck’s sake: protect your kid! Babies can’t protect themselves and they can’t give informed consent!

It’s not just airplane accidents that are a danger to lap babies. Turbulence can also be an issue. A kid squirming away from mom and running around the flight could hurt themselves in any number of ways (other passengers kicking or stepping on them (accidentally! Don’t get ideas!) or the food service cart could hit them, etc) and in at least one case, a mother smothered her infant (allegedly by accident) while holding the child during a flight. Why risk it? These issues wouldn’t be a problem if children were strapped in for their own safety which should always trump the parent’s convenience. Too bad it doesn’t.

I’ve never been in a car accident yet, but I always buckle up my seat belt regardless. One could argue that you’re about a billion times more likely to get into a car accident because all the teens are too busy texting to pay attention to the road. This is true, but airline pilots are all too often busy playing on their laptops to actually fly the planes, and air traffic controllers at major airports are too busy being “weekend dads” and playing with their kids while on the jobto actually pay attention to their job, so I’m not feeling all that safe during air travel anymore, either. If you can’t trust the pilots and you can’t trust the air traffic controllers, who can you trust? It’s just dumb luck if you arrive in one piece anymore. And don’t even dare travel on a commuter flightwithout getting your will in order first.

I am pleased the article points out how terribly irresponsible it is for any parent to hold a child on their lap during flights. This IS dangerous and absolutely not in the child’s best interest. But isn’t it pathetic that as a society we literally have to force parents to do the right thing because they are too cheap and lazy to do so otherwise?