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Guide to Using Car Seats Onboard International Airlines: Policies, Age Limits, and Forward or Rear Facing

This is an issue I see time and time again crop up in my Travel with Babies and Toddler Facebook group. This guide will help you know the rules and policies if you are planning on using a car seat onboard a plane, and the official resources of this information.

FAA Rules

The U.S.A follows Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations for car seats which permits both forward and rear facing car seats to be used on board any American based airline.

An FAA approved car seat or CRS must be installed in an aircraft seat, according to manufacturer’s instructions. This includes placing the CRS in the appropriate forward- or aft-facing direction as indicated on the device label for the size of the child. The window seat is the preferred option.

The general FAA rule is if a seat has been paid for for an infant or child to use an age/weight appropriate FAA approved car seat in, then a suitable seat must be found.

An exception is if there is not a suitable seat available eg those seats that are angled which is often the case in business or first class and those seats which have airbags built in to the seat belts.

FAA, Canadian and EU Rules Resources

The FAA rules can be read in full here. I recommend printing them out if flying with a USA carrier in case of any confusion with ground staff or the crew.

Similar car seat rules are applicable for Canadian based airlines.

For other airlines around the world, including European airlines, the car seat rules differ. Some may limit the use of an approved car seat for up to two years old. Others may only allow an approved forward facing seat and not rear facing. These airlines are not obligated by law to find an (if) available appropriate seat, unlike American based airlines.

This can catch parents out who are perhaps used to flying domestically in the U.S.A or flying internationally only on American or Canadian airlines.

forward facing car seat

Other Airline Polices for Using a Car Seat Onboard

If you are planning a trip and wish to use an airline approved car seat, here are some of the main EU, UK, Middle East, Asia and Australian airline rules for using a car seat onboard.

Included is whether they allow forward-facing, rear-facing, or both types of car seats, and the policy links from the airline official websites so you can check the finer details before you book your flight.

Air Canada

Air France

Air New Zealand

British Airways

  • Age Limit: Can be over 2
  • Car Seat Orientation: The child in the car seat must face the same direction as the aircraft seat to which it is secured.
  • Car Seat Policy Link

Cathay Pacific

EasyJet

Emirates

  • Age Limit: Any age with a purchased seat
  • Car Seat Orientation: A forward facing car seat, must be installed in a forward‑facing direction. Only infants weighing less than 10kgs can use both forward facing and facing car seats. If rear facing, it must be installed in a bulk head seat. If a bulk head seat is not available, then it must be installed in a forward facing direction.
  • Car Seat Policy Link

Etihad Airways

  • Age Limit: Up to 36 months
  • Car Seat Orientation: Both forward and rear-facing
  • Car Seat Policy Link

Jet2

Lufthansa

Malaysia Airlines

  • Information not available.

Qantas

  • Age Limit: Under 3 years
  • Car Seat Orientation: Both forward and rear-facing. For children over the age of four or over 18kgs (40lbs) and/or over 100cm tall – an aircraft seat is recommended. Forward facing child restraint systems for infants and children weighing between 9 and 18 kgs (20lbs and 40lbs). Rear facing child restraint systems for infants weighing under 9kgs (20lbs) (although some seats may be certified to carry children of greater weight). Rear facing seats are generally large and may not fit in Economy seats or only selected seats. 
  • Car Seat Policy Link

Ryanair

Singapore Airlines

Thai Airways

Virgin Atlantic

Final thoughts.

One thing that stands out in my research and my experience is that Americans and U.S.A based airlines are MUCH more used to using a car seat on a plane and seeing one being used.

It is not a common sight on EU/UK and other countries airlines, so flight attendants may not be used to seeing them used and may need time to clarify and check with their manuals. I never saw one used in 12 years of long haul flying, with me flying over 100 hours a month.

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