DEAR ABBY: In reference to the letter from the Los Angeles plastic surgeon regarding facial disfigurement of children who are allowed to stand in a moving car, may I add my 2 cents' worth?
I am a flight attendant for a major airline, and while the captain does not usually "jam on the brakes," we DO hit unexpected turbulence. Planes can drop 500 feet in a matter of seconds. Guess where a small child who's not in a seatbelt goes? To the ceiling!
I write this out of sheer frustration with uneducated -- or perhaps lazy -- parents. The FAA does not mandate that a child UNDER the age of 2 be in his or her own seat. This is shameful and absurd. We, the flight crew, are required to ensure that all carry-on luggage is safely stowed, yet our most precious cargo, these little human beings, can be on an adult's lap. I applaud parents who pay the extra money and purchase a seat for the child, and extra kudos when they bring along a car seat. If there is an extra seat available, I ALWAYS move other passengers so "lap baby" can have his or her own seat, explaining to parents that it is safer. Guess what? They give me a blank stare and say: "Oh, she won't sit still in her own seat. She'll cry. I'll just hold her."
Let me offer this graphic thought: Parents, if the plane DOES crash and your baby is on your lap, the baby becomes a human air bag for you. Your baby will die instantly. I had a passenger tearfully tell me that this happened to her. She is now crippled, and her only child (who would be 9 now) was killed.
I urge all parents and grandparents to write to Congress and insist that every passenger -- even babies -- be in a seat. The FAA's argument that families will not pay for the extra seat because the cost is prohibitive is unfounded. Most airlines offer a lower rate for children. The FAA says that people will turn to driving, which will cause more road accidents. This is conjecture.
I know this letter is long, but please pass along this important message. Believe me, it will be clipped by thousands of airline crews and shown to passengers. -- A CONCERNED FLIGHT ATTENDANT
DEAR CONCERNED: You have issued a chilling warning to the parents of small children, and I sincerely hope it's one that will be heeded. A plane hitting an air pocket and suddenly losing altitude is not something we hear about every day. However, I recall that it happened to Air Force One a year or so ago, and to a commercial flight just this month -- so it's something that should be taken very seriously. ALL passengers should stay buckled up while they are in their seats.