Oh Stewardess: Does My 2-Year-Old Need Their Own Airplane Seat?

Photo: Pintsizepilot.com

Unless there was a new Executive Order or U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao ordered a change in US Federal Aviation Regulations, the answer is YES.

U.S. FAR 121.311 indicates:

“A child who has reached their second birthday must occupy a seat with a separate seat belt properly secured about them for TAXI, TAKEOFF and LANDING.”

Unfortunately, the latest air travel imbroglio involving a Huntington Beach, CA family of five resulted in a Delta official allegedly misquoting the Federal Aviation Regulations asking the family to give up their 2-year old’s seat on the more than five-hour flight.   NBC news reports the family was threatened with jail time and children put in the foster care if they didn’t comply.

Except, according to U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation regulations, anyone 2 years or older must be seated in their own seat on an aircraft.

There can be exceptions to the rule but it’s Captain’s authority and s/he has final say of what happens on the flight.

Case in point, in 2015, one of my flights departing Aruba was oversold.  Unfortunately, the flight prior to ours had cancelled leaving us, the final departing flight, to accommodate as many passengers, returning to the states, as we could.  The gate agents did the best they could but there was a family of three and only two seats available.  The father was going to remain behind and travel the next day.    Except, the family of three were traveling to Switzerland; not just from Aruba to EWR (Newark International Airport) but they had a connecting flight to their European home.

We had one family on the flight who purchased a seat for their 2-year-old.  The Flight’s Captain gave his approval and the gate agents planned to handsomely compensate the family for the baby’s seat. The dad made it on to travel with his family back to Switzerland.  United Airlines saved that family a lot of travel woes and headaches that day, and they kept most of the passengers happy.

According to initial reports the family on the Delta flight bought a ticket on an earlier flight for their older child so the 2-year-old would have a seat on the red-eye flight.

Follow-up reports indicated the family didn’t change the name on the ticket and that’s where the mix up could have occurred.  Positive ID-ticket match didn’t come into question.  Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration don’t require ID for those under 18 years old. Therefore, Delta allegedly gave away the seat believing the ticketed passenger was a no-show. It’s reported Delta Airlines officials compensated the family for their inconvenience.

For TL; DR

  • FAR 121.311 requires 2-year-olds and older to purchase seats on domestic carrier flights.
  • FAA advises use of airline-approved car seat for flights.  Proper CRS will have one or both labels.  “THIS CHILD RESTRAINT SYSTEM CONFORMS TO ALL APPLICABLE FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS” or this one printed in red “THIS RESTRAINT IS CERTIFIED FOR USE IN MOTOR VEHICLE AND AIRCRAFT
  • Positive ID match for each airline ticket purchased is required for anyone over the age of 18.   TSA –Department of Homeland Security doesn’t require ID for anyone under 18 years old.

Having worked with several large customer-facing organizations, I learned Public Relations nightmares could be avoided if employees remember

“Great Customer Service always starts with the word “YES”

Thank you for reading!