Just because the Federal Aviation Administration allows children under age 2 to ride on laps in airliners doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

I write this with a mixture of regret and humility, as a mother who held her own baby on planes more than a decade ago.

It is not easy to hand over money for another airline seat when that isn’t technically required. But even the FAA concedes that it’s a good idea.

“Did you know that the best place for a child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system or device, not your lap?” its website asks.

I thought about lap babies after learning of the latest incident of air turbulence. Last month, an Aerolineas Argentinas flight from Miami to Buenos Aires was buffeted during flight so vigorously that 15 passengers were hurt and eight were taken to a hospital when the plane safely landed.

Airplanes are designed to withstand extraordinary amounts of turbulence. But inside, unsecured passengers can get tossed around badly.

Unfortunately, researchers believe that air turbulence is on the rise. A study at the University of Reading in England, published last year, suggests that climate change will severely increase the amount of turbulence by 2050 to 2080.

Severe turbulence — “strong enough to throw people and luggage around an aircraft cabin,” according to the report — will become two to three times more common, researchers said. Light to moderate turbulence will increase even more.

The study focused on clear air turbulence, which is undetectable by pilots, unlike turbulence from storms. Clear air turbulence is due to unstable winds and rough air in the jet stream.

The best approach is to buy your baby an airline ticket, and secure him or her in a car seat.

Be sure the car seat will fit in the airplane seat; most airlines provide seat dimensions on their websites. Book early, when you are more likely to find adjacent seats. Check with your airline to see if discounts are available for infant tickets; such discounts are more common for overseas flights. Ask for priority boarding so you can get settled early.

Then hope for a smooth flight, and a comfortable, sleeping baby.


Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.