Welcome to Part 2 of our complete guide to car seats on airplanes. In this article, we will address all your questions and concerns about using car seats during your journey on the plane.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time parent, we aim to provide you with all the information you need to make informed decisions about your child’s safety and comfort during air travel.
CAR SEATS ON THE PLANE
6. Should I use a car seat on planes for my child?
This question sparks much debate among air travel parents. While federal aviation rules do not require children of any age to use a car seat on a plane, the consensus among experts is that the safest place for a baby or young child is restrained in their own seat using an approved child restraint system. While a car seat may not necessarily protect your child in the event of a major airplane crash, it can provide protection during minor incidents such as turbulence or hard landings. Ultimately, the decision to use a car seat on board is up to you as a parent, weighing the risks and comfort factors.
7. If I want to use a car seat, can I bring it on board the plane?
Yes, you can bring and use a car seat on board if you have booked a seat for your child and the car seat is approved for use in aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Most seats from major manufacturers like Graco, Britax, and Chicco are FAA-approved. However, it’s always a good idea to carry the manual or look for the FAA-approved sticker on your seat to avoid any potential issues with crew members. It’s worth noting that car seats from other countries with approval from foreign governments or manufactured under the standards of the United Nations are also allowed.
8. Will my car seat fit in the airplane seats?
In most cases, car seats will fit in airplane seats with the right preparation. However, as airplane seats are becoming narrower while car seats are getting bulkier, some of the larger car seats may not fit in the narrowest seats, especially bulkhead seats where the tray tables stored in the armrests make the seats slightly narrower. To ensure a proper fit, consider using a more compact car seat model like the Cosco Scenera NEXT, which is highly rated, inexpensive, and suitable for both rear and forward-facing use. Measure your car seat to ensure it is under 16 inches wide at the armrest span to fit in most airplane seats.
9. What if my car seat doesn’t fit?
If your approved car seat doesn’t fit in the airplane seat, the airline has the responsibility to accommodate the child restraint system (CRS) in another seat in the same class of service. They may move you around to find a seat where the car seat will fit. To avoid unnecessary hassles, it’s best to consider using a more compact and cheaper car seat specifically for air travel if you anticipate potential fitting issues.
10. Can I use my car seat rear-facing?
Yes, you can use your FAA-approved car seat rear-facing on the plane if it is approved for rear-facing use in a car and your child is within the weight and height limits specified by the seat. It’s important to note that flight attendants may sometimes ask you to turn your car seat around to accommodate the recline of the person in front of you, but you have the right to politely refuse if your car seat is not approved for forward-facing use. In such situations, offering a drink or rearranging the seating within your party can help resolve any conflicts.
11. Are there seats on the plane where car seats are not allowed?
Car seats are not allowed in exit rows or in seats where they would block the exit paths of others in the row. In single-aisle planes with a 3-3 configuration, car seats are generally allowed only in window seats. If the window seat in the same row is empty, the car seat may also be placed in the middle seat, as long as it does not block the exit path. On double-aisle planes like a 2-4-2 seat configuration, car seats can be installed in either of the two window seats in the side sections or in the two center seats of the middle section.
12. Can I use car seats in business or first class?
The use of car seats in premium cabins depends on the specific configuration and seating arrangements of the airline. In domestic first-class cabins, car seats should generally work as these seats are slightly wider with more legroom. However, in many international premium cabins, the seats are more specialized and may not be conducive to car seat installation. It’s advisable to contact your airline in advance and check SeatGuru.com for information on the aircraft and seat types used on your flight. If you’re traveling with a smaller infant, consider opting for bulkhead rows that often offer bassinets or more space for your family.
13. Can I use a booster seat on the plane?
No, booster seats are not approved for use in planes by the FAA. However, most low-backed booster seats are compact enough to fit in airplane overhead bins, making them convenient to carry along for use in cars at your destination. Alternatively, for children aged 4 years and weighing 40+ pounds, you can consider using an inflatable booster seat like the BubbleBum, which is lightweight and easily packable for travel.
14. Are there any alternatives to a car seat for use on the plane?
Yes, there is an alternative to using a car seat on the plane – the CARES harness. The CARES harness is a set of straps that connect to the airplane seat belt, effectively turning it into a 5-point harness. It is the only device approved by the FAA for use during taxi, takeoff, landing, and in-flight. The CARES harness is compact, making it a convenient option for families who prefer not to carry bulky car seats. However, it’s important to note that the CARES harness is not suitable for use in cars, so it’s recommended for situations where you have car seat arrangements at your destination or plan to use public transit.
15. If I don’t use my car seat on board, is there anywhere to stow it?
Most car seats are too large to fit in airplane overhead bins, and there isn’t another storage space on board that can accommodate them. Therefore, you’ll either need to use your car seat throughout the flight or check it in advance at the ticket counter or gate. However, there is one exception – the WAYB Pico car seat for kids aged 2-5. The WAYB Pico is foldable and compact enough to fit in an overhead bin, making it a convenient option for air travel.
16. What if a crew member tells me I cannot use a car seat or insists on using it in a certain way that I know is wrong?
If a crew member wrongly insists that you cannot use your FAA-approved car seat or dictates its usage in a manner that contradicts safety guidelines, it’s essential to stay prepared. Carry documentation that proves your car seat is FAA-approved, such as the seat’s sticker or manual. Politely but firmly request the crew member to check their manual or consult with another flight attendant for clarification. Keep calm and avoid disobeying crew instructions, as this could lead to further complications. If necessary, file a complaint with your airline after the flight, and consider reaching out to a consumer advocate or journalist for additional support.
We hope this guide has provided you with the information you need to navigate the world of car seats on airplanes. Stay tuned for Part 3, where we’ll address car seat usage at your destination. Safe travels!