With FAA’s New Kid Seat Safety Rule, Will Kids Fly Safer?

September 30th, 2015

Sep 30, 2015 @ 08:40 AM

With FAA’s New Kid Seat Safety Rule, Will Kids Fly Safer?

John Goglia, Contributor Forbes. I write about the airline industry and aviation safety.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Just when you think nothing the government does could surprise you, along comes the FAA’s new child safety seat rule and, yes, leaves me surprised. And angry. The new rule, mandated by Congress in 2012, took three long years to write but doesn’t actually go into effect until February of 2016. Three years of analysis and public comment and what do we end up with? Does this rule finally require that all passengers – including those under the age of 2 – fly with proper safety restraints to protect them in the event of unexpected turbulence or a survivable crash on the ground? No. Does it require the FAA to actually enforce existing child safety rules against recalcitrant airlines? Not that either. So what do we get for all this time and money spent on writing this new rule?

What has taken the FAA years to complete and will take another 6 months to actually implement will likely have zero impact on child safety.   The final rule published today has very little to do with child safety and probably won’t make flying with young children all that much easier for parents who want to fly with their young children properly restrained. So what does this long-awaited rule actually require? Airlines that have a website – no website, no problem, your airline isn’t covered – will be required to publish the width of its narrowest and widest passenger seats “in each class of service for each airplane make, model and series operated by that air carrier.” The new regulation does helpfully require that the measurement of the seat “means the distance between the inside of the armrests for that seat.” Although Congress required in its 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act that air carriers be required to post the “maximum dimensions of a child safety seat that can be used on each aircraft operated by the air carrier”, the FAA determined that the parents should figure out the maximum dimensions based on the seat width.

Of course, the purpose of the rule is to allow parents and other caregivers traveling with car seats to determine whether the car seat they are planning to bring will fit in airline’s seats. But how helpful is the information when airlines can change the aircraft they actually fly without any notice? So the aircraft a parent books a ticket for his or her child may not be the aircraft that’s actually flown on the child’s flight. And on multi-flight trips using code-share partners – often smaller commuters – parents would have to remember to check the narrowest width of all the aircraft makes, models and series flown by all the airlines their trip entails.

The NTSB and Consumer Union both commented on the need to mandate that all passengers – including the youngest travelers – be properly restrained. But the FAA summarily dismissed those comments as “outside the scope of this rulemaking.” While the FAA continues to state that it is safest for children to travel in approved child safety restraints, it continues to refuse to require that by regulation. Any rule that does not explicitly bar lap children, in my opinion, is a waste of time and money and does nothing to improve child safety.

See the original post here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johngoglia/2015/09/30/faa-issues-new-kid-seat-safety-rule-so-will-kids-fly-safer/