Children weighing 40 pounds or less should sit in approved safety seats, rather than on their parents’ laps, when flying.

That’s a key recommendation in a joint statement issued this week by the Federal Aviation Administration and the American Association of Flight Attendants.

The FAA will continue, however, to allow children under age two to fly for free if they sit on an adult’s lap, based on the theory that the cost of buying an additional airline ticket for the youngster might persuade families to drive instead of flying. For years the FAA has maintained that a child is safer on a plane, even sitting in a parent’s lap, than in a car.

Veda Shook, president of the flight attendants’ association, told ABC News that if families already have purchased tickets for upcoming trips and did not buy tickets for their young children, parents still can bring their car seats, which may be used if there are unoccupied seats on the plane. If there are no passenger seats available, the child seat can be checked at the gate for no extra charge.

The suggestion falls short of the National Transportation Safety Board’s position, which has debated the issue with the FAA since the early 1990s and has urged the aviation agency to impose a seating requirement on all flights for everyone on board. The NTSB argues that children under two should have the same level of protection on airplaces as other passengers.

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