Tampa, Florida--When one flies, everything on a plane has to be secured, from the carry-on in the overhead to the coffee pot in the galley. There's one exception, according to the Federal Aviation Administration: children under the age of two do not have to be restrained and can ride on a parent's lap. Since the child doesn't take up a seat, airlines allow them to ride for free.
Becky Dawson takes advantage of the free ride for her one-year-old daughter, Kennedy. She rode on Dawson's lap on the trip to Tampa from Washington D.C. Dawson says it's cheaper but not so pleasant.
"She was squirming the whole way here. I was having trouble getting her to sit. She stood on my lap for most of the landing on the way here," says Dawson.
The National Transportation Safety Board says it's not the safest option. The NTSB has issued a safety alert for families recommending they use an aircraft approved car seat for their child under the age of two.
"It's nice to travel and not pay for her for the first 24 months, but if evidence shows it's safer, I think you have to put safety first above the cost," says Dawson.
The NTSB has repeatedly recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration require all children to be restrained. Chad Clower has a one-year-old daughter and he wants to keep the rule as is. "When you are paying hundreds of dollars to fly on an airplane, [it] should be the choice of the parent," says Clower.
A spokesperson with the FAA tells 10 Connects the agency does not plan on changing the regulation anytime soon. They say if a child under the age of two has to be restrained, then the parent would have to buy a ticket and some families who can't afford it may end up driving instead of flying.
The FAA adds that studies show flying is safer than driving. Still, the FAA does strongly encourage parents to use child restraining systems on planes.
The FAA says, when asked, some airlines offer 50 percent discounts on tickets for children under the age of two.
"Your child's safety is priceless," says Rebecca Kynes, a child advocate with St. Joseph's Children's Hospital.
Kynes advises parents to read their owner's manual for installing a car seat on a plane, and says the car seat goes in just as easily.
The FAA requires the car seats be no wider than 16 inches. Also, make sure the car seat says automobile and aircraft approved.
Kynes adds that holding a child on one's lap during a plane ride is risky. "The impact of turbulence can fling a child, a parent can easily lose control of that child. A car seat assures that child is properly restrained."
She says the 5-point harness system in a car seat protects a child on a plane just as it does in a car. "A child is more secure than an adult in a seat belt," says Kynes.
Dawson says she plans on spending the extra money to buy a ticket for her daughter so she can use a car seat for the family's next flight.
The FAA has some tips on how to childproof your flight.
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Isabel Mascarenas, 10 Connects