Safety Experts Recommend Using Car Seats On Airplanes

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Infants and toddlers on airplanes are safest in a car seat with a harness in case of turbulence. "A child who rides in a car seat on the ground should ride in that car seat on a plane," said Jan Stegelman, Safe Kids Kansas coordinator. "Air turbulence can be dangerous and can appear suddenly without warning."

Not all car seats can fit on standard airplane seats, which are typically about 16 inches wide, but Safe Kids Kansas and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly recommend using a car seat if it fits. As in cars, babies under one year old and 20 pounds are best restrained in a rear-facing car seat, and a forward-facing car seat can protect toddlers up to 40 pounds or more. Make sure your child's car seat is labeled "certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft."


Booster seats cannot be used on airplanes, because they require shoulder belts and airplane seats have only lap belts. Children who have outgrown car seats should sit directly on the airplane seat and, like all passengers, keep the lap belt buckled across their thighs or hips.

"You need your child's car seat to travel to and from the airport anyway," said Stegelman. "Car rental companies might not have reliable car seats available. Your kids are better off in their own car seats. Children who ride in car seats on the ground are often more comfortable and better behaved when using one on a plane."

The FAA advises travelers with small children to reserve a pair of seats by a window. Car seats are not allowed in aisle seats or exit rows, where they could block emergency escape routes; they must be installed at a window seat. Most airlines offer a significant discount for children under 2 when a seat is purchased.

Adult air travelers should stay buckled up on the plane, too. ""You're a role model," said Stegelman. "Children learn safety behavior by watching parents and caregivers." Safe Kids Worldwide released a study in 2005 showing a strong correlation between adult safety habits and children's safety behavior.



The Kansas Department of Health has not stayed up to date on FAA certified (approved) child restraints for children on airplanes. In September, 2006 the FAA certified the CARES child aviation restraint - a harness-type restraint for kids 22-44 lbs that weighs 1 pound, fits in a 6 inch stuff sack, installs on any size airplane seat in one minute, and keeps the child as safe as if he/she were in a car seat. CARES has also been certified by the aviation authorities of the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand - and even Singapore. With CARES there is no question of whether the restraint will fit in the airplane seat - a big questions with car seats,. And,as over 24,000 parents have already discovered, you don't have to lug car seats through airports any more to keep you child ion a safe seat when you fly. Most of the airline websites are now up to date in their 'special traveler" sections regarding kids, and make it clear that CARES is FAA certified, and can be used on their airplanes. In fact, it is a federal violation to prevent a parent from bringing and using CARES on US aircraft.