FAA Approved Car Seat & Restraint Considerations

by Anya Clowers, RN on February 2, 2011

Some things to consider when flying with an infant car seat:

  • Not all infant car seat bases are FAA Approved (even if the carrier is)

I often recommend securing the child in the carrier alone on an airplane as the base is not needed for safety and may not be FAA approved – even if the carrier is.

This is true in the case of infant seats like the Britax Chaperone. According to Britax Child Passenger Safety Advocate Sarah Tilton,

“The Britax Chaperone Infant Car Seat is certified for aircraft as a carrier, only.  It is not to be used with the base on an airplane.”

In contrast, Kelly Voelker, Public Relations Manager for Graco confirms the infant Graco Snugride 30 base is FAA Approved for use with the carrier in aircraft.

  • Not all infant car seats are the same length.

Britax Chaperone

Graco SnugRide 30

Comparing these two FAA Approved infant carriers, both rated for infants up to 30lbs., the Graco Snugride30 carrier measures a full 8″ shorter than the Britax Chaperone. (Graco 22″, Britax 30″)

I have used both Britax and Graco products happily for years, but when selecting an infant seat for use when traveling, it’s important to note which infant carrier has a better chance of fitting into the aircraft seat.

  • Don’t assume an infant seat with a heavier weight limit will be shorter.

Graco SnugRide30 Wt. Limit 30lbs. Depth 22"

Graco SnugRide Wt. Limit 22lbs. Depth 26.7"

I was surprised by this one as well.

Look closely at the specifications before purchasing infant seats…

Using the Graco line of infant seats as an example, I assumed the basic SnugRide infant seat (weight limit 22lbs.) would fit better in an airplane seat than the SnugRide30, (weight limit 30lbs.)

However, when speaking with Graco, they confirmed the Graco Snugride 30 actually has a shorter depth than the basic SnugRide.

For parents flying with infants, the depth measurement counts more than ever… unless of course, you are flying with Southwest Airlines.

  • Not all airlines fly the same aircraft.

We have flown Southwest often, and the beauty of this airline is ALL their airplanes are 737s with an average seat pitch of 32+”. Compared to the common 30-31″ pitch of most carriers, Southwest offers at least 1 full inch of alleviated worry potential for parents boarding with infant car seats.

  • Knowledge of seat pitch is important to prevent installation incidents.

Wonder what seat “pitch” is? According to SeatGuru.com,

“Seat Pitch is the distance from any point on one seat to the exact same point on the seat in front or behind it. While it is not the exact equivalent of “legroom”, it does give a very good approximation of how much seat room you should expect. Bottom line: the more seat pitch the better.”

  • Where can you find information about your scheduled aircraft?

Visit SeatGuru.com for fantastic information for selecting a good seat on just about every aircraft available. With knowledge of your airline, date of travel and route or flight number, you can quickly determine which aircraft is assigned that flight. *Keep in mind aircraft may change without notice.

I have always recommended the back rows of the aircraft for traveling families.

Parents are busy and don’t always have time, energy, or motivation to do the necessary research. Should this research really be required before a parent can fly safely with a child?

Darcy, a veteran flight attendant and parent of two, states,

“Airlines are giving parents the decision to purchase a seat or not for infants; yet with the new aircraft configurations, they actually are taking parents’ right to infant safety away!”

I hope to feature Darcy’s story in a future post. She is passionate about in flight safety after spending 5 days in the hospital from being knocked unconscious and thrown around the cabin while making coffee in the galley on a flight seven years ago.

Ask almost any veteran flight attendant and they will share stories of lifelong injuries fellow flight attendants have sustained due to inflight turbulence.

Offering children inflight protection is the responsibility of the parent.

I have flown with my son for the past 6+ years (as an infant, toddler, preschooler, and now school age) on flights visiting 17 countries. Click here to view some of the seats we have used or now recommend.

Until the FAA and the airlines connect on safety, parents would be wise to prepare ahead. There are certain items on the to do list regarding flying with a car seat that I will cover later this week.

Sign up for the JetWithKids newsletter or RSS blog feed to access free information from the experts!

As a child safety advocate and member of the newly formed special transportation committee Safe Seats For Every Air Traveler (SSEAT),  I encourage both the airlines and the FAA to step forward and address the safety of our most vulnerable passengers.

Veteran flight attendant Darcy says it well when she describes the absence of infant restraint in air travel as,

“We are taking a voice away from those who can’t speak for themselves.”

Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe to receive FREE updates!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: