While it is always recommended to buy an FAA approved car seat whenever you are travelling with your child, the FAA does not make it mandatory to use a car seat for any child under the age of two years. According to the Federal Aviation Administration of The Department of Transportation guidelines published in 2005, parents do not have to use child safety seats while flying given the increased risk of making it mandatory.
The FAA asserts that data collected shows that more families would rather drive rather than buy an extra plane ticket for their child to ride in an FAA approved car seat. With about 43,000 fatalities on American roads in 2004 as compared to only 13 on airplanes, the risk of child fatalities is astronomically higher on the roads.
According to Marion C. Blakey the FAA administrator, it will always be safer for families to travel by air than by car. While the FAA encourages the use of baby car seats in airplanes, asking families to purchase the seats would serve to inadvertently put that much more families at risk traveling by road.
On its part, the NHTSA offered support for the Federal Aviation Administration decisions as its own data showed that forced use of car seats may cause between 13 and 42 more family casualties over a decade on road accidents.
In a statement by Jeffrey W. Runge one of the foremost advocates for the use of child safety seats and NHTSA executive said that the FAA's decision was made in the interest of public safety according to their data.
To make it even easier for parents that travel by plane to use child safety restraints, the FAA has made more categories of child restraints acceptable for use. There are a range of regulations that were amended to make it easier to use alternative systems other than car seats which will enhance the safety of children flying who would otherwise have been strapped in with the lap belt.
However, you need to remember that even though there are several types of restraints available on the market the FAA-Approved Child Harness Device (CARES) is the only device that you are allowed to use in place of car seats when flying on an airliner. You also need to know that you cannot use these CRS's in your car.
As it currently stands, you can travel with your child under the age of two as a lap child without needing to pay for an extra ticket. Nonetheless many airlines will offer discounted prices for a child flying in a child safety seat. For more information on how to use and install car seats and CRS's on the airplane check out the FAA website.