Flying with a child car seat: 10 key features to know
Are you taking into consideration flying with a car seat? Or perhaps you’ve decided it’s your best option as well as wondering precisely just how to fly with a safety seat? Then you’ve come to the right place! This overview covers everything you need to know about travel with a child seat on planes – from airline regulations to installment quirks to insider tricks you can just discover with great deals of experience. We’re sharing it all to make traveling with a car seat on a plane a smooth experience for your family.
Traveling with a car seat is the best option
Let’s start with the most basic question: why should you fly with a child car seat? The straightforward answer is that airplane seatbelts aren’t made for tiny bodies. The general suggestion is for kids under 40lbs to fly in an FAA-approved restriction – either a travel child seat or a CARES harness (minimum weight 22lbs, but fits better at 30lbs). The best child seat for plane travel depends on your kid’s age, size and development level. The FAA and also the NTSB both advise using your car seat on aircraft.
Why aren’t parents required to use car seats on airplanes? First, because airlines have lobbied to prevent rules that might decrease the number of families who fly – and thus, their revenue. Second, air travel is much safer than car travel. Government statisticians have determined that society is better off overall with unrestrained or improperly restrained kids on flights than with many more families taking to the roads to travel.
Even if you’re reading this after you’ve made your travel arrangements and you didn’t buy a seat for your baby, you can always ask at the ticket counter or check in with the gate agent. If the flight isn’t full, you can often use an empty seat for free to put your child (with their car seat) so that everyone on the flight is safer.
So do you need to bring a car seat when taking a trip? You require some way to maintain your kid safe in-flight and safe on the roads beyond, so partially it will rely on your kid’s age and also the kind of trip. If you are concerned about how to choose a travel booster seat, check this.
Can you take a child car seat on a plane? It relies on the airline company
The United States leads the way for using car seats on airplanes. Not only do the FAA and also NTSB urge purchasing children a seat and also using a child seat in flight, but your right to use an FAA-approved child seat with the whole trip is protected by law.
If you bring your car seat on board (and you should), you’ll have to use it for your child for take-off, landing and when the seatbelt sign is on during turbulent patches. All in the name of safety! Simply make sure your safety seat is certified for plane use – nearly every safety seat in the United States is FAA-approved. You can’t use a booster seat on planes at all since they require a lap-shoulder seat belt, but a combination car seat like this one is completely fine if the harness is still installed.
Just how do I recognize if I have an FAA authorized car seat? Near the base of the safety seat, there’s a white sticker with great deals of fine print. In red letters, it ought to claim that it’s authorized for aircraft use.
Below is an example of the car seat sticker. It’s located inconveniently on the bottom of the seat, but they’re in different places on different seats. Make sure you locate yours before you get to the airport; for some international flights, we’ve had to show it at the check-in counter to avoid sending it along with the baggage. In other cases, we’ve been asked to show it before installing it on the plane.
Note that on some airlines the seats are so narrow that you’ll need to choose your traveling child car seat carefully.
There’s one crucial (and also current) exemption to note: several of the new premium courses of service like United Polaris and also Air Canada Signature aren’t able to safely suit safety seats. In those classes, the only choice is to keep the baby on your lap as well as to buckle older kids in the lap belt. That’s why traveling with a child, I would not choose these airlines.
However, outside of the US and Canada, it’s even more like the wild west. Every airline company establishes its own policies. They can vary from airline companies that are very helpful in child seat use aboard for safety and security to airline companies that prohibit all child seats in the cabin. Some don’t allow any child car seats, some just enable forward-facing car seats, some just allow car seats for certain ages.
The strangest rule we’ve encountered is that even if you bring a car seat onboard, some foreign airlines require you to use a “belly belt” instead during take-off and landing.
Belly belts have been banned in the US and Canada because they turn a baby into an airbag. What should you do if you find yourself in that situation? Graciously accept the belly belt and attach your child to you. As soon as the flight crew is securely seated in their harnesses, strap your baby into the car seat to keep them safe during the most dangerous part of the flight.
The worst situation reported by one of our Tiny Globetrotters families was when traveling on an Asian carrier with their 3-year-old and car seat. They wouldn’t permit the kid to sit in the car seat for take-off, but he was clearly not of an age to use the belly belt. The airline forced the family to gate-check the car seat.
So if you’re flying a carrier that isn’t based in the US or Canada, be sure to check their “traveling with children” section before booking your tickets to make sure you’re comfortable with the airline’s policies. You’d hate to arrive at the airport and be told that you need to check your car seat unexpectedly!
How to travel with a child car seat on an airplane?
For great deals of parents, the most difficult part of identifying how to travel with a child car seat is a solution to issues related to actions with a child car seat at the airport.
Traveling with a child car seat is not the end of the world! Travel systems as well as other car seat-stroller combinations can aid, as well as there are great deals of imaginative means you can transfer your car seat with the airport right to the gate.
You need to be mentally prepared for the fact that it will take more than usual time to pass through security. Some car seats fit through the x-ray machine, but others will require hand inspection. I don’t think this is a big problem, the main thing is to have a clear plan of action when transporting a child car seat at the airport.
Walking around on a plane with a child car seat is not a good thing
So after passing all the levels of control at the airport, you go to the plane. But even here you can expect some difficulties. The fact is that children’s car seats are becoming wider, while the aisles in planes are narrowing. So what can you do?
Quite often in such situations when walking down the aisle on an airplane you have to carry a child car seat over your head. Therefore, when choosing a child car seat, you should consider its weight! Another great option is to use a folding car seat travel cart to roll your car seat down the aisle.
Once you get to your row, if possible put your child in the same row on the opposite side of the aisle. It’s for their own good! Raise the armrests in your row to make your life easier. If you’ve used a cart up to this point you need to detach the car seat from the cart, lift the car seat into the row and shimmy it to the window seat if need be. Then fold your cart and stow it under the seat in front of your car seat.
If your car seat is light enough that you carried it over the tops of the seats, hopefully, you can gently place it in a position to begin installing the car seat on the plane.
Walking around on a plane with a child car seat is the most awkward moment when traveling with a child car seat on a plane.
How to install a car seat on an airplane?
It’s actually very easy.
You will only need a few simple steps to install a child car seat on the plane:
– Locate the proper belt path on your child car seat for rear-facing or forward-facing
– Loosen up the flexible side of the aircraft seat belt
– Feed that side through the belt path
– Pray that your hand is tiny enough to reach with
– Buckle the seat belt
– Put your weight into the car seat (perhaps with the aircraft seat reclined) while pulling the seat belt tail to tighten
Here are some tips for you:
– the installation principle of the child car seat is very convenient because the “belt path” is just two little arms that are totally revealed.
– For a rear-facing car seat, the buckle is usually between your child’s feet or knees so it won’t bother them. As long as your child is on the older side of infancy, it’s ok to install your rear-facing convertible car seat a little more upright. Sometimes that’s necessary on airlines with tiny seat pitches.
– The most significant difficulty with utilizing a forward-facing car seat on an aircraft is that the seat belt fastening may end upright in the middle of your child’s back. We normally push a sweatshirt in there after installing the car seat to provide even more padding and that’s worked well. Some moms and dads also suggest knotting the brief side of the seat belt around the armrest to make sure that the latch plate links outside of the child seat.
You can only be seated in specific places on the airplane
Nearly all airlines have rules on where on the plane you can install your child car seat. Generally speaking, it needs to be in a window seat if it’s a single-aisle plane, and it can also be in a middle seat in the middle section on a plane with two aisles. We’ve gotten away with putting a rear-facing car seat in the window and a forward-facing car seat in the adjacent middle seat.
A car seat (or a child without a car seat, for that matter) can’t be in an exit row. In the US, you usually can’t install a car seat in the row in front of or behind the exit row either. Many airlines don’t allow car seats in the bulkhead row.
So you can install your child’s car seat in the vast majority of seats on any given flight (assuming the airline permits them).
If you’re having trouble figuring out the right seats to request or if you’ve booked a Basic Economy fare, I suggest reaching out to the airline in a private message on Twitter and let them know you’ll be taking a car seat on the plane. It’s by far the fastest way to reach a real customer service representative, you’ll have everything documented and they can make changes for you immediately if you provide a confirmation number.
Some well-meaning parents worry about inconveniencing other passengers by limiting their recline on long flights. That’s awfully nice of you! Remember that your child’s safety trumps another passenger’s comfort and convenience. That said, you can try to mitigate the issue by putting someone else from your family in front of the car seat – especially if it’s rear-facing.
So you can for example when traveling as a family of four book plane tickets in the configuration “AB-AB” rather than “ABC-D”. The forward-facing car seat is in front of the rear-facing car seat in this case. it may be a little cramped, but it’s not a big problem.
Rear-facing child car seats are amazing for sleeping babies
Do you ever before have difficulty falling asleep on trips because you just can’t get comfortable? Imagine if you reached sit in a perfectly-sized, cushioned recliner for the entire trip. That’s what I’m talking about.
That’s what it resembles for your baby or toddler when you placed them in a rear-facing child seat on the aircraft. Their heads are correctly supported so they do not loll awkwardly ahead. Our flights got much more difficult when our children switched over to forward-facing child car seats since they had a more difficult time getting comfortable!
The other benefit of rear-facing car seats on airplanes is that your children can not actually drop down stuff. We would certainly prop the tablet computer at our children’s feet against the seat when they were old enough to watch. If they dropped a toy or blanket, it rarely went further than their laps (or ours).
Your child may not be able to use the folding table on the plane
One disadvantage of using a forward-facing child car seat on a plane is that, a common tray table won’t come down all the way. That can make it hard to offer them meals or offer quiet hands-on activities on a long international flight. One choice is to bring along a tray that props on their laps.
Usually children do not pay much attention to this, they are much more interested in watching a movie or cartoon on the in-flight entertainment system. In addition, children often refuse to eat on the plane! So we don’t stress too much about it. I do suggest bringing a child seat with a cup holder so that your kid can have easy drink accessibility to stay hydrated.
You can turn the plane child seat around mid-flight if you need to.
The FAA says you have to use your car seat per manufacturer instructions, but if your child is the right age and size to rear-face or forward-face then it’s totally up to what you want to do. Change your mind mid-flight? No problem.
Why might you want to flip your car seat back and forth during the flight? There are a few reasons. On a long flight, you might want to let your child face forward to eat and watch a movie but then flip her rear-facing (which offers more recline) for sleeping. Alternatively, if you have a child who’s old enough to face forward but won’t stop kicking the seat in front then switching him to rear-facing is the kindest thing you can do for the passenger in front.
When riding in a car, the car seat harness should come from below the shoulders for rear-facing and above the shoulder for forward-facing. I have changed them mid-flight when there was a big difference, but for the cruise portion of the flight, I wouldn’t worry if they’re pretty close to the right spot. For take-off and landing, I’d make sure the car seat is installed such that the harness height is correct.
Usually, there is nowhere to keep a car seat on board.
Once you decide to bring a car seat on a plane with you, you’re pretty much locked into that decision. Your child will be required to use it for take-off, landing and turbulent patches. In between, they don’t necessarily have to be strapped in (though that’s always the safest bet).
But don’t plan on taking your baby out and stowing the car seat elsewhere to let them play. There generally isn’t room. There are exceptions, of course – on a huge international flight, the overhead bins (if they aren’t full) are usually tall enough to accommodate a child car seat. Sometimes flight attendants will be nice and put a car seat in a closet in another cabin. But usually either you take it or leave it.
If your child is at least 30 lbs and you don’t need a car seat at your destination (or you have a Ride Safer travel vest for cars), you can use the CARES harness instead if you think you’ll want your child to have the whole seat available to relax and play rather than sitting in the car seat most of the time.
Flying with car seat FAQs
Does a 2-year-old need a car seat on a plane?
While kids under 2 who have their own seat on a plane are often required to use a car seat, kids over 2 aren’t required to use one. However, it’s strongly recommended to use a car seat to keep your child safe through runway incidents or extreme turbulence.
Can you bring a car seat on a plane?
It’s your legal right to bring a car seat onboard and use it, if you buy a seat for your child and are flying a US-based carrier! If you don’t buy a seat for your child (under age 2), you may luck out and ask for an empty seat. If you’re flying a non-US airline, be sure to check their specific policies before booking your tickets.