Home Air Travel Flying with children: Will your car seat be allowed on the airplane?

Flying with children: Will your car seat be allowed on the airplane?

by Shelly Rivoli
Label showing this restraint is certified for use in aircraft

Look for this label BEFORE flying with your car seat.

Ahhh, as if flying with children–and flying with car seats–weren’t challenging enough.

Just recently, a flight attendant stopped my husband as we boarded a flight with the kids, saying skeptically, “Excuse me sir, but I’ll need to verify that car seat is approved for air travel.”

It was our Sit N Stroll.

I had to stop myself from laughing out loud. After all, more than any other car seat, this was created for air travelers and has been on the market for several years.

Nevertheless, it was a good reminder that we should always “be prepared for the car seat police” when flying with a child safety seat. Before you attempt taking any car seat onto an aircraft, make sure:

  • Your car seat is FAA-approved for air travel (remember that no car seats requiring tether for installation or belt-positioning boosters requiring a shoulder belt are approved for air travel).
  • You know exactly where it is printed on your car seat label (in RED LETTERING, as shown above) that proves it is certified for use in aircraft and will be able to point to it upon boarding.
  • You have a confirmed seat where you will install your child’s car seat (either a paid seat or a spare seat confirmed for your lap child’s use by the airline before boarding), in an appropriate seating position for a child safety seat (window or centermost seats in wide-body aircraft).

Remember: Some car seats that may later convert to belt-positioning boosters can only be used on aircraft as a car seat with the 5-point safety harness. It may be more difficult to find the FAA-approval on these car seats themselves, and sometimes it may only state how and when they are approved for use in aircraft in the manual – in which case you’ll want to be sure to have it with you!

Have you been stopped by the car seat police? How did you handle it? Were you able to keep your seat for the flight? If you have more questions about car seats on airplanes, I’ve included some of the most popular topics below or you can click here for the Air Travel Tips and Advice help index page.

Related posts and pages:

Safe journeys,

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

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Diane October 8, 2012 - 10:27 am

Hello Shelly and fellow readers – I’m just online trying to find any info I can on car seats on planes. I just got back from a trip to San Fran and on our return flight we had a nightmare experience with our carseat!!

It’s a long story I won’t bore you with even though I could go on for HOURS about the way we were treated. But basically we were told the car seat had to face forward. I have flown several times with my infant and knew it could and in fact should face backwards. Even after asking them to show me the airline’s rule book and it stated that it could face forward or backwards and should follow the carseat manufacturer recommendations, we were still told it had to face forward. We were told if we did not face it forward we would have to deplane immediately.

The attendants were extremely rude and condescending to us. They humiliated us in front of the whole flight and kept saying that we were holding everyone up and that we didn’t know the rules and maybe should just get onto another flight. I had to bite my tongue and just follow their instructions or risk being thrown off and potentially being stuck in the airport with no way to get home.

Shelly, what ARE the rules around carseats on the flight? This was a United flight btw.

Thanks so much,

Shelly Rivoli October 8, 2012 - 12:07 pm

Diane – I am so sorry to hear about this. Please take a look at my new blog post here: https://www.travelswithbaby.com/blog/you-asked-what-are-your-rights-when-using-a-car-seat-on-airplanes/

Tim October 2, 2012 - 1:29 pm

When flying in Peru, we had a car seat (and a reserved seat) for our 2 year old boy. We’ve brought this car seat on several other flights and it’s gone well.

However, the flight attendant was insistent that the car seat would not fit on the seats in their plane. Having young children, we were boarding early, so I asked if we could try to put it in, then gate check it if it didn’t fit. The flight attendant was adamant and refused to let us even try.

It wasn’t an issue of safety or airline regulations. It was a matter of a flight attendant who simply decided she didn’t want us to have the car seat.

Once on the airplane, we discovered that the seats were normal airplane seats and would have easily accommodated the car seat we had.

Thankfully it was only a 45 minute flight. We were allowed to use the car seat on the much longer flight from Lima back to the states.

Shelly October 2, 2012 - 1:59 pm

How irritating! With foreign carriers it can be even more challenging to “reason” sometimes, too. A couple (eg. Alitalia) won’t even allow children under 2 years to fly in their own seats in car seats and insist they fly on laps instead – interesting logic there! As long as you are on a row where the arm rests can be lifted out of the way and the parents are the only ones inconvenienced if the seats crosses over into their paid seating space, I don’t think it should matter – but a few out there do…

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