Infant & Toddler: FAA Approved Car Seats

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 say anything about the FAA. (This was unnecessarily confusing to me!)

Instead the “FAA approved” is indicated by 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.”


Summer 2015 Update: I am researching this topic to update info (flying with FAA approved car seats and the CARES harness ) as well as products that make it easier to haul the car seat through the airport. Sign up for my email updates to be notified when I post the updated list and free resources.

Keep in mind gate agents and flight attendants are doing their job for the SAFETY of all passengers when they stop you to check your car seat for FAA Approval as well as when they verify the CRS is securely installed for flight.

  • They will not allow you to use a car seat on the airplane if it does not say the exact words above which means that it is an FAA approved car seat. ONE exception: In the case of the CARES harness, the tag looks like this:
  • They 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.
  • They may be frustrated by parents who board the plane with restraints that don’t fit the seat. Understand their role is also to ensure on time departure. Be kind.
  • They may not be parents nor understand your restraint. However, they do have access to FAA regulations and are required to adhere to them.
  • The FAA requires FAA Approved Child Restraint Systems (CRS) 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 fly. Ask if the bulkhead seat is available if no other seat works. This is a problem for the airline and the FAA to solve and not one that should cause tension between flight attendants and parents.
  • 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 ask to be reseated if this is your seat assignment.
  • Small commuter planes may simply not be an option for some infant car seats. Consider this when purchasing infant seats as well as airline tickets.


Save everyone some time and potential stress and do the pre-flight preparation.

  • Check for the 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.
  • NOT ALL CAR SEATS ARE FAA APPROVED! Do not assume – check it!
  • Note the depth (length of the infant carrier) and check with the airline or to determine if the carrier will fit (Note pitch)

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.

These past four years, I have mainly used the 1 lb. FAA Approved CARES harness – eliminating the need to carry the 20+lb. car seat on planes.

The CARES harness is FAA Approved for ALL phases of flight – the ONLY harness that is certified as such.

Look for this tag on the CARES harness to show FAA Approval.

FAA Approved CARES harness

I have written several reviews for the CARES harness, simply because I literally appreciate its value EVERY time we fly with it! Click here to read  my most recent review for this Product Worth Packing!

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.


Radian 80 Car Seat:

  • 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. (This would most likely not fit as a rear facing seat in air travel)
  • Can be folded in half and carried like a backpack (convenient for 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.


Britax Roundabout

Britax Roundabout Car Seat:

  • Narrow – fits well into airplane seat (check to verify this would be the case on your flight)
  • Soft side panels – for your child’s resting/sleeping time

Britax Boulevard CS

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.
  • 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 and lap belt. Want a great alternative? The 1 lb. CARES harness is not only FAA approved for ALL aspects of flight, there is a photo of the harness on the FAA website!  The harness is made for children 1 and older who weigh between 22 and 44 pounds.

Also not FAA Approved for take off, landing, or turbulence: Baby B’Air, and the Baby Bjorn or any other carrier. I will write a post on the reasons WHY soon.

Remember – ALL passengers, regardless of age should be in their own seat on an airplane. Use the appropriate FAA approved car seat or aviation restraint and check for the FAA approval sticker!

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About the Author

Anya Clowers, RN, BAAnya is an independent nurse consultant (focus: customer experience), travel expert, and comfort specialist with a career and lifestyle spanning Fiji to Finland. Anya, her husband, and world-traveling son (32+ countries, 5 continents, around-the-world 8+month tour) call both USA (California) and Europe (Germany), "home". and were created to help travelers of all ages ENJOY the Journey!View all posts by Anya Clowers, RN, BA →

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