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Child airplane seat extenders & sleep devices for planes

Everything you need to know about Child Airplane Seat Extenders, Sleep Devices & Inflatable Leg-Rests

Getting your child to have a decent sleep on a long haul flight, is the dream of many parents, including my own! There are now a myriad of products on the market offering an inflight sleep solution; some with either an airplane seat extender which extends a mattress from the footwell to the seat; inflates into the footwell to fill in the gap or acts as a larger comfy but portable pillow.

Plane Pal and Flyaway travel bed
Flyaway and Plane Pal side by side

We’ve tried and tested most, research and update which airlines do & don’t allow them and found out all you need to know before making a purchase.

Inflight sleep products like these, have become a natural part of our cabin baggage, shared out to friends to try too, and have a degree of influence over which airlines we now choose to fly to some destinations.

These inflight comfort devices or seat extenders, (also known as “inflatable foot rests”, “inflatable travel mattresses”, “convertible in-flight beds” or “bed boxes” ), are an ingenious way of converting an economy seat into a comfortable flat bed for kids and cheaper than an upgrade!

They take little time to set up, are relatively light and don’t take up much space: all attractive qualities for parents traveling with kids.

What child seat extenders are available and which are the best?

The two main contenders (and the ones which are currently most likely to be approved by airlines are):

BedBox by Stokke (formerly sold under JetSet Kids)

This is the only one I haven’t tried but I have friends who have. It not only converts an economy seats into an inflight bed, but also acts as ride on suitcase with some extra storage space inside. (It also houses the mattress.) With the straps you can pull a 3 year old along around the airport or offer them somewhere clean to sit whilst in a queue.

On board, you simply take out the mattress, stand the suitcase up and et voila the bed is made!

Pros: it doubles up as a ride on and is very easy to set up.

Cons: Not a lot of storage space and bulky if your kids doesn’t want to ride on it!

Planepal Flyaway vs Plane Pal Travel Bed
PlanePal

PlanePal

Dimensions: 75cm wide x 37cm long x 44cm high

Age range: 2-8 years  

 Amazon UK price: Check here

An inflatable foot rest made of smooth black vinyl which is simple to use: blow it up and position in your child’s foot space.

The inventors have designed in flexibility by allowing you to use it in three ways: lengthways in line with the seat ideal if you have the extra space at the bulkhead bassinet position), widthways across the seat base, or upside down. That’s because the Plane Pal is T-shaped and wider at the top than the bottom, so if you’re struggling to squeeze it in behind the seat in front, just flip it on its head.

It takes just over two minutes to inflate using a hand pump, which comes in the Plane Pal carry case along with the mattress.

Pros: Packs up small, easy to set up.

Cons: Can be a bit fiddly with the pump. For a full PlanePal review on Singapore Airlines see here

One to watch:

flyaway bed Flyaway vs Plane Pal Travel Bed

FlyAway

This product has been made with the IATA (International Air Transport Association) guidelines in mind. For those airlines which specify only certain brands of seat extenders can be used, in my opinion, I think this one will be added to their lists.

Dimensions: 50cm wide x 60-80cm long x 52cm high

Load: up to 50kg

Age range: 2-7 years   

It takes about 100 seconds to inflate, given there’s less volume to blow up than in the Plane Pal. Again there are two inflation valves which operate one-way to prevent any air escaping while you blow it up, and a third escape red valve which releases air pressure if you over inflate.  Read my full FlyAway review here.

Do airlines allow inflatable footrests and airplane seat extenders?

Quick answer? Some do and some don’t. Below details the airlines which officially allow or prohibit them and state this on their website. Just click on the links to view their entire policy.

Airlines who officially do NOT allow most sleep travel gadgets and say so on their website are:

 Airlines which OFFICIALLY APPROVE some sleep devices for children (as long as certain guidelines are met) and say so on their website:

However, note that the final decision will always rest with the crew.

toddler sleep on plane, travel sleep gadgets for kids, singapore airline rules
Image copyright: Singapore Airlines

Choose your seats wisely before using

All airlines that permit the use of the BedBox, PlanePal, FlyAway et al, do have certain requirements about their use, and where they can be used. For example, they must not be used on an aisle seat. Other rules include: (but are not limited too)

RULES FOR USING AN INFLIGHT SLEEP DEVICE

  • Inflatable inflight beds may only be used at the window seats or the middle seat between the aisles.
  • The childs head must be toward the back of their own seat.
  • Your child must also be able to fasten the seatbelt under his or her arm when using the inflight bed.
  •  If your child is under two years of age, he or she must be removed from the convertible inflight bed, and secured with an infant seatbelt whenever the seatbelt sign is switched on.
  • The item must not interfere with the comfort of another passenger
  • It must not be attached to any part of the aircraft.

My airline won’t allow a child seat extender. What other child sleep devices options are there?

Although there are gadgets like Fly Legs Up and the Flyebaby hammock, there are even fewer airlines which permit their use. This is because they directly apply weight to the tray table or seat which hasn’t been built or tested for that. It can also cause damage to the seat and tray table. Below are a couple of products which seem to be permitted on most airlines as they are effectively a larger version of a travel pillow. There may however be restrictions on their use; for example on take off and during landing.

I’ve flown many times with my now 1 and 4 year old and have always been exasperated by the small pillow in economy, which always falls through the armrest and ends up in the aisle at least ten times. I was given the opportunity to trial a Travel Snug recently, which solves this issue and more. The Travel Snug is basically a fleecy padded seat cover which lays over the bottom of the seat and also provides comfortable support around the back and sides too. It also comes with a fleecy blanket; both come in a variety of colours and patterns. As an added bonus it can act a bit of a booster seat- handy for little ones who can’t quite reach the tray table. For young children – it is an ideal solution for trying to get comfy on a hard airplane seat, with bulky metal seat buckles and armrests making it harder to get snug. I can imagine it would also be useful for long coach rides. Travel Snug review, travel, flying with children, kids, toddler, tips, airline
Travel Snug
  • Travel Snug

The Travel Snug encompasses a child with a fleecy material. It pads out the seat a bit more and makes the arm rests a comfortable place to rest a weary head. Its a bit bulky to carry, although it does have straps to make it easier, but it is very comfy. Read my full review for further details here.

Seat to Sleep Review
Seat To Sleep inflatable travel cushion
  • Seat To Sleep

The Seat to Sleep is a very portable travel pillow. It packs up small and it is inflatable. Read my full review for further details here.

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Katja Gaskell

Monday 16th of March 2020

This is such a helpful post! We've used the Fly LegsUp before and it was great although I know not all airlines allow it unfortunately.