Briefing Paper No. 11

Ending the Free Airplane Rides of Infants: A Myopic Method of Saving Lives

By Richard B. McKenzie and Dwight R. Lee
August 30, 1990

Executive Summary

Since 1978 airline deregulation has saved the traveling public tens of billions of dollars without sacrificing safety. Nevertheless, under the banner of saving children’s lives, a movement is afoot that would nullify many of the benefits of deregulation by effectively ending free travel for infants and toddlers. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Los Angeles Area Child Passenger Safety Association have petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to require the use of child restraint seats for all infants and toddlers on airlines. Statistical analyses by both the Department of Transportation and private researchers indicate that the proposal could endanger more children than it would save if the increased cost of airline travel put more families back on the highways.

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Richard B. McKenzie is Hearin/Hess Professor of Economics and Finance at the University of Mississippi, and Dwight R. Lee is Ramsey Professor of Economics at the University of Georgia. McKenzie is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. An earlier version of these comments was filed on May 30, 1990, with the Federal Aviation Administration with reference to Docket no. 26142 by the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.