Traveling with a young child can be a daunting task. One of the biggest concerns parents have is whether they can bring a car seat on a plane. The good news is that you can! In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about flying with a car seat, from FAA regulations to the safest ways to secure your child during your journey.
TL;DR: Key Takeaways
- Car seats are allowed on planes, and it’s recommended to use one for children under 2 years old.
- Always check your car seat’s label for FAA approval before flying.
- Inform your airline in advance to ensure a smooth experience.
- Carry a copy of the FAA guidelines for child restraint systems to avoid any issues at the airport.
- Choose the right car seat for your child’s age, weight, and height to maximize safety.
Car Seat Regulations: What the FAA Says
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows children under the age of 2 to sit on an adult’s lap during a flight, but they strongly recommend using a child restraint system, such as a car seat, for the safest travel experience. In fact, Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, states, “The safest place for a child on an airplane is in a car seat, not on a parent’s lap.”
According to a survey conducted by the FAA, 40% of parents who flew with children under the age of 2 did not use a child restraint system, despite the recommendation for their use. To ensure your child’s safety, it’s essential to follow the FAA guidelines and bring an approved car seat on board.
Selecting the Right Car Seat for Your Child
When choosing a car seat for air travel, make sure it has an FAA-approved label. The car seat should also be appropriate for your child’s age, weight, and height. There are three main types of car seats:
- Infant Carriers: Designed for infants up to 20-35 pounds, these rear-facing seats provide the best protection for your baby during a flight.
- Convertible Car Seats: Suitable for children from birth to 65 pounds, these seats can be used in both rear-facing and forward-facing positions, depending on your child’s age and weight.
- Booster Seats: Designed for children who have outgrown their convertible car seat, booster seats are used with the airplane’s lap belt to provide proper positioning and safety.
Booking Your Flight and Preparing for Travel
When booking your flight, inform the airline that you’ll be bringing a car seat and request a seat assignment near the window. This ensures that the car seat won’t block the exit for other passengers in case of an emergency. Additionally, consider purchasing a separate ticket for your child under 2 years old, so they have their own seat, which allows you to securely use the car seat during the flight.
Before your trip, gather all necessary documents, including your child’s birth certificate or passport, and carry a printed copy of the FAA guidelines for child restraint systems to avoid any potential issues at the airport. Make sure your car seat is clean and free of any loose items that could become projectiles during turbulence.
Installing the Car Seat on the Plane
Once you’re on board, follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation. Generally, you’ll need to thread the airplane’s lap belt through the car seat’s designated belt path. Ensure the car seat is secure and tight by pulling the lap belt as tight as possible. If you encounter any difficulties, don’t hesitate to ask a flight attendant for assistance.
Benefits of Bringing a Car Seat on a Plane
There are several benefits to bringing a car seat on a plane:
- Safety: A properly installed car seat provides the best protection for your child during takeoff, landing, and turbulence.
- Comfort: Your child is likely familiar with their car seat, making them feel more comfortable and secure in an unfamiliar environment.
- Convenience: Having a car seat on board can help your child sleep better during the flight, giving you a more relaxed and enjoyable travel experience.
- Cost Savings: By bringing your car seat, you avoid having to rent one at your destination, saving money and ensuring you have a car seat that meets FAA safety requirements.
Bringing a car seat on a plane is not only allowed, but it’s also the safest and most comfortable option for your child. By following the FAA guidelines and preparing in advance, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable flying experience for the whole family.
Do airlines charge extra for bringing a car seat?
Most airlines do not charge extra for bringing a car seat, but it’s always best to check with your airline beforehand.
Can I gate-check my car seat if I decide not to use it on the plane?
Yes, you can gate-check your car seat if you decide not to use it on board. However, using the car seat during the flight is the safest option for your child.
Is it possible to rent a car seat at my destination?
Many car rental companies offer car seat rentals, but it’s essential to ensure the rented car seat meets FAA safety requirements and is appropriate for your child’s age, weight, and height.
What if my car seat doesn’t fit in the airplane seat?
If your car seat doesn’t fit in the airplane seat, ask a flight attendant for assistance. They may be able to reseat you in a location with more space or provide alternative solutions.
Do booster seats need FAA approval for air travel?
Booster seats do not require FAA approval, as they do not have an internal harness. However, they should be used with the airplane’s lap belt to provide proper positioning and safety for your child.
Can I use a travel vest instead of a car seat on a plane?
Yes, FAA-approved travel vests, also known as child aviation restraint systems (CARES), are allowed on planes as an alternative to car seats for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds.
For more useful tips, check out our article on kids airplane activities.
- Federal Aviation Administration. (n.d.). Child Safety on Airplanes. https://www.faa.gov/travelers/fly_children/
- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019, August 30). Car Seats: Information for Families. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx
- Dr. Benjamin Hoffman. (n.d.). Car Seat Safety: A Parent’s Guide to Protecting Your Child. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Seat-Safety-Guide.aspx
- Federal Aviation Administration. (n.d.). Children on Airplanes. https://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/crs/
- U.S. Department of Transportation. (n.d.). Child Safety. https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/child-safety