How To Use A Car Seat On An Aeroplane

How To Use A Car Seat On An Aeroplane
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One of the traditional perks of air travel with children under 2 years old is saving on the price of an extra ticket by holding the child in your lap. (Granted, those of us who have ever travelled this way might argue it doesn’t exactly feel like a perk at the time, but it does make travel more affordable for families.)

However, more and more parents are opting to purchase tickets for their littlest ones for safety’s sake. And it is indeed the safer option. Strapping them into a secured car seat not only offers more protection in the event of a crash, it also keeps them secure during times of unexpected turbulence.

But before you go lugging that seat to the airport, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The car seat must be FAA-approved. Look for a label on your seat that says, “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” Without it, you may not be permitted to use the seat on the plane.

A window seat is your best bet. Otherwise, the seat will block the ability for passengers to exit the row in an emergency. Car seats are not permitted in aisle seats or exit rows. The seat should be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

It’s important to measure. To fit into a typical coach seat, a car seat should be no more than 41cm wide. However, if an FAA-approved car seat does not fit in your child’s assigned seat, the airline is responsible for accommodating it in another seat whenever possible.

Booster seats and harness vests are restricted. These are prohibited by the FAA during ground movement, take-off and landing, and their use is discouraged–although not legally prohibited–while in the air. However, airlines may have different policies regarding their use in the air, so check before you arrive at the airport.

An alternative: The CARES harness. This is the only FAA-approved harness restraint, intended for children who weigh between 22 and 20kg.

When in doubt, always check with your airline ahead of time for specific rules on travelling with children. Some airlines offer discounted infant fares if you are planning to use a car seat, and policies regarding car seats, carry-on items and checked items can vary.


  • All well and good about the FAA approval but what about CASA? This is an Australian site, one would imagine CASA’s info would be infinitely more relevant to Australian readers

  • Another copy & paste from the US site without any local information. Sometimes you have to do more than add the local dollar!

    This is from CASA’s site:
    10.1 Some car-type CRSs are suitable for use on aircraft.
    10.2 A rear facing CRS could be a capsule type and is suitable for the younger infant who is
    unable to sit upright. There are also “convertible” seats which can be rear facing and then forward facing when the infant develops. Due to their design, these CRSs are usually larger, and may not physically fit into some aircraft seats, particularly in the smaller regional aircraft. Check with the aircraft operator or the pilot before your flight.
    10.3 A forward facing CRS with integrated harness is suitable for infants over 6 months who
    can sit upright by themselves. The integrated multi-point harness is designed to restrain over a larger portion of the developing child’s body.
    10.4 A booster seat covers the next period of a child’s development and allows a small child
    to be properly restrained by the vehicle’s lap/sash restraint. For aircraft seats with only a lap belt, a booster seat is not recommended. A booster seat is only acceptable if it is used in conjunction with an aircraft seat that has a 3 point safety harness (single shoulder strap). A booster seat could possibly be used in a seat with a 4 point safety harness (symmetrical shoulder straps) providing the CRS headrest does not obstruct the correct placement of the shoulder straps on the child.
    10.5 Those car-type CRSs currently acceptable for use in Australian aircraft are:
    • CRSs complying with Australian/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS) 1754 which are secured in the aircraft in a manner consistent with the CRS’s design criteria. See paragraph 10.7 below
    CAAP 235-2(2): Carriage and restraint of small children in aircraft 7 January 2014
    • CRSs accepted by the FAA as meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard
    (FMVSS) No. 213. CRSs meeting FMVSS No. 213 shall have two markings: “This
    Restraint is Certified for Use in Motor Vehicles and Aircraft” in red lettering and “This
    child restraint system conforms to all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards”
    • CRSs approved to Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) No. 213 entitled
    “Child Restraint Systems” or CMVSS No. 213.1 entitled “Infant Seating and Restraint
    • CRSs meeting European Safety Standard requirements of ECE Regulation 44.
    10.6 If the securing of a car-type CRS (rearward facing, forward facing or booster seat) in an
    aircraft involves more than using just the aircraft’s lap belt or safety harness, the design of the installation must be approved.
    10.7 CASA and Standards Australia collaborated to modify AS/NZS 1754 to consider the
    CRS fitment in aircraft. CRSs certified to AS/NZS 1754:2013 and onward, can meet additional criteria relevant to use onboard aircraft. These criteria include installation with only the use of the aircraft seat belt. Such CRSs have labelling similar to that in Figure 1 below. CRSs certified to AS/NZS 1754 that do not contain this label are still acceptable for use onboard aircraft provided there is an approved means to attach the top tether strap. See section 11 of this CAAP for further details on specific installation details.

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