Car Seats and Airplanes: Is Your Car Seat FAA Approved?

Boeing 747-4DT Thai Airways (HS-TGN)
Not all car seats are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for use on an airplane. Before you take your car seat on a plane, it’s imperative that you make sure your seat is FAA approved. Check that your seat is labeled with something like, “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” If your seat isn’t FAA approved or you can’t find anything labeled on the seat, you won’t be allowed on an airplane and you’ll miss your flight. And, trust me, it doesn’t get much worse than missing a flight (and subsequent vacation) because of a seemingly subtle oversight.

First off, do you really need to put your child in a car seat when flying? Yes, it’s highly recommended because of safety concerns. The FAA recommends all children under 40 pounds use an FAA approved car seat when flying. Children less than 20 pounds must sit rear-facing in an appropriate car seat. Children 20 to 40 pounds must sit forward-facing in an appropriate care restraint system. Booster seats are not allowed on planes because they can only be used with both lap and shoulder seat belts, and planes only have lap belts.

Popular FAA approved car seats include the Britax Roundabout, Sunshine Kids Radian seats and the RECARO Signo. Or ditch the car seat entirely and opt for the easy-to-use CARES harness. The CARES harness is FAA approved and consists of a lightweight harness that straps children into place directly in an airplane seat. Children weighing 22 to 44 pounds can use the harness.

Now take off and enjoy the ride.

Creative Commons License photo credit: malpo90

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About Sarah Valek

Sarah Valek is a freelance writer based in Cleveland, Ohio. She has written numerous articles on alternative parenting and the challenges of raising a vegan child in a meat-eating world. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and art from Ithaca College. She spends her days drinking soy lattes and taking her son bird-watching.

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  1. I think its important to note that the CARES system will only work for a child that is less than 40″ tall. So in the case with my daughter, who exceeds the height percentile over 100% (she is 41″ tall at age 3 and still only 36 pounds) I am stuck having to purchase another **expensive** seat that is going to be used ONCE. Frustrating to say the least.