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Parental guidance: Flying with infants

A Delta Connection CRJ-900 regional jet taxis near

A Delta Connection CRJ-900 regional jet taxis near Terminal 2 at JFK International Airport Friday as a Jet Blue Airbus A320 takes off. The regional jet, which can accommodate just over 70 passengers, is less than half of the Airbus A320 when conventionally configured. (Jan 14, 2011) Photo by Craig Ruttle Credit: Craig Ruttle

Q. Should I buy an airline seat for my infant when flying?

A. Although the Federal Aviation Administration requires seats for children 2 or older, tickets aren't mandatory for infants, who fly free as "lap children."

However, experts and the FAA recommend parents buy a seat for younger children as well, says William McGee, who teaches creative writing at Hofstra University. McGee has written a book called "Attention All Passengers: The Airlines' Dangerous Descent -- and How to Reclaim Our Skies" (Harper Collins, $26.99), which comes out Tuesday and has a chapter partially devoted to infant safety. The FAA has a Web page -- faa.gov/passengers/fly_children -- that urges parents to do "the smart and right thing."

The safest place during events such as turbulence is not in a parent's arms, McGee says; it's a fallacy to think a parent would be strong enough to hold onto the child. "Many parents don't realize the risks. Infants can be injured or killed when they fly out of their parents' arms," he says.

While parents might want to hold babies when the pilot has deemed it safe to move about the cabin, McGee says that when the seat belt light is on -- during takeoff, landing and turbulence -- infants should be secured, just like adults.

Most infant car seats are compatible with most airline seats, but parents should double-check with the carrier, he says. They also should ask if the airline offers a reduced rate for a child younger than 2 flying domestically or internationally.

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