Sunshine Bradley is a world traveling 11 month old baby. She, and her parents Melissa and Robert, have traveled to numerous places around the world. And Sunshine has been on a plane more times than kids 10 times older than her – about 16 to 20 trips in the air.
At her age, Sunshine still uses a rear-facing carseat in the car and in the air. And the latest trip the family took on SkyWest Airlines was no different. It was December 23rd when the family was coming back home from Aspen. Melissa strapped her baby in only to be approached by the flight attendant just before takeoff who told her to remove Sunshine from the carseat since it was “not FAA approved”. He insisted that all children had to be in forward facing carseats, and that the plane could not take off until the baby was removed from the seat and in Melissa’s lap.
Melissa tried to explain to the flight attendant that this was the proper seating for an 11 month old baby. She showed him the FAA approved sticker on the side of the carseat, and then explained that babies under 20 lbs were safest when sitting in a rear-facing seat.
“My baby is not going to be safe,” she told him, nearly in tears. And that’s when the attendant gave her an ultimatum. Remove the baby from the carseat, or get off the plane.
See video HERE.
There are reasons that children under 20 lbs must be in a rear-facing carseat. When adults are in a car crash, a seatbelt holds on to the strongest part of the body – the hips and shoulders – distributing the force to these areas to help absorb the effects of the crash in a safer manner. A carseat is designed to be the object that absorbs the biggest impact of the crash, since a baby’s body is too small to take on that kind of force. And a rear-facing carseat does this most effectively by spreading the crash towards a baby’s strongest points – the back, head, and neck. This is why rear-facing seats are the safest way to sit, and why there are laws currently being urged through to raise the age and weight limits to encourage more time before the child is placed in a forward facing carseat.
An airplane is no different. Had Melissa submitted to the demands of this flight attendant and the plane had crashed on takeoff, her baby would have been seriously injured by not being placed in a rear-facing carseat.
Interestingly enough, the FAA clearly states on their website that it is recommended for any child under 20 lbs to be in a rear-facing carseat when flying on an airplane. There has also been talk about requiring children under 2 (who, as of now, can ride for free on their parent’s lap) to have a purchased seat on airplanes to increase safety measures.
Melissa was forced to turn her 11 month old daughter’s carseat around and travel the rest of the way home (including several flight changes) in a seat that was installed improperly and wiggled with the slightest touch. If she didn’t, her family would have been forced to remain in Aspen.
United Airlines, SkyWest Airlines partner, has since issued an apology regarding this incident, as well as two free airline tickets to the Bradley family for their ordeal. But Melissa isn’t satisfied. She would like to see flight attendants better educated when it comes to child safety on airplanes, as well as better safety regulations put in place. “I think the airlines give a false sense of security because babies can fly free under 2 on a lap. It’s not safe, even in mild turbulence a grip could be lost or the baby’s neck could snap.”
What would you have done if a flight attendant gave you the same choice – take your baby out of the carseat, or get off the plane?