For car seats to be considered FAA approved car seats, they must be approved for use on aircraft. However, do not look for the sticker on the side of the car seat to even mention the word “FAA”. (This was initially confusing to me!)
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Instead “FAA approved” is indicated on a sticker, usually located on the side of the car seat, with these words (typically in red print):
“This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”
Keep in mind gate agents and flight attendants are doing their job for the SAFETY of ALL passengers (including our children) when they stop us to check our car seat for FAA Approval as well as when they verify the car seat or child restraint system (CRS) is securely installed for flight.
- They will not allow a car seat on the airplane if it does not say the exact words above which means it is officially an FAA approved car seat. There is only ONE exception: In the case of the FAA Approved CARES harness, the tag looks like this and actually says “FAA APPROVED”:
- Flight attendants will not allow the plane to depart with a car seat that doesn’t properly fit into the seat. Safety is the main role of the flight attendant and really – don’t we want our kids to be securely in that seat? Fellow passengers (including us) want our car seat and other car seats to be installed safely so the car seats are not flying about the cabin in turbulence or on take off and landing. Flight crew have told me about parents who mistakenly just set the car seat on the aircraft seat without buckling it in. That’s not safe for child, parent, or anyone in that cabin.
- Flight crew may be frustrated by parents who board the plane with car seats and restraints that don’t fit the seat or don’t have the FAA approved sticker or documentation required.
- Parents may be frustrated by flight crew who don’t know a thing about the car seat, car seat usage, or the challenges of parenting a child while installing a car seat.
Please understand these things:
- flight crew may not have ever installed a car seat nor have kids themselves (remember – we weren’t always parents either!)
- there are so many car seats out there that it is impossible for flight crew to be trained on all
- flight crew role is also to ensure an on time departure and safe flight for all
Be kind and understanding of their viewpoint, their job duties, and their obligation to safety first.
- This is important enough to repeat: Flight crew may not be parents themselves nor understand how to use our car seats and restraints (there are so many on the market). Think about it – we also didn’t know this stuff before we became parents! AND do you know how to install ALL the car seats currently on the market or older models? Flight crew are not trained on brands of car seats! There is no way for them to keep up with the many choices out there – and those are constantly changing.
- However, flight crew are trained on what is required for a car seat to be safely installed, where the restraints can be located in the aircraft, and what the sticker or documentation must say to be allowed in flight. They also do have access to FAA regulations and are required to adhere to them.
- The FAA requires FAA Approved Child Restraint Systems (CRS) or the CARES harness to be allowed for use in flight. However, if the seat doesn’t fit in a seat in the same class of service, it is unable to safely fly. Ask if the bulkhead seat is available if no other seat works, but also understand why the bulkhead is not ideal for those traveling with children.
- Children under the age of 15 as well as all child restraint systems are not allowed in the Exit Rows or in the rows immediately ahead or behind the Exit Rows. You WILL be asked to move – so save the hassle and confirm appropriate seats assignments before the day of travel. Even if the flight crew didn’t make you move, for the safety of anyone exiting the plane in an emergency, please don’t place a car seat in those locations! And it may be you or your children who suffer…
- Install car seats where appropriate. Window seats are ideal. If traveling with two car seats, place one in the window seat and one in the middle seat. Mum, you must have quick access to the aisle in case of emergency so don’t think about sitting in the middle between car seats. It does mean you must reach over one child to care for the child seated at the window. Consider this and place child requiring more interaction/care nearest you.
- Please consider the comfort of the people seated in front of you. If traveling with multiple adults, consider having one sit in front of any rear facing car seat. Not being able to recline is not so bad if it’s your child, but that’s really not fair to a complete stranger to deal with for hours.
Prevent stress on travel day and do the pre-flight preparation at home before day of travel.
- Check for the FAA approval wording sticker before you leave home. If it is not there or if it has worn off, you will not be able to use the car seat on board an aircraft unless you bring the car seat instruction manual (and refer to the page where FAA approval wording is printed) or bring proper documentation from the manufacturer.
- NOT ALL CAR SEATS ARE FAA APPROVED! Do not assume – confirm this before day of travel!
- Note the depth (length of the infant carrier) and check with the airline or SeatGuru.com to determine if the carrier will fit (Note pitch of the seat compared to depth of the car seat)
- Note the width of the widest part of the car seat – will it fit in the narrowest part of the seat? (between the arm rests) Check with the airline.
Carrying the car seat through the airport (Products are priceless)
Don’t lug these bulky car seats around the airport without assistance from a car seat cart, stroller, or travel accessory that attaches car seat to rolling luggage. Carrying 20+lbs of car seat plus your child just leads to a headache, body pains, and crabbiness. ENJOY the journey mum… make it easier on everyone by using quality products that make it easier to ENJOY the travel day.
I have stopped many traveling mums in the airport recently and the winner for car seat transportation is definitely this travel cart.
I also highly highly recommend traveling with a baby/child carrier to hold your child close amidst the chaos of the airport and help transport the most precious cargo through the airport (my favorite baby and child carrier is this one, this one, or this one with the infant insert) OR a wrap like this one.
Although I recommend infant carriers for most phases of travel (airport and destination), please note… carriers are NOT safety devices and as such should not be used in flight. It is tempting to keep that little one snug and close to us when seated in the aircraft cabin – but it is not safe. All passengers (all ages) should be buckled into their own seat with FAA approved restraint and seat belt.
Flight crew tell me parents get VERY defensive about this one… asking why can’t they keep baby/child in the carrier? Isn’t it safer than not? Well… just as it is not safe in a moving automobile, baby carriers also cannot be used as a safety device in flight. In an emergency, babies can be crushed by their mums slumping forward. Carriers also have been shown to break apart with the baby flying out unprotected (the carrier is not made of seat belt strength material!)
Please recognize baby carriers are NOT safety restraints. Do not argue with the flight crew or hide this use from them. It is for your child’s safety.
Remember – we love carriers for traveling (and home use). Just not in airplanes.
This next section I am still updating – I have old car seats listed here I have recommend in the past. However, car seats change so frequently, I can’t keep up! Maybe some of this info will help…
For infants up to 30lbs. consider the Graco Snugride30
- For infants 4-30lbs., up to 30″ tall
- Weight of carrier without base 7.5lbs.
- Depth of carrier: 22″
- Note this depth is important when installing the car seat in an airplane seat (average pitch of airplane seats appears to be 30-31″) Exception is Southwest Airlines… average pitch 32″
Below are some of the FAA approved Child Restraint Systems (CRS) I’ve used when traveling.
For years, I mainly used the 1 lb. FAA Approved CARES harness - eliminating the need to carry the 20+lb. car seat on planes.
Often we are traveling to a destination where a car seat is available or we’ll use public transportation. For those times when we need to bring the car seat, I either use it in flight or check it to my destination as baggage.
- The most narrow seat around! As airplane seats get smaller, the narrowness of this car seat is a feature worth noting for forward facing restraint.
- Can be folded in half and carried with a shoulder strap or hung on the stroller (helps when traveling through airport!)
- Steel alloy frame (this is the seat I check as baggage if using the CARES in-flight)
- The steel frame makes this seat heavy, but slung over the stroller or a shoulder it’s not bad.
- Narrow – fits well into airplane seat (check SeatGuru.com to verify this would be the case on your flight)
- Soft side panels – for your child’s resting/sleeping time
Off Topic Alert: Britax Boulevard CS: This seat I am just throwing in here because I really love it for daily use in automobiles. Since you are reading about child safety, I thought you might appreciate this one! Not the most convenient seat for travel, but fabulous for automobiles. It is certified for aircraft use – but the wider base may be an issue for today’s narrow airplane seats.
- This seat changed the way my son and I interact DAILY. Read my review here.
- As it is a larger car seat, there is greater potential for the seat not fitting on an aircraft. (I have just thrown it in here because I really love it for everyday use).
- Click and Safe harness indicator – clicks when the harness is appropriately snug
- True Side Impact Protection – extra layer of foam
Seats/Restraints NOT FAA Approved?
Booster Seats: Booster seats are not allowed to be used on airplanes as they are designed for use with a shoulder harness.
Also not FAA Approved for take off, landing, or turbulence: Baby B’Air, and the Baby Bjorn, ERGObaby, or any other baby carrier. Baby and child carriers are not designed as safety devices and in a crash test were shown to break apart with force.
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