Five Tips for Installing Car Seats on Airplanes

Home » Air Travel » Five Tips for Installing Car Seats on Airplanes

Will you need to install a car seat on an airplane soon? The idea needn’t spawn nightmares for weeks leading up to your trip. Not if you can go in with a game plan.

Note: This website is full of tips on all aspects of traveling with car seats. Start with How to Travel with a Car Seat (without Losing Your Mind) if you’re new here! And you’ll want to read Five Things You Should Know BEFORE Flying with a Car Seat, too, of course!

THIS POST offers my five top tips for installing a car seat on an airplane. Let’s go!

Adapted from Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Travel with Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler. All rights reserved.

tips for installing car seats on airplanes

1. Clear the way.

Make sure your car seat won’t block other passengers–including you.

A car seat (or CRS as the airlines like to call them) could be an obstacle to other passengers for routine trips to the lavatory or needing to exit in the event of an emergency. That’s why airlines require car seats to be used in certain approved spaces.

Basically, you must place it one of the least obtrusive airplane seats possible–even if you have purchased several seats in a row for your own family.

Make sure you install the car seat in either a window seat or, in large body aircraft, in the middle of a center row of seats. And be sure to keep this in mind when reserving seats in advance (or taking advantage of family preboarding with certain airlines).

2. Belt it out.

For now there are no LATCH anchors in airplanes, so be prepared.

Thanks to the ease of LATCH attachments, many of us have not needed to use safety belts to buckle in our familiar car seats. But on the airplane, however, there will be no LATCH anchors and you will have to use the lap belt for installation.

Avoid the deer-in-the-headlights moment by consulting your car seat manual in advance and practice installing the safety belt properly through it in your vehicle first.

3. Raise your arms.

Lifting arm rests may ease your installation, if possible.

If it’s possible on your row, lift the armrests up and out of the way before you start installing your child’s car seat. This will make it world’s easier to get your car seat buckled and tightened in the airplane seat.

Armrests are usually fixed in place on bulkhead rows, so don’t choose seats on that row unless your car seat is one of the narrowest on the market (follow these links to see recommended infant car seats and convertible car seats for travel, including their widths).

If you want to use an airplane bassinet (or skycot) for your child — or for a younger child flying in your family — you may have to be seated on the bulkhead row. Call the airline if you need help figuring out the best arrangement for your flight.

Praise for Shelly Rivoli's Travels with Baby guidebook for parents
Over 400 pages of help for planning all kinds of trips: travel abroad, urban adventures, beach resorts, camping trips, cruise vacations, and more!

4. Ask for an extension.

When it comes to safety belts on airplanes, sometimes more is more.

Not on your taxes! If you’re having trouble getting the safety belt buckled behind your car seat, ask a flight attendant for a seat belt extension.

This might help if you’re having trouble routing the belt through the back of the seat (and fighting the buckle placement) or you need the belt to go around the seat (as with some infant car seats).

Once it’s buckled, you can adjust the extension strap it to take out the slack.

5. Surrender.

Know when to NOT install your child’s car seat on a plane.

Finally, if you have one of the more commodious, full-featured car seats for your child (eg. one that boasts being the only car seat your child will ever need from birth through college) it will likely be  more trouble than it’s worth on the airplane.

Remember: Just because a car seat has FAA-approval doesn’t mean it will fit in coach seats.

To avoid this situation, take a look at my recommended infant car seats for travel and travel-friendly convertible and forward-facing car seats.

Or you might simply want to check the car seat at the gate (see recommended car seat travel bags and carriers here) or rent a car seat at your destination from a baby gear rental agency (see Worldwide Directory of Baby Gear Rentals here).

In either case, you might opt to use the CARES flight safety harness onboard instead of a car seat. CARES is the only safety harness FAA-approved for use during all phases of your flight. You can read all about the CARES harness in my detailed review here.

I hope you found this post helpful and I wish you the smoothest of travels with your little one! You’ll find lots more help and advice in the Flying with a Baby or Toddler Advice Index, too, and in the links I’ve included below.

Would you like to keep hundreds of tips at your finger tips AS YOU TRAVEL with your child? Download your copy of Take-Along Travels with Baby: Hundreds of Tips to Help During Travel with Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler to your phone!

More help and advice for using car seats on airplanes:

More tips and advice are on the way! For help for planning travel of every kind–with babies and children of every temperament–in Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Travel with Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler. 

Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby guidebooks

Twitter     Facebook     Travels with Baby on Facebook     Pinterest

Where will you travel next? Stop by our sister site and get inspired!

Ten Things You Should Know Before Taking Kids to a Broadway Show

The 411 on Grapevine with Kids

Six Great MEXICO Family Vacation Destinations

The 411 on Quebec City with Kids

Curious about this content? See my editorial content disclosure.

Similar Posts