Imagine you’re in a plane, flying 30,000 feet above the ground at 500 miles per hour. Suddenly, the flight encounters turbulence so severe a woman flies out of her seat cracking the ceiling with her head…turbulence so unexpected and serious, two passengers and three flight attendants (one in critical condition) are taken to hospital after landing. Now, imagine screaming aloud as the baby seated on your lap is torn from your arms.
In February of 2014, this scenario played out on a United Airlines flight from Denver, CO to Billings, MT. Launched into an empty seat (thankfully), the baby landed several rows ahead of the screaming mother. In this instance, baby and mom survived but dozens of injuries happen every year in turbulence related incidents.
The FAA doesn’t require parents to purchase a separate seat for children under the age of two. However, they advise, “the safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device.” Simply stated, a person’s arms are not capable of holding onto a child in cases like this.
For our son’s first year, we followed FAA recommendations. We secured him in an FAA approved CRS in his own seat. Basically, a CRS is an FAA approved car seat. (Note, not all car seats are FAA approved. More information can be found at https://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/)
Lugging a bulky car seat through busy airports, with luggage, a stroller, AND baby in tow was an annoyance accepted only until he was big enough for the next stage of air travel safety.
The CARES Harness
Once he reached 22lbs, we purchased the CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System). It’s designed for children “capable of sitting upright alone in a forward facing position,” between 22 and 44lbs, and under 40″ tall. And, it “is the first and only harness type Aviation Child Safety Device to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an alternative to a car seat.” Weighing less than a pound, it’s super portable and easily tossed into a carry-on bag.
Made exclusively by AmSafe, the CARES restraint is certified by the FAA as an ELOS (Equivalent Level of Safety) to a car seat. We insist on that level of safety on the road. And, we love having that piece of mind in the air, without the cumbersome car seat to haul.
The red loop of the belt-and-buckle device slides over the seat-back, under the tray table of the passenger behind the child. It should rest just above the child’s shoulders. (We’ve made several friends asking if we might lower their tray for a moment while we set-up). Once tightened, place the straps over the child’s shoulders and pull the airplane’s lap belt through the bottom of the loops. It’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds and set-up only takes about a minute.
While we’ve never encountered a problem, flight attendants may question the use of the device. There’s a handy “FAA Approved” label on the harness, so travelers may advise inquiring attendants the CARES restraint is an FAA certified CRS. All other child harnesses are prohibited from use during taxi, takeoff and landing in the United States.
I’ve heard parents say they don’t think their child would be comfortable inflight in the harness. My response is that 1. it’s no more uncomfortable than a car seat harness and 2. see below.
I promise, these are four different trips. However, red shirts, Percy the elephant, and a muslin blanket are his travel requirements. While, the CARES safety harness is ours. So, if you want to learn more about inflight safety and the CARES harness visit kidsflysafe.com today.