Car Seats & Child Restraint Devices (CRD) On An Airplane
Updated January 2016
Car seats are not the only child restraint devices available for flying with young children. You can use a CARES harness, an infant lap belt or child restraint seat on certain airlines and/or seats. However availability and rules for use do vary, so read the guide below. (For information on taking car seats abroad, this guide will help you decide whether you can take your car seat or if it may be more convenient to hire one.)
Can I use my car seat on the airplane?
There are some stipulations with this and there is no easy answer:-
If your car seat is airline approved then yes you can. It usually must have a 5 point harness amongst other stipulations. However, you must have booked a seat for this. You may occasionally get lucky if there is an empty seat, however, this is not guaranteed. (Remember young babies are not meant to be in their car seats for more than 2 hours without a break, as this is recommended by the car manufacturers because of their developing bodies.) Usual airline policy is to put the car seat in a window seat- so it will not impede an evacuation.
Another important point is that car seats can not be used where airbags are fitted to plane seats. For example, all of Virgin Atlantics Upper Class suites and Premium Economy seats on many of their aircraft have airbags, so you will be unable to use your own car seat.
Also be aware, that even if your car seat is airline approved, it may not fit on a particular aircraft due to the airline seat measurements. Always check the measurements before you buy a seat, or you run the risk of not being allowed to use it. If you are flying alone with two under two, this would mean you would be offloaded.
There are many variations and rules with each airline. So ALWAYS check first. Below are a few examples. As you can see the policies vary greatly.
American Airlines – allow certain forward and rear facing car seats. But no device that positions the infant on the lap or chest of an adult.
British Airways– only allow airline approved forward facing car seats for use with infants over 6 months to 3 years.
Cathay Pacific allows forward facing car seats only, which have certain criteria to meet. Cathay also provides free infant seat known as a child restraint seat for infants over 6 months old up until 3 years old, which must be ordered 24 hours in advance. This is especially convenient, as on some flights, Cathay Pacific cannot allow the use of car seats due to safety regulations on certain aircraft types.
Delta– Allows certain approved car seats and the CARES harness only.
Emirates Airline. Car seats can be forward or rear facing but must be able to be secured to the aircraft seat by using a lap belt. They cannot accept car seats that need to be secured by a 3 point seat belt or shoulder harness.
JetStar– Will allow Australian made car seats, US and EU and others subject to conditions.Occasionally they will allow rear facing seats depending on if it impedes on fellow passengers space.
Qatar Airlines– they provide their own restraint device which must be requested at least 48 hours in advance. You must purchase a seat at the child fare though. The child restraint device (CRD) are designed to safely and comfortably seat infant and children weighing from 20 – 40 pounds (9.05 kg to 18.10 kg) or 40 inches (101.6 cms.) height. Car seats are allowed for infants and children within the age group from 6 months to 36 months.
Singapore Airlines– Approved car-type child seats may be used for a child under 3 years but not less than 6 months of age. The seat must be forward-facing and can be secured to the aircraft passenger seat by means of the aircraft safety belt. It must also be approved by a foreign airworthiness authority /government standards.
Virgin Australia– Do not accept Australian made car seats on their planes, as they are not suitable for the tether strap. They do accept forward and some rear facing seats.
All car seats can be taken on airlines for free and additional to your normal baggage allowance.
What Child Restraint Devices (CRD) can I use and who provides them?
As you can see from above the rules do vary and they must have the correct
stickers on them, showing they are suitable for air travel. You must provide your car seat unless your airline provides a child seat. See section on Child Seat Restraint below. For tips on how to use car seats on board see here for some useful advice.
European, Middle Eastern, Australian and most Far Eastern airlines require the use of infant lap belts,
which they provide for free. These loop onto your seat belt. These must be used for taxi, take- off, landing and turbulence according to certain countries civil aviation rules.
Airlines based in the USA, let you hold your baby on your lap with no restraint
and they do not provide infant lap belts. However, you
can purchase a CARES Airplane Safety Harness from various shops and online including Amazon and in the UK, from the NCT online shop. This is for use if your baby is over 1 year old and is FAA approved. American airlines therefore recommend purchasing a seat for you baby and using an approved car seat. Be aware that they do NOT fit all seats, and are often unsuitable for new premium economy, business and first class seats.
Child Restraint Seat
Cathay Pacific and Qatar airlines provide a child restraint seat
free on request, if you have purchased a seat for your infant. They are all very similar. As a general rule they are suitable for infants and children weighing from 20 – 40 pounds (9.05 kg to 18.10 kg) or 40 inches (101.6 cms.) height- however check with the above airlines first. Virgin Atlantic no longer provide these.
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