Children and Air Masks

There is a story out today about a family flying to Chicago from my local airport, Charlotte.

The story began on Flyertalk actually by the perspective of another passenger and the Charlotte Observer also picked it up.

If you read through the Flyertalk post what it really comes down to is that a family of 6 (Father, Mother, 3-year old, 18-month twins, 7-month old) bought tickets under the premise that children under 2 fly free*.  The thing is that they only had 3 paid tickets and wanted to put 6 people in a row.  That leads me to remind people about oxygen masks.

I’m not aware of any aircraft (but please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong) that will allow more than x+1 on side/row of an aircraft, and some it’s really just row since only one side may be +1  Many of the mainline planes do tend to have +1 on each side so if there are 3 seats there are 3+1 on each side, but other planes such as regional jets may only have the extra on the CD (or DF) side and not the AB or (AC) side.

This means that if you are a family traveling with more than 1 lap child you will not be able to sit in the same side of the same row because in case oxygen masks are needed, you will need to choose who is your favorite child (because remember, always put yours on before assisting others or else you pass out and are useless to all your children!) because you will be a mask short.

Was this situation handled poorly, yes!  Is there an abundance of information about choosing seats for a family with lap children?  I just checked SeatGuru and didn’t see anything under the US Airways A321 page.  Was I told I could not have 2 adults and 3 lap children when I attempted to book this ticket on US’s website?  Yes.  Is it easy to learn about oxygen masks and how that affects seating with a lap child?  No.   I just don’t understand how parents who think the laws to keep kids in booster seats in cars until they are 18 make sense, but that having a seat on a plane is not necessary…and while we’re talking about booster seats…don’t bring them on the plane.  There is no point!




  1. This whole story is just ridiculous. I am always amazed by the people who don’t do 20 minutes of research on 1) the FAA website and 2) their airline’s website to learn about the rules and regulations surrounding travel with children. Every airline I’ve flown with my small children (United, Frontier and Southwest) has a very clear policy stated on their website explaining that only one lap child is allowed per row.

    Earlier this week I read a blog post about someone who didn’t realize that children under 15 can’t sit in an exit row (which includes lap children and children in car seats). Really? I think I’ve known that since before I had children.

    1. Considering how many people out there have no clue you can’t take liquids greater than 100 mL on a plane still I’ll give people some benefit of the doubt. About exit rows though…I was in one next to a lady and her 14 year old son. When the FA came around the lady said “The lady who checked us in allowed us to sit here even though my son is 14 and I didn’t think that was allowed.” Well lady! If you didn’t think that was allowed, why didn’t you address it at checkin instead of on this oversold flight after everyone has settled into their seat?

  2. I think there was a big post/debate on of the other blogs about lap children…while families would obviously prefer to do it for financial reasons, it seems that the safety reasons should make this a no brainer. From oxygen masks, as well as your astute comparison to child booster seats in a car, it should be a no brainer that kids should have their own seat at a minimum, and possibly should be in one of the restraints specifically designed for kids.

    However, we live in a world where many people do seem to have no brain…

  3. I am a huge fan of every kiddo having their own seat and their own restraint. Either a car seat or a CARES harness for older toddlers if you don’t want to lug a car seat on board. It is just so much safer and so much easier than trying to manage babies/toddlers on your lap. 😉

  4. What does the data say? Are children in their own seats more likely to survive a crash? What’s the difference in the rare of survival over water vs land? Should we require that there be baby life vests?

    1. That would be interesting data and if children are indeed safe, then I should be able to hold my 5 pound laptop during takeoff and landing as well.

      I know most planes do have infant life vests. My issue with them is that often they are in some special place the FAs have access to which means if the plane breaks between where they are stowed and where the infant is then they don’t really matter.

      I don’t have kids and I remember I was a pretty bad traveling kid myself but I turned out much better so I don’t want to tell people how to parent. That’s why I just wanted to inform people that planes only have so many oxygen masks per row so parents can seat themselves accordingly if they have more than 1 lap child. I know I did put a jab in about parents anyway, but oh well.

  5. The last time we flew to Hawaii (LAX-LIH on UA, April 2011) we were given infant life vests by the FAs and stashed them in the seat back pockets (which meant we didn’t have room to put anything else in the pockets). Oddly, HA didn’t give us any on our LIH-HNL leg where you could argue there was a greater risk of a water landing (being a smaller aircraft and an overwater landing approach).

  6. hah…i couldn’t hold my macbook air (which weights practically nothing) or a NookColor tablet on my flight yesterday (much less a five pound laptop). I think they do let you hold a coat on your lap though…so maybe next time I’l tell the FA I need my laptop to stay warm 🙂

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