Car Seats & Child Restraint Devices (CRD) On An Airplane

Updated January 2017

Car seats are not the only child restraint devices available for flying with young children. (For more in-depth flying with baby tips see here.) 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 or buy one.)

Below are many of the questions that are asked about car seat and CRD usage on an airplane. If you have any further questions, do ask below and I will endeavour to answer them. If you are interested in finding out about more flying with a baby rules, then this post may also help.

Best airline seats

Emirates A380 ABC bassinet seats

Can I use my car seat on the airplane?

There are some stipulations with this and there is no easy answer:-

Yes, you can IF your car seat is an airline approved car seat.  To be airline approved, 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 Atlantic’s 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.

Do I have to pay extra baggage to bring a car seat if it is placed in the hold?

All car seats can be taken on airlines for free and additional to your normal baggage allowance. A seat must be paid for to use a car seat in the cabin. This is at a child fare rate.

What do the aviation authorities say about using a car seat? Where can I find this information?

Aviation authorities rules vary from country to country. Every airline follows the aviation authority to the country which the airline is registered to. E.g British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet etc follow the CAA and EASA; American Airlines, JetBlue etc follow the FAA. Interestingly, the FAA insists that the airline must find an appropriate seat, where the CAA say it is up to the airline if it is acceptable…

The CAA state,

“Forwards facing child restraint devices may be installed on both forward and rearward-facing passenger seats but only when fitted in the same direction as the passenger seat on which it is positioned. Rearward-facing child restraint devices can only be fitted to forward-facing passenger seats. Child restraint devices can only be fitted on a suitable aircraft seat using the type of seat belt/harness for which they were designed. For example a child restraint device that needs to be secured by a car type seat belt which includes a shoulder harness, cannot be installed on an aircraft seat that is fitted with a lap belt only.

The permitted use of restraint devices can differ between airlines, so it is important to contact your airline in advance of your booking or flight to ensure that the device that you may wish to use is acceptable.”

Whereas the FAA state,

No aircraft operator may prohibit a child from using an approved CRS when the parent/guardian purchases a seat for the child. If an approved CRS, for which a ticket has been purchased, does not fit in a particular seat on the aircraft, the aircraft operator has the responsibility to accommodate the CRS in another seat in the same class of service. The regulations also permit an aircraft operator to use its discretion in identifying the most appropriate forward-facing passenger seat location, considering safe operating practices. For example:

(1) A CRS with a base that is too wide to fit properly in a seat with rigid armrests can be moved to a seat with moveable armrests that can be raised to accommodate the CRS in the same class of service.

2) An aft-facing CRS that cannot be installed properly, because of minimal pitch (distance between seats) between rows, can be moved to a bulkhead seat or a seat in a row with additional pitch in the same class of service.

(3) A harness type CRS (approved under § 21.305(d) (2010 ed.) (i.e., CARES,
Part No. 4082) or under § 21.8(d)) with an upper strap unable to encircle some sleeper seats or very large first-class seats, can be moved to another seat that can accommodate the strap in the same class of service.

NOTE: An aircraft operator may have policies, based on safe operating practices, that establish certain seat locations for passengers who use a CRS on a specific aircraft. However, prohibiting the use of a CRS (if a ticket has been purchased), when there are seats on the aircraft in the same class of service where the CRS could be used safely, is not consistent with the requirements in parts 121, 125, and 135.”

family friendly airline review- British Airways

What are the airline car seat policies?

Clearly, 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 – Allows 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.

If I don’t use my car seat on board, can I still bring it into the aircraft cabin?

Usually, they must go in in the airplane hold. As they are bulky, there just isn’t enough space to fit them in the over head locker, along with hand baggage. You can certainly ask, but don’t be surprised if the answer is no.

Will my car seat get damaged if it is in the airplane hold?

Most travel very well but sadly, some also do get damaged by over zealous airport baggage handlers. The best advice is to purchase a padded bag to help protect them. If it is damaged, contact your airline immediately and take photos for insurance.

Can crew help me install it on the plane?

No, not usually  (for insurance reasons), although they will check it is not impeding other seats or exits. Remember, not all crew are not parents and may not know how a car seat is normally installed, so always bring the documentation with you to prove it is allowed and how to install it. They will know which seats they can be used on.

What Child Restraint Devices (CRD) can I use on an airplane and who provides them?

Airline Approved Car Seats

As you can see from above the rules do vary and car seats must have the correct stickers on them, showing they are airline approved car seats. You must provide your own car seat unless your airline provides a child seat. (See section on Child Seat Restraint below for examples). For further tips on how to use car seats on board see here for some useful advice.

Car seats airplane, child restraint devices Car seat label showing approval for airline use

Car seat label showing
approval for airline use

Airline Lap belt Restraint

European, Middle Eastern, Australian and most Far Eastern airlines require the use of infant lap belts, which are provided 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.

Infant lap belt CRD

Infant lap belt

child restraint devices airline, infant lap belt, airline seat belt, loop belt

infant lap belt





Cares Harness

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 (affiliate link) from various shops and online including Amazon and in the UK, also from the NCT online shop. There are also places which will  rent you a CARES Harness too.

The CARES harness 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.

CARES harness back child restraint devices, car seat airplane

CARES harness (front)

CARES harness CRD, car seat airplane

CARES harness (back)

 

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.

Virgin Atlantic CRD seat child restraint devices, car seat airplane

CRD seat

 

 

Pin For Later

Car seats are not the only child restraint devices available for use on an airplane with young children. You can use a CARES harness, an infant lap belt or special child restraint device depending on your airline. Discover what the airline rules are, to help you plan whether your car seat can be used on an airplane.

 

28 Comments

  1. "Belly Belts" for lap babies aren't allowed for safety reasons. Even a small parent is bigger than the baby and attached to you in forward impact is dangerous! Foreign airlines require them for the safety of *other* passengers (so the lap baby doesn't go flying). There is no replacement, safety-wise, for a car seat. Lap babies are allowed since there are few accidents on commercial flights and airlines want to sell tickets!

    Remember that the FAA allows you to use your car seat per the manufacturers' instructions. If the baby has not reached the forward-facing minimums, the crew MUST allow you to rear-face the car seat. The is a FAR so if anyone says to turn it around, ask to see the chief purser and ask that they show you in writing, that you must turn it around (on a U.S. plane, they won't, since you have the right!)

  2. Hi Sharon and many thanks for your comment. Just to clarify, lap belts ARE allowed on all airlines except Canadian and American based airlines and they ARE safety approved by the relevant authorities, which is why they are allowed. No safety equipment is allowed on board unless approved. Obviously USA/Canada have a difference on opinion with the rest of the world on safety restraints, but my site aims to give my readers an insight on to their options available, so there are no surprises on board. I am not a safety expert in which aviation authority is right or wrong in allowing a lap belt or refusing a lap belt, just providing the information. Also, using a car seat is not always a practical option, regardless of opinion etc, and the CARES and infant extension lap belt, provide at least some protection to baby and other passengers, and an alternative if purchasing a seat is not an option. Thankfully, as you mention, plane crashes, severe turbulence etc are a rarity compared to car accidents etc.

  3. Hi there, thanks for the information. I was hoping to get your feedback on using car seats on long haul flights.. I am flying to Australia from France in a few weeks with 2 small children (a 16 month-old and a 2 and a half year old). I'm considering bringing a car seat for my eldest to sleep in – is it worth the hassle of extra luggage and weight? Do they really sleep better in the seats? I would love to hear your experience with this.. Thanks in advance!

  4. We're flying BA soon, and are confused about what car seat we can take with us for use in our rental car at destination. It is one of those full size ones for up to 36 kg babies.
    We wouldn't want to drag the car seat with us to the gate, so, can the car seat be checked-in at the check-in for the whole trip without it taking away from the normal luggage allowance or generating excess luggage fees? How do we protect the car seat not getting damaged during airline luggage handling (3 connections)? Thanks!

  5. Hi there, sorry for late reply but fairly busy with a new addition this month 🙂 Just to clarify you can take the car seat with you if baby is travelling with you. It is on top of your baggage allowance, so you won't generate extra fees. You can take your chances that there is a spare seat and take it to gate and/or have it checked in at gate or at check in- either way no problem. You can buy car seat protective covers on ebay or elsewhere or choose to have it plastic wrapped at the airport . Hope that helps 😉

  6. so sorry for late reply i imagine you have flown by now. It's entirely a judgement call as you know best how your little one sleeps. It could well be worth it, if they sleep well in it, or they may well be fine with lying on you wit the armrest up. ( you can't do this on a bassinet seat position though except on Qantas seats middle E/F) I usually hire a car seat the other side .

  7. Hi we are doing a London to Miami flight this summer with our 5 year old who is quite petite. I've come across the fact that Virgin supply safety seats. She is under their height/weight restrictions, do you know if they are suitable for 5 year olds. We've flown lots before, but longest flight about 4 hours and I'm interested to use this because of the safety in turbulence issue.

  8. Thank you for such an informative page. We are traveling with our 20 month old daughter on KLM, are you aware of any requirements they have regarding car/safety seats?

  9. Hi< if you have booked a seat for your child/bay, then can use car seat. It must be able to fit between seat armrest which is 42cm wide and you must reserve the use of your car seat first. You can also use CARES device

  10. Would the SkyBaby be all right to use during take-off, and landing and taxi? I understand it allows you to buckle the baby properly. Or is it like a baby carrier where you would need to take it off in case of turbulence and taking off and landing?

  11. Hi there, yes it can be used during taxi, take-off and turbulence, although I can imagine some crew would try and suggest it couldn't. I asked this question in 2012, directly with SkyBaby, who had already had an answer from the aviation authorities which is" > We've enquired with the aviation authorities and, in short, SkyBaby does not need permission from these bodies as it is not an infant restraint device nor does it interfere with operation of infant restraint devices. SkyBaby is simply used in addition to the loop belt in the same way as, say, a blanket or pillow. The loop belt guides on SkyBaby (which parents can choose to use or not) are simply intended to guide the belt over the baby with the correct positioning around the waist."

    So as it does not impede the use of any safety equipment, it is fine to use.

  12. Hello Carrie,

    My husband and I are flying to Dubai with Emirates from Toronto this Nov15, my concern is in Emirates Infant Policy it says they only allow forward facing car seats. However my baby would only be 6months by that time, I cannot use a forward facing yet. I have an infant car seat which is rear facing as per safety regulation and also I booked a ticket for my child.

    I specifically have Urbini Petal Infant Car seat and it is approve d by FAA for car and airline usage. Do you think I could use it when I fly with Emirates?

    I would really like to have a car seat as it is convenient forme, my hubby and my son. Waiting for your reply. Thanks.

    Alexa

  13. Hi there,
    We are looking at traveling from Vancouver to Australia on Cathay Pacific later this year with our children. Our daughter will be 2y.o and our infant will only be 4months old. We want to use our infant bucket seat for the infant but Cathay's policy seems to only allow carseats to be forward facing and from 6months+. Is this right? Is there really no option for using a car seat for a younger baby? We don't really want to use the Airlines bassinet option.
    Thanks.

  14. Hi there,
    We are looking at traveling from Vancouver to Australia on Cathay Pacific later this year with our children. Our daughter will be 2y.o and our infant will only be 4months old. We want to use our infant bucket seat for the infant but Cathay's policy seems to only allow carseats to be forward facing and from 6months+. Is this right? Is there really no option for using a car seat for a younger baby? We don't really want to use the Airlines bassinet option.
    Thanks.

  15. Hi, yes that is correct BUT you can use Cathay's car seat type restraint device. Which is suitable for under 6 months.it is not a bassinet. You just need to pre book it. It looks like the airline Virgin Atlantic purple car seat which Is on my Facebook page www. Facebook.com/Flyingwithbaby

  16. Hi, yes that is correct BUT you can use Cathay's car seat type restraint device. Which is suitable for under 6 months.it is not a bassinet. You just need to pre book it. It looks like the airline Virgin Atlantic purple car seat which Is on my Facebook page www. Facebook.com/Flyingwithbaby in the photo section .

  17. Hi Carrie,

    Your site is soooo informative!!!!

    We have an 18mth old and it'll be his first long haul to Asia. As it's a long flight, I want him to have his own seat (we have a car seat already) on Emirates, but am having trouble booking a child seat for him on their website.
    Based on our bub's birthdate, the site let me book an infant ticket instead of a child ticket.

    Is this a standard airline policy? or should I just change airlines?

    Thanks much!
    Cheryl

  18. This is very common with I think all airlines. The computer system basically can't deal with this request, as a representative of the airline needs to go through it with you. So all you need to do is ring them up to add the extra child seat to your booking.

  19. Hi Carrie,
    I hope this hasn’t been asked somewhere else before, I’m flying from Melbourne to Munich via Dubai and I am going to take a Car seat however I will check it in as my little one is only 4 months and won’t have her own seat.
    Any tips on how to prepare the car seat so it won’t break?

    • Hi Lotta,

      Apologies for the delay in responding- we’ve been moving house. I’ve seen them packed in padded bags which you can get from Amazon and also canvas bags and padded out a bit with nappies round them. Hope this helps!

  20. We are flying to MEL from LHR next year with a 4 year old and a nearly two year old on SIngapore Airlines. I am so confused. Does the nearly two year old have to have a special seat or belt? I have booked them their own seat.

  21. Hi Elizabeth. No a 2 year old in their own seat doesn’t need to have a special seat or belt but you have the option of a bringing your own car seat or or CAREs harness with you if you wanted too. Anyone over 2 just has a normal airline seat belt. Hope that clears it up!

  22. I’m traveling within the UK and the US – with various domestic flights – and need a car seat that is both CAA-approved (UK) and FAA-approved (USA). This is for my 18-mo old who is very active and won’t fall asleep sitting in a chair, so I doubt the CARE harness would work for him. The trip includes an 11-hour red-eye flight, so a comfortable way for him to sleep is key.

    Ideally, it should fit on the budget airlines common in Europe, which means the base must be no larger than 17 inches/42 cm wide. I’ve searched everywhere online and can’t find anything that meets these criteria and is available for purchase in the UK (where I live now). Do you have any suggestions?!? Thanks.

Have a question or perhaps some feedback?