Have you ever wondered if you need to use a car restraint system (CRS) on an airplane. Well you are not alone. While there are so many guides offering tips on car seat installation and use for your vehicle, there are so few such recommendations for car seats for travel.
While it is not a requirement that you use a child restraining system while traveling in the US or Canada, nor are there airline approved car seats, the Federal Aviation Authority recommends that you secure your baby on the aircraft. Many parents with kids under two years will just have the kid on their lap for the entire flight particularly if they are under two years old.
But here's the thing:
If you have a toddler, or any child older than two years, and you are on a long haul flight you may have either of two problems or both:
- A toddler is very active and will not be content to sit on your lap the entire time. I can tell you from experience, toddlers can get bored very easily and want to walk all over the plane playing with other passengers
- A toddler without a convertible car seat may be a nuisance on the flight since even if they are on your lap they will never let you enjoy your airplane movie or a meal, at least with a seat your hands will be free.
While there are many car seats on the market, you can only use an FAA approved car seat on an airplane. An FAA approved car seat typically has a sticker with the words "this restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft"
Best FAA-Approved car seats for travel
FAA Recommendation and Regulations for Baby and Toddler Car Seats
- Ensure that your child restraint device (CRS) is FAA approved for use in an airplane.
- Ensure that your child seat is no wider than the FAA recommended 16 inches.
- You may use the car seat for a kid of any size or age as long as they within the weight and age limits set out in the car seat manufacturer's manual.
- You may use a combination seat as long as you ensure that you use it in the five point harness mode and that the seat has been approved for use in airplanes and in motor vehicles.
- You have the right to install the car seat on a seat in any of the classes of the airplane if you bought the ticket as long as the child safety seat does not interfere with safety procedures or with the movement of passengers during an emergency.
- Call ahead arrange for a discounted price from the airline if you will be using a car seat. You can only use the car seat if you purchase a ticket for your baby.
- When calling the airline, ensure that you not only book adjoining seats but also a window seat so that the car seat will not block the exit or be a source of discomfort to other passengers.
- If you do not want to purchase a ticket, ask the airline if they would be fine if you used an empty seat for your CRS. nonetheless, if you plan to travel on busy days or seasons it is highly unlikely you will find an empty seat.
- If you will be making connecting flights, ask the airline to assist you with protocols for lugging a child car seat and luggage through the airport.
Top FAA Approved Car Seats Reviewed
The Diono Radian RXT is one of the best convertible car seats in the market. Made of a steel frame there is no safer car seat on the market than the Diono Radian.
It relatively affordable price makes this a good choice if you are on a budget.
Moreover the seat is narrow and would fit in most plane seats.
- Safe car seat from a trusted brand
- Narrow enough to fit in any airplane seat
- Comes with a tether for rear facing usage
- Comes with a tether for rear facing usage
- Comes with a shoulder strap making it easy to lug around airport
- Made with EPD foam ensuring your child's comfort
- At 24 pounds the seat can be quite heavy
- Can be quite expensive when compared to similar seats
- Its design is not that appealing
The Cosco Scenera NEXT comes at one of the best prices you can find for a car seat
It is also one of the lightest car seats making it great for travel
- One of the cheapest car seats
- At 11 pounds it is a light weight car seat
- 4 harness slots means you can use if with children of different ages
- Rear facing limit of 35 pounds means you can prevent the kid from kicking the seat in front
- Compatible with most car seat transporters
- Comes with a two position recline
- it does not come with a cup holder
- Can be quite uncomfortable as it does not have EPS foam
- The colors are not so creative
Similar to the Cosco Scenera NEXT, the Safety 1st Guide 65 is one of the cheapest entry car seats you could get.
This snug seat comes in handy as it is within the FAA regulation regarding car seats
- Small size and light weight makes it ideal for airplane travel
- Comes with headrest and side impact protection for maximum safety and comfort
- Has a removable cup holder for older toddlers
- Very wide limit meaning you can use it for a long time
- Supports both rear facing and front facing modes
- Has very few range of colors to choose from
- The chest clip is a little bit too huge
- Installation can be a little bit tricky
One of the best rear facing car seats that offers maximum protection during travel.
It comes with a very detailed user guide which I found very useful in installation and use of the car seat.
- Specifically designed to be rear facing to enhance your baby safety
- Come with foam memory and removable pillows
- Greater seat depth makes it comfortable for older todddlers
- Has a removable snack and cup tray
- At 13 pounds it is relatively light weight making it ideal for airplane travel
- Deeper seats may cause it to take up more space that other seats
- Very few height adjustment slots on the harness and so your child might outgrow it fast
This is a stroller, convertible car seat and booster seat all in one.
The best thing about this seat is that with a simple pull of the handle, it becomes a fully functioning stroller that you can roll to your gate after the long flight.
- Works as a stroller, car seat and booster seat
- Comes with a washable cover which is very handy when you have toddlers
- Easy to belt up and change modes making getting into taxis or the plane a breezee
- Measures "16" and hence can fit in most airplane seats
- Comes with an organization bag and the canopy as an optional extra
- You can use it as a substitute for a stroller when sightseeing with the baby instead of hiring a stroler
- The stroller and car seat are quite low and may present a problem for tall parents
- It is quite an expensive car seat
FAA Weight Recommendations for Airplane Travel
- More that 40 pounds - Airplane seat belt
- 22-44 pounds - CARES Child Restraint System
- 20-40 pounds - Forward facing car seat
- below 20 pounds - rear facing car seat
Child Restraint System (CRS)
For children between 22-44 pounds, the CARES child restraint system is only FAA approved child restraint that you could use throughout the flight.
Child Airplane Travel Harness - Cares Safety Restraint System
- Adjusts to fit almost any airplane seat size
- One of the easiest CRSs to install
- Lightweight making it easy to carry around on your journey
- Wide range of settings making it suitable for almost any child above age 1
- Compact and fits easily in a ruck sack
- No strap between the legs meaning the child may slide down the seat if not strapped in properly
- You may have to pass the strap through the back of the seat interfering with a fellow passenger's comfort
How to Install a Car Seat on the Plane
It is always best to install the car seat the same way that you install it in your car. If the passenger sitting in the front seat complains that the seat prevents them from reclining, politely tell them that your baby will sleep better and will not disturb them by kicking the the seat.
You need a greater deal of time and attention installing a forward facing car seat than you would a rear facing one. Nonetheless, by following these instructions you should be able to install your car seat relatively fast and easily.
- Recline the airplane seat back
- Thread the belt through the car seat belt path. Cinch the belt with the buckle flap facing the aircraft's seat back making it easy to release.
- Tighten the seat belt and raise the back of the seat
Check out the FAA's car seat installation instruction's on Youtube