Flying with a car seat on an airplane is allowed and recommended for the safety of infants and young children. Airlines typically allow car seats in the aircraft if they are FAA-approved and adequately secured. Car seats provide a familiar and secure environment for the child during the flight, ensuring their safety during takeoff, landing, and turbulence.
As a mom who has flown with my three kids severally, I have read the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines. I understand the importance of safety in air travel, especially for children. The FAA recommends securing children under 40 pounds in a certified car seat during a flight for their safety and protection. However, some guidelines and considerations exist, and you should know them before flying with a car seat.
In this article, I will share my expertise and provide essential information you need before taking your car seat on a plane.
Benefits Of Using A Car Seat On An Airplane
When it comes to your child’s safety and comfort during air travel, a car seat is essential. From providing enhanced protection during turbulence to ensuring a secure and cozy resting space, using a car seat offers many benefits, including the following:
- Using a car seat on an airplane provides extra protection for your child during turbulence, takeoff, and landing.
- Since your child is already accustomed to their car seat, it can provide a sense of familiarity and comfort during the flight. This would increase the chances of your child being less fidgety, leading to fewer distractions for you and other passengers.
- Using your car seat on the airplane eliminates the need to rent or purchase an additional seat or pay extra fees for in-flight child restraint systems.
- Bringing your car seat eliminates the need to rely on the availability of rental car seats.
What Car Seat Can Be Used On A Plane?
The car seat used on a plane depends on its certification. You need to look out for two types of certifications: FAA approval and EU approval. FAA-approved car seats are ideal for traveling within the United States, while EU-approved car seats are suitable for travel within Europe. Some car seats are approved for both regions. Not every car seat can be used on airplanes, so it’s best to check with the manufacturer or the airline before your flight. Additionally, the car seat must be properly installed on the airplane seat using the aircraft seat belt.
How To Check-in A Car Seat On An Airplane
Since the car seat will be checked in not as luggage but for your child to sit on it during the flight, you should ensure it’s in good condition and properly labeled. Here are some steps to follow when checking a car seat onto an airplane:
- Check with your airline beforehand to ensure they allow car seats and confirm any specific rules or regulations.
- If the car seat is approved for use on the plane, you can bring it to the boarding gate and use it during the flight.
- While using the car seat on board, ensure it’s properly secured using the aircraft seat belt according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step-by-Step Guide To Install A Rear-facing And Front-facing Car Seat On A Plane
When installing a rear-facing or front-facing car seat on a plane, there are steps to follow to ensure it’s done safely. Below are the steps.
For rear-facing car seats
1. Place the car seat facing the back of the plane seat.
2. Thread the seat belt through the car seat and buckle it.
3. Pull the seat belt tightly to ensure a secure fit.
4. Check that the car seat is at the correct angle by using the level indicator that comes with the car seat.
5. Attach the top tether strap to the designated anchor point on the plane seat, if available.
For front-facing car seats
1. If available, place the car seat facing forward and secure it to the plane seat using the airline seat belt or the latch system.
2. Tighten the seat belt or latch system to ensure a secure fit.
3. Check that the car seat is at the correct angle for your child’s height and weight by using the level indicator with the car seat.
4. Attach the top tether strap to the designated anchor point on the plane seat, if available.
What Is The CARES Harness, And What Should You Know About It?
The CARES harness is a safety restraint system designed for use on airplanes. It is specifically created for children who weigh between 22 and 44 pounds and who are at least one year old. The harness can be used in place of a car seat and is approved for use by the Federal Aviation Administration.
When using the CARES harness, it’s important to ensure it is properly installed and secured to the plane seat. The harness comes with instructions and should be adjusted to fit your child’s size and shape. It is also important to make sure that the plane seat has a lap belt and that the CARES harness is properly attached to it.
The CARES harness is a great alternative to bulky and heavy car seats, especially for families who are traveling by plane. The harness is easy to pack and carry, and it can be used in conjunction with a regular airplane seatbelt. This means that your child can sit comfortably in their own seat while still being securely fastened in place.
Pros And Cons Of The CARES Harness
|1. Enhanced Safety: CARES harness provides an additional level of safety for young children during flights.||1. Limited Usage: CARES harness is specifically designed for use in airplanes and cannot be used in other modes of transportation.|
|2. Lightweight and Portable: The CARES harness is lightweight, compact, and easily portable, making it convenient for travel.||2. Restricted Age Range: The harness is suitable for children weighing between 22-44 pounds, limiting its usability for older or heavier children.|
|3. Easy Installation: The harness is straightforward to install and requires no special tools or equipment.||3. Restricted Seat Types: The CARES harness is only compatible with forward-facing seats equipped with lap belts, excluding some seating configurations.|
|4. FAA Approved: The CARES harness is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for use during airplane travel.||4. Limited Movement: Unlike traditional car seats, the CARES harness restricts a child’s movement during the flight.|
|5. Cost-Effective: Compared to purchasing an additional seat or carrying a bulky car seat, the CARES harness is a cost-effective alternative.||5. Dependency on Airline Approval: While the CARES harness is FAA approved, it is essential to check with the specific airline for their policy on its usage.|
Do Toddlers Need A Car Seat On An Airplane?
Toddlers under two years old are not required to have their own seat on an airplane and therefore do not need a car seat. However, experts highly recommend using a car seat on a plane for the safety and comfort of your child. Many airlines allow parents to bring their own car seats on board the plane for free, as long as the car seat meets the airline’s requirements.
As for older children, it is still recommended to travel in a car seat, especially if they are younger than four. This ensures they are secure during takeoff, turbulence, and landing and can also prevent them from getting restless during the flight. However, it is important to note that car seats may not fit on all plane seats, and some airlines may not allow their use. Consult the airline in advance and make appropriate plans.
Does A Car Seat Count As One Of Your Carry-on Items?
A car seat usually does not count as a carry-on item; check with the airline beforehand. Some airlines may allow you to bring a carry-on bag and a car seat, while others may require you to check the car seat as baggage. Checking a car seat as baggage may cause wear and tear on the seat, so it’s best to take proper precautions and pack it securely.
Do You Have To Pay For A Car Seat On A Plane?
Whether you pay for a car seat or not on a plane depends on the airline. You might be able to carry a car seat on board for free with some airlines, while others may charge a fee for the extra seat. Check with the airline before you board, and be prepared to pay any necessary fees.
What Airlines Provide Car Seats?
While bringing your own car seat is often the preferred choice, there are times when the convenience of using an airline-provided car seat can save you from the hassle of carrying your own. So, you may wonder which airlines go the extra mile to ensure your child’s safety by offering reliable and approved car seats on board. Let’s have a look at them.
- Delta Air Lines: offers Combi Coccoro car seats for infants and toddlers. These seats are available on all flights, and you can ask for one while booking or through the airline’s customer service. The car seat policy of this airline is to allow one car seat per ticketed passenger, and there is no extra fee for using the car seat.
- United Airlines: has a variety of car seats, including the Cosco Scenera, Graco Contender, and the Evenflo Tribute. These seats are available on select airlines and must be booked at least a day in advance. The car seat policy of United Airlines also allows one car seat per ticketed passenger, with no additional charge.
- American Airlines: offers Avianca’s Infant Seat for infants weighing up to 20 pounds. The seat can be requested during booking or through the airline’s customer service. The car seat policy of this airline, however, is slightly different than the other airlines. American Airlines allows one car seat per ticketed passenger as well, but there is a fee of $50 each way for using a car seat on the plane. The airline also offers a limited number of car seats available for use on a first-come, first-served basis, so it is important to reserve the car seat in advance to ensure availability.
- JetBlue: offers car seats for infants and toddlers. Their car seat option is the Evenflo Tribute LX, which can be requested at the time of booking or through their customer service. The seat is available on all flights and can be a booster seat for older children. The car seat policy of JetBlue Airlines is quite different from other airlines, as they allow two car seats per ticketed passenger without any additional fee. However, it is important to note that the car seats must be FAA-approved and fit within the dimensions of the aircraft seat.
Permissions and Restrictions When Using A Car Seat On A Plane
When flying with a car seat, there are specific policies and guidelines that you must consider to keep within the rules of the airline and to keep your child safe. Let’s have a look at them.
|Seat Installation||– Car seats can be installed in an airline seat, typically in a forward-facing position or rear-facing position depending on the age/size of the child.- The car seat must be secured tightly using the aircraft seatbelt or with an FAA-approved child restraint system (CRS).||– It is not permitted to use car seats in emergency exit rows or in seats with an airbag seatbelt.- It is also not permitted to use car seats in the aisle or bulkhead seats without proper securing.|
|Certification||– Car seats must be certified for use on aircraft and labeled with the phrase “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” -The seat must also have an FAA approval label or sticker.||– It is not permitted to use car seats without proper certification and labeling.|
|Size Restrictions||– Car seats must be certified for use on aircraft and labeled with the phrase “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” -The seat must also have an FAA approval label or sticker.||– Oversized car seats that cannot fit within the aircraft seat dimensions are not permitted.|
|Additional Seats||– The car seat must fit within the width of the aircraft seat and not impede the movement of other passengers.- The seat’s width should not exceed 16 inches in most cases.||– Using an extra seat without a proper car seat installation is not permitted.|
It is very important that you check with the airline directly for their specific guidelines, as these regulations vary between airlines
Airline-approved Car Seats: Recommended Options And Brands
Here are some approved airline car seats and their recommended options and brands. Airline policies may vary, so checking with the specific airline for their approved car seat models and requirements is always recommended before traveling.
|Car Seat Model||Brands|
|Chicco KeyFit 30||Chicco|
|Evenflo Platinum Symphony||Evenflo|
|Maxi-Cosi Pria 85||Maxi-Cosi|
|Diono Radian RXT||Diono|
|Safety 1st Guide 65||Safety 1st|
|Baby Trend EZ Flex-Loc||Baby Trend|
Best Car Seats To Fly With On An Airplane
As there are several car seats to choose from, you might be wondering which ones are the best for flying. Here are some of the top options:
|Car Seat Model||Pros||Cons|
|Chicco KeyFit 30||1. Lightweight and easy to carry.||1. Suitable for infants up to 30 pounds or less than 30 inches tall, so it may not be suitable for larger or older children.|
|2. It may be heavier compared to other car seats, which could be a concern when carrying it through the airport.||2. The base may add bulk and weight to your travel gear.|
|3. Compatible with Chicco strollers, making it convenient for travel system use.|
|Graco Extend2Fit||1. Offers extended rear-facing capability, providing added safety for young children.||1. The car seat is relatively larger and may take up more space on the airplane seat or in your travel bag.|
|2. Adjustable extension panel allows children to have more legroom as they grow.||1. Lightweight and compact design makes it easy to carry and travel with.|
|3. Easy installation with the InRight LATCH system or seatbelt.|
|Britax Marathon||1. Excellent safety ratings and advanced safety features, such as side-impact protection.||1. It is a bit heavier compared to some other car seats, which may be a consideration when traveling.|
|2. Adjustable features, including multiple recline positions and adjustable harness height.||2. It may require more effort to install and adjust compared to some other car seats.|
|3. Sturdy and durable construction.|
|Diono Radian RXT||1. Narrow design that allows fitting three across in most standard-sized vehicles.||1. It is heavier compared to many other car seats, which might be a concern when carrying it during travel.|
|2. Extended rear-facing capability and high weight limit for forward-facing use.||2. It may have a slightly steeper learning curve for installation due to its unique features and design.|
|3. Foldable for easy transport and storage.|
|Cosco Onlook||1. Lightweight and compact design, making it easy to carry and travel with.||1. It may not have as many advanced features or extra padding compared to some other car seats.|
|2. Affordable price point.||2. The seat cover may be less plush and comfortable compared to higher-end models.|
|3. Airplane-friendly size that fits well in tight spaces.|
Flying with a car seat is not only an intelligent choice for your child’s safety but also provides parents peace of mind. By ensuring that you have an airline-approved car seat for your child, you can rest easy knowing that your little one is securely fastened during the flight. Happy travels!