As the holidays approach, and airline ticket prices soar, many new parents are tempted to fly with their babies in their laps to avoid paying for an extra seat.

Don’t do it. Flying with a baby—no matter how small—in your lap puts him at risk of injury or even death if the plane hits severe turbulence. So it’s worth paying for the additional seat, even if there’s no discount for infants. 

Federal law requires any child over age 2 to have his own airline seat and a proper restraint device, such as a car seat. But there is no such rule for children younger than that. It’s a key reason why many parents are unaware of the risks.

“I constantly hear parents say, ‘If it’s allowed, it must be safe,’” says Jan Brown, a former flight attendant who now advocates for banning lap children.

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Brown recalled having to tell a mother who had a child in her lap when a United Airlines flight crashed in 1989 that the child had died. She said the child would have likely survived in a car seat.

For decades the government and the airlines have resisted calls from advocates and safety experts to require restraint devices for children under age 2. Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, has also urged the Federal Aviation Administration to require that all children, including babies, be secured in approved car seats while in flight.

The FAA has rejected those recommendations, arguing that the added ticket costs would force more families to drive, which is statistically less safe than flying.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people make decisions with their wallet,” says Deborah Hersman, CEO of the National Safety Council, the nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing injuries and deaths, and former chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the independent government agency that investigates airline accidents.

“Educating parents is the number-one issue,” Hersman adds.

Here’s what you need to know about the risks of flying with a lap child, well as tips for affording that additional ticket.

Recognize the Risks

In-flight turbulence is a real threat, especially for lap children or any unrestrained passenger. The FAA reported 44 serious injuries to passengers and crew members in 2016, which was a seven-year high and more than twice the number in 2015. And new studies suggest that climate change may be contributing to an increase in such events.

One incident made headlines just this past June, when a United plane flying from Panama to the U.S. encountered severe turbulence over Mexico. Ten passengers were injured, and paramedics were required meet the plane in Houston.

Occasionally turbulence has caused deaths—the most recent FAA report, issued in 2004, found that 72 fatalities occurred over a 10-year period.

Neither the government nor the airlines have released public data on the number of infants hurt or killed by turbulence. But there have been fatalities. As the Chairman of the NTSB stated in an official blog in 2014, “Preventable deaths and injuries have occurred in children under age 2 who were unrestrained.”

What to do: Stay safe—buy your child a separate ticket and bring a car seat. Make sure the seat has a federal government label stating that it is approved for use on aircraft. And check to see that the car seat will fit. Most airlines, such as American, provide seat dimensions online.

Be a Savvy Fare Hunter

Don’t count on getting a big price break on your baby’s ticket if you’re traveling domestically. Among the major carriers, only Southwest offers an infant discount, and it’s only 5 percent off an unrestricted fare. (It’s not available online; you must call 800-435-9792.)

You are more likely to find child discounts among smaller airlines, but availability varies widely. Frontier offers a segregated Kid Zone, with discounted aisle and window seats and free middle seats. Book in advance, because these tickets are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

What to do: Skip the infant discount and shop broadly for the best airline fares. Southwest is offering discounted, restricted “Wanna Get Away” tickets that can be up to seven times lower than standard unrestricted “Anytime” fares. These tickets are nonrefundable and must be purchased in advance. (For more advice on finding affordable fares, see our airline travel guide.)

One exception: If you’re flying internationally, child fares are worth a look. Infant tickets for overseas flights on Delta are usually 10 percent less than an adult fare. And Hawaiian Airlines, which charges full fares domestically for infant travel, offers discounts of 67 percent to 75 percent off international flights.

Brace for Seating Problems

For families traveling with babies, you may need to book well in advance to seat your family together. Airlines typically ban car seats from certain sections of the cabin for safety reasons. That means aisle seats, emergency exit rows (and seats directly in front or behind such rows), among others, may be off-limits to child safety seats.

Because the age of every passenger has to be entered during booking (for security reasons), the airline automatically knows if a child is under 2, and if he’s under 2 and has his own seat, then the airline assumes he’s in a safety seat.

Still, if you’re traveling with a child in a safety seat, make sure you let staff know when you’re checking in, and make sure you request priority boarding at the gate (which all U.S. airlines allow). This way, if there’s a problem with fitting the child seat, you can ask for assistance in moving before the flight is fully boarded.

You may also encounter poorly trained flight attendants who challenge your use of the car seat. Two well-publicized incidents earlier this year underscore the problem. In April a video went viral showing a Delta flight attendant incorrectly telling a family that the FAA prohibits safety seats onboard.

That was followed by an incident in June, when a United flight attendant forced a mother to give up the seat that she bought for her 27-month-old child to an adult passenger, which was a violation of federal safety regulations.

What to do: Britney Rich Lombard, an educator for Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit advocacy organization, recommends that parents carry copies of Pages 8 and 9 of the FAA’s advisory on child restraint systems (CRSs). These rules show that airlines cannot ban CRSs in paid seats and must provide accommodation in other seats if the CRS doesn’t fit. “I’ve had to reference it a few times for misinformed crew members,” Lombard says.