Review: Baby B’Air Flight Vest

Photo of my 3-month-old son sitting sideways on my wife's lap on an airplane while wearing a Baby B'Air flight vest.

My wife took a two-hour flight to Los Angeles this past weekend and brought our 3-month-old boy with her. I insisted he wear a Baby B’Air Flight Vest.

It bills itself as "the only safety solution for lap held babies who fly."

The vest slips over your baby’s head and latches snap around the left and ride sides and under the crotch. You cinch the sides with Velcro fastened at the back. It’s much tighter than it sounds; I was unable to pull it apart in a horizontal ripping motion.

Then, with you seated, you thread your adult lap belt through a loop attached to the back of the vest. Presto, change-o, your baby is attached to you.

This cotton vest is sold in newborn and toddler versions based on a
baby’s head size, with a 16" or 19" neck opening. The weight limit for
both is 40lbs.

Of course, such a simple safety tool requires a bit more explanation.

Safety Decisions

First, let me say, the safest way for a baby to fly is in a car safety seat. Period. Just like with a car collision, a seat will provide the best protection against impact and severe movement.

However, an airline will charge you for an extra seat. Kids may eat free on Tuesdays at Denny’s, but airlines always charge.

Virgin-Atlantic offers "skycots" for infants, but curiously they look like plain bassinets without a harness to hold the infant, just a bassinet wrapper with ample room to slip out from both ends. Either way, that airline isn’t an option at our airport.

Traditionally, families have had to choose between holding their baby without protection… or paying for a second ticket and lugging a car seat through the airport and installing it in a way-too-small plane seat. Oh, and researching which car seat is small and fits best in a plane seat if you’re willing to obtain a car seat specifically for the trip.

The Baby B’Air is a nice and inexpensive compromise between the two. How inexpensive? It’s in the $30 range.

Turbulence

The B’Air’s biggest selling point for me is protection during turbulence. The company has a mildly disturbing promo video that demonstrates the concern. Basically, you’re flying along happy and then the plane plays pinball with you and your baby goes hurtling toward the ceiling. Or maybe it’s lighter turbulence and you merely drop the baby off the end of your lap. Merely, huh?

The company states that more than 90 percent of injuries occur during flight. So I looked for data that might substantiate that claim. The FAA reports:

  • In nonfatal accidents, in-flight turbulence is the leading cause of injuries to airline passengers and flight attendants.
  • Each year, approximately 58 people in the United States are injured by turbulence while not wearing their seat belts. [I'd like to know what percentage of passengers remain belted during flight. People sitting around me always have, making the injury statistic a bit more serious.]
  • Generally, two-thirds of turbulence-related accidents occur at or above 30,000 feet.

In fact, my wife did hit about 1 minute of turbulence going to and from LA, 10 minutes into the flight and about 10 minutes before her return. She reports that our son, "bounced around, significantly jostled." It wasn’t enough that she would have dropped him if he were unfastened, but it certainly would have spooked her for the rest of the flight. So, put your precious one in your lap and fasten him down.

FAA Regulations

The FAA in the US prohibits use of the Baby B’Air during taxi, takeoff and landing, but the vest can be used during flight.

At first, I thought the FAA’s restriction might be due to the "crush zone" where, like in a car accident, a parent’s body would jackknife, turning a lap-held baby into a parental air bag.

Presumably, a sudden lurch or stop in a plane would most likely occur during taxi, takeoff or landing. So, the vest is not to be worn at those times.

Just the same, the company states the B’Air "was designed specifically to address these concerns, allowing the child to travel out of the parent’s crush zone while attached to the lap belt, not the parent’s body." In fact, there is a small amount of slack in the tether running between the harness and the parent’s lap belt.

The company is trying to get the FAA to approve the B’Air for use.

Thinking logistically looking at the vest in our hands, it seems plausible that in a sudden stop, your baby could move forward out of the crush zone, but still be in comparable safety attached to you. It’s not a perfect solution, but much more preferable to the baby being flung around the cabin.

On my wife’s flight into LA, an attendant noticed the B’Air upon descent and asked/told her to unhook our boy. Other than that, the attendants were oblivious to the B’Air.

If your attendant is unfamiliar with the vest and insists it be unhooked during flight, the company offers a $50 refund when you provide the airline and flight information so that the attendant can be smacked upside the head. Well, I’m sure they’d be a little more polite about it.

Our Experience

I requested the Baby B’Air from the company for this field tested review. But I did so a bit late, and the vest arrived the day before the flight. A few hours before our departure time we read the instructions that suggest washing and laying the vest flat to dry so that the red dye in the brushed cotton doesn’t bleed.

Hot tip: Dry a garment in a pinch by rolling up your car windows and laying it flat in your back window on a sunny day. It’s magic.

Once on the flight, our boy was unaware to the harness. The flight attendants commented several times at his being well behaved (e.g., quiet) and were, except as previously noted, generally oblivious to the bright red vest.

Our boy could be seated upright, laid down or rotated for breastfeeding while in the harness.

My wife found the arrangement a little uncomfortable because the harness obviously doesn’t provide a lot of wiggle room. And, the plane seats were small and didn’t recline. Cramped is the word. My wife thought that getting a car seat installed would have been a nightmare.

So… What do I recommend? I recommend everyone get great paying jobs and buy plane tickets for their babies and also buy compact car seats that will install well in plane seats.

But for the rest of us real people, the Baby B’Air is a nice realistic option. In the end, the vest provided precisely what we needed… peace of mind.

Comments

20 Responses to “Review: Baby B’Air Flight Vest”

  1. Inki says:

    On European flights, they offer mini versions of the adult seat belts to children sitting in laps – it’s just a strap that goes around the child’s waist with a loop that you can connect to your own seat belt.
    I was surprised when I flew to the US over Christmas and wasn’t given one of these, and I asked the flight attendant about it. Her reply: “We know that nothing keeps the baby as safe as her mama’s arms” Umm, yeah, right…
    This sounds like it would be a good alternative, I do feel a lot safer with my baby strapped to me, especially if it’s a long flight and I want to take a nap while she’s sleeping.

    June 24th, 2008 at 3:33 am

  2. summer says:

    I just traveled with my 3 year old on a flight from Florida to Kentucky and back again a few months ago. We took the car seat with us as we needed to use it when we got there and our daughter had to purchase a seat anyways. The car seat option worked wonders for us. I was worried about her getting up and wanting to run around, but being in the car seat she knew she had to sit there just as she does in the car. She was very well behaved because of this.

    Also the seat was not that bad to install at all – and ours is pretty big as it is a convertible car seat. It didn’t take long to get it in correctly and once I figured out how to do it the next time was a cinch.

    I highly recommend doing the carseat thing at least for a toddler. As for a baby – if you have the money do a carseat thing. This to me may be a great thing but to me personally looks cramped uncomfortable and in some ways dangerous. If you are a skinny mom it might be fine, but if you are a little hefty – you might suffocate the child…. just looks weird, but hey sometimes thats a good thing. Can’t knock it till I try it.

    June 24th, 2008 at 7:13 am

  3. PsychMamma says:

    We fly frequently with our 2 y/o daughter (her medical treatments are in Boston and we’re in the Midwest), and since she now requires her own seat and ticket, we researched a variety of options. We decided on CARES (child aviation restraint system). It’s a seat belt that converts the airline lap belt into a 5 point harness like a carseat. It weighs 1 lb and easily stowed in our carryon, backpack/diaper bag. It worked wonderfully, and I would highly recommend it. When we rent a car, we also rent a carseat. I know there are horror stories out there about rental carseats, but we’ve never had a problem (we usually use Hertz, Avis or Budget). The website for the CARES harness is http://kidsflysafe.com/

    http://psychmamma.wordpress.com

    June 24th, 2008 at 7:55 am

  4. Sara says:

    Some airlines will give you (or at least used to) a 1/2 price ticket for a baby under 2 if you decide to buy them a seat. My brother got this deal a few times when flying with his son, but I don’t remember which airline. Worth asking, at least, if you are buying plane tickets.
    I would love to see some sort of harness/restraint on board the plane for use (even a small rental fee, like $5) similar to this device, like Inki mentioned. For the few times some people fly, it is hard to think of buying an additional thing that may only get one use. But, of course, airlines are cutting back on all of their services, so it is unlikely they would add something like this.

    June 24th, 2008 at 8:00 am

  5. PsychMamma says:

    I should add that the CARES harness is not appropriate for infants (the weight specs are on the website), but worked great for our 2 y/o and will work for years to come. It’s also FAA approved and can be used during the entire flight (including taxi, takeoff and landing). It comes with a letter stating it’s FAA approval and what it’s for in case your questioned at security or by flight attendants. No one has asked to see our letter, and flight attendants have seemed to be familiar with it and impressed that we’re using it.

    June 24th, 2008 at 8:03 am

  6. AJ says:

    AJ here… The airline was Horizon… A child occupying his own seat requires a full fare, but a baby under 2-years-old flies free on your lap. If the toddler flies on his birthday, he has to pay full fare for all segments during which he is 2-years-old. Nice, huh?

    PsychMamma, we’re aware of the CARES harness, but as you mentioned, it’s for 12-months and up and requires the toddler be in his own seat. The B’Air looks to be the only product on the market serving babies.

    Also, I forgot to mention something a company rep told me… that some parents in wheelchairs use the harness for normal everyday use.

    June 24th, 2008 at 8:22 am

  7. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Some airlines (at least used to) sell an infant who would otherwise be a lap baby a seat for half price.

    June 24th, 2008 at 9:45 am

  8. JMo says:

    I know that Southwest offers discount fares for 0-2 yr olds. However I’ve found that typically the Internet fare is cheaper than the infant price. And you are never too young to start earning FF miles.

    Southwest would not allow me to “wear” LO during takeoff and landing (in a Bjorn or wrap) – very annoying since I had to wake up a sleep baby to detach him. I’m wondering if they would react the same way with this device?

    We purchased the Sit ‘n Stroll with another couple for airplane travel and it’s been fantastic! They are pricey – $200 – but we each paid $100 and we’ve each used it about 5 times so far. It fits perfectly into the plane seat, but you do need a seat belt extension.

    June 24th, 2008 at 10:10 am

  9. TrixieBB says:

    My husband and I traveled to Mexico from Philadelphia with our then 15 month old girl. We brought along the Baby B’Air vest after purchasing it from a local baby superstore. The concept was great (and I have to admit, it eased my mind to pack it with us), however, if you have a restless little one it is not practical. The flight was only 4 hours and my little one wanted to be held facing me with her head on my shoulder. I found that we had her dettached from the belt more than we had her attached. Luckily, we hit only a bit of turbulence on the way there and it was without warning but I was able to maintain my little one on my lap without help from the vest. It seemed to be more trouble than not.

    June 24th, 2008 at 6:56 pm

  10. Chief Family Officer says:

    We traveled with a Graco ComfortSport a couple of times and hated it (though we did need it at our destination). It got good reviews for travel in Baby Bargains but was a huge pain to install and worse, the straps didn’t tighten properly. I will never buy a Graco car seat again.

    I like the idea of the B’Air, though I don’t have an infant anymore. If I’d known about this, I probably would have gotten one for our first trip when our oldest was five months old. Since our youngest is over 12 months, I’ll be looking into CARES the next time we fly.

    June 24th, 2008 at 7:53 pm

  11. PsychMamma says:

    Your boy looks very….wary or suspicious in this pic. I think it’d be another great caption contest. Cute!

    June 24th, 2008 at 9:05 pm

  12. AJ says:

    Yeah, it’s not the best photo. There were better ones that I ditched for various reasons.

    He yanks his hands up like that when he’s been spooked suddenly by something. He also doesn’t use a pacifier very often.

    June 24th, 2008 at 9:10 pm

  13. Greg Nieberding says:

    I am the creator of the Baby B’Air. I came up with it after my 9-month old niece was thrown off my sister’s lap in turbulence a few years ago. My sister brought a car seat for the 9-month old and also was traveling with a 3 year old. It was a logistical nightmare since my sister was traveling alone with the kids, and the airline made her check the car seat because the base was too big for the seat. And, look what happened.

    A couple of comments…the belly belts that are given out on foreign airlines are banned by the FAA in the US since they only loop around the baby across their stomach and the pressure of the mother against the baby could harm their tender abdomens. Infant carriers that attach the baby to the mother are banned because they can injure the parent, since they attach directly to parent, and not their lap belt which is much stronger than mom’s neck.

    June 25th, 2008 at 12:21 am

  14. CanCan says:

    I have the CARES harness for my older son, but I am going to get this for my baby. The video convinced me!

    June 25th, 2008 at 12:43 pm

  15. Candace (Mama Luxe) says:

    I think it is a really tough call, but I’ve always gone with the seat. The whole “parental airbag” thing is what freaks me out.

    If I chose not to buy another seat, though, I would definitely check this out…something is better than nothing.

    Orbitz allows you to book the reduced fare online (the only one that did last time I took a plane with my infant)…others may be able to help you if you call them directly.

    PS–We just published a travel guide with products and tips if you’d like to check it out.

    June 25th, 2008 at 1:43 pm

  16. emunda says:

    used this on a short flight from LA to sacramento with our then two year old, works great, till his patience runs out.

    June 29th, 2008 at 6:27 am

  17. Audra says:

    I also fly frequently with my toddler, and I wish I’d known about the Baby B’Air sooner. I purchased the CARES product prior to my most recent cross country flight however, and found it to make traveling with him much simpler. The airline allowed me to check the car seat in at no charge, and toting a one pound harness was a cinch compared to lugging a bulky car seat. Plus, he seemed to actually prefer sitting in the airplane seat like a “big person” versus being placed in his car seat.

    July 1st, 2008 at 3:15 pm

  18. Lisa says:

    I used the Cares also with my then 2 year old son. It worked great and at the time the flight attendants had never seen anything like it. They thought it was fantastic. Airlines should seriously consider buying these for parents to rent at airports.

    July 3rd, 2008 at 8:34 pm

  19. Dani says:

    I bought the baby b’air toddler size for my 21 month old and will be using it before he turns 2 to move to another country. I can’t afford to buy a reduced price $500 ticket for him since this would be over the cost of rent for one month where I am going and my husband will not have a job right away when we get there. I think the baby b’air is a great alternative for those who don’t have the extra cash to throw around. I look forward to using it and hope that there will be no issues with the flight attendants.

    October 7th, 2008 at 11:51 am

  20. Lynette says:

    I know your post is almost a year old, but I just purchased a baby b’air to take my child to Missouri for the first time. She’s 6 months old and I am quit happy I found your page. I was thinking about returning the vest when I was reading on the package that it could not be used during taxi take off or landing. But I’m happy to hear it worked quit well for you. Thanks for sharing! I hope it works as well for me.

    April 8th, 2009 at 7:51 am

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