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Airplane Safety Alert: Babies Must Be Buckled Up, Says FAA

A close call on an Alaska Airlines flight has prompted the nation’s top air safety official to plead with parents. Jennifer Homendyat, head of the National Transportation Safety Board, urged parents to secure infants in FAA-approved carriers or purchase separate seats, citing the potential dangers of unsecured passengers during turbulence or emergencies.

Mr. Homendyat underscored the potential for injuries during even mild in-flight turbulence, highlighting the importance of securing children in their own seats rather than on laps. While airlines may charge for infant seats, he emphasized that the cost pales in comparison to the peace of mind parents gain and, most importantly, the safety of their children.

During an Alaska Airlines flight last week, a door plug on a Boeing 737 detached at 16,000 feet, causing rapid decompression. The plane, carrying 171 passengers and six crew, initiated emergency procedures and descended to a safe altitude before returning to Portland. The incident, while serious, did not result in any injuries and highlighted the importance of regular aircraft inspections and maintenance.

Three passengers on the Boeing 737 were not wearing seatbelts, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy confirmed at a Sunday press conference. She also noted that three infants were onboard, held in the laps of caregivers.

For US domestic flights, infants under 2 can typically fly for free without needing a separate ticket. While they can sit on a parent or guardian’s lap, this means they won’t be secured in their own seat.

A child held near the blast could have been ripped from their parents’ arms and sucked out in an instant, said University of North Dakota aviation expert Kwasi Adjekum.

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