Australia mulls baby seats for air travel: Tests show child belt could cause serious injury

SYDNEY - Australia's aviation safety watchdog on Friday said the airline industry could do more to protect children in the air, suggesting the use of child seats similar to those in cars.

In a draft document seeking public feedback, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said parents should have more options than simply carrying infants on their laps using a supplementary seatbelt when flying.

"Children up to the age of four travelling in an aircraft are more effectively protected by an approved infant capsule or a child seat with an in-built harness," it said.

"These child restraints may be specifically designed and approved aircraft child seats, or they can be capsules and safety seats approved for use in car."

Currently an infant carried in the arms of a passenger - lap-held - must be restrained, but the seat belt cannot be fastened around both adult and child.

Instead, an extra seat belt with a stitched loop is used. It goes through the adult lap belt which is then fastened around the parent with the child belt separately locked around the infant.

CASA said tests showed this could be dangerous.

"During an emergency landing sequence, the restraining loads of the adult would be transferred from the lap belt through the infant causing serious or potentially fatal injuries to the child," it said.

While the seatbelt method was found to provide "adequate restraint" for an infant during turbulence or a minor incident, an individual restraint in a separate passenger seat offered more protection.

CASA said both forward and rear-facing child seats, along with booster seats commonly used in vehicles, could be suitable.

The draft document also found infants were safer if they did not travel in aisle seats.

"Aisle seats are not recommended as they could easily be injured by a passing person or galley cart," it said.

The draft added that passengers wanting to use an infant capsule or child seat on an aircraft would need to talk to their airline when booking flights.

"Airlines have the final say on whether a child restraint can be carried on any particular flight," it said.