How safe are lapbelts for children on planes?

Posted on July 13, 2013


We have travelled thousands and thousands of miles with our children. We are really careful, making sure we use the seat belts every time there is the slightest wobble from turbulence or alert from the captain.

Buckle up and read the safety card…but is it enough?

Yet it has only recently come to my attention that lap belts might leave children at risk of injury.

In 2009 a six year old British boy was the only fatal casualty on a flight in Venezuela. Everyone on board, including him, were using lap belts and as the only child he was the only one who lost his life. It was a small plane and there were other issues, but an inquest found that a better safety harness could have saved his life.

The reason lap belts are dangerous for children? In adults, the heaviest part of the body is the hip / pelvis area ensuring a lap belt will keep the body weighted downward. In young children the heaviest part is the chest and head, meaning they are top-heavy and at risk of a lapbelt being insufficient to restraint them.

It begs the question why airlines allow lap belts only – and I have no idea!!

For me, I will be purchasing specially made safety harnesses for my 3 children. An alternative – for younger children – would be to take their car seats on board. The safety harnesses are not cheap but if you’re still not convinced, this makes heartbreaking reading.  Worth spending the money for the safety harness now? Absolutely!