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Reporter's deidentified concern

A reporter has approached the ATSB with a safety concern regarding the requirements for the use of infant lap belts on foreign-registered carriers operating into Australia. The reporter has stated that they have witnessed infants being restrained on the lap of an adult without the use of a supplemental loop restraint on a number of foreign carriers, however Australian-registered carriers operating on the same route require the use of this supplemental restraint. The reporter questions why foreign-registered carriers are not required to meet the same safety standards as Australian-registered carriers.

ATSB comment

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is responsible for the formulation and promulgation of international safety standards and policies for member states. The requirements for the methods of restraining infants during flight are set out in ICAO Annex 6 Part 1, Chapter 6. This requires an aircraft to be equipped with a seat and restraining belt for each passenger above an age that is stipulated by the ‘state of the operator.’ Additionally, ICAO defines an infant as a passenger who has not reached their second birthday, and does not provide an international standard for the restraint of these passengers during flight. As such, individual states are responsible for determining what infant supplemental restraints, if any, are required for use on board aircraft that are registered in that state.

The required use of loop belts as a supplemental infant restraint is a common approach by safety regulators and one required by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) for all Australian carriers, as it provides a higher level of safety during minor flight upsets and turbulence than holding the infant alone. However, independent studies conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have concluded that infant loop belts do not provide equivalent levels of safety as adult passenger belts.

This is due in large part to differences in weight, body proportions and anatomy of infant passengers. EASA has stated that due to these factors, an infant loop belt does not provide sufficient protection in “turbulence, aborted take-off, hard landing, or emergency conditions and other accidents”.

CASA Advisory Circular AC91-18 V1.1 states that, “research into child safety and Child Restraint Systems has concluded that infants and small children are at higher risk of sustaining injuries if they are not properly secured in a suitable device that has been approved for use on board the aircraft.” CASA recommends, “the use of child restraint systems (for example, a car seat) as it provides a higher level of safety for your child. Your airline needs to approve any restraint system that you want to take with you and use. Check with your airline before travelling”.