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FAA and Car Seats: Flying with Children

flying with children
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With summer upon us and all our fun trips we have planned, we are going to talk a little about flying with children and the importance of using child restraints on airplanes (including personal aircraft).

Some of you have or know someone who has flown with a “lap baby”. Please don’t feel like you are the only one who has been guilty of this. Many don’t know the seriousness of flying with a lap baby. Some simply can’t afford the extra seat at the time.

flying with children

I am here to assure you that we have all been there before. Learning means we are able to do better with our actions.

FAA recommendations for flying with children

Although airlines allow for children under 2 to sit on a parents lap, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) recommends for all young children to sit in a FAA approved car seat at all times during a flight.

car seat safety newsletter

If the child is under the age of 2 years old, it is recommended for a child to be rear facing in their child restraint seat (CRS). If you are a parent like me that practices extended rear facing (rear facing over the minimum age requirements) then you can rear face to 3 or even 4 years old as long as your seat is approved to do so.

Most flights experience turbulence at some point. Some a lot more severe than others. Some are so bad that the carry-on bags can go flying through the plane. There is no 100 percent way of knowing how severe the turbulence will be. If your child is on your lap, you will not be able to keep them there in such events, which would result in your baby flying through the aircraft hitting the hard surfaces of such the ceiling. This could cause serious injury or could even be fatal.

In order to prevent any potential injuries, please always remember to bring and use your car seat on the airplane.

When purchasing our airline ticket be sure to purchase an extra ticket for your baby or toddler so you will have that extra seat. You can also talk to the airline about any unoccupied seats, though unoccupied seats are becoming more and more rare. Many times airlines will offer unoccupied seats for little to no cost so that your child may ride safely.

Travel easier, travel with a RideSafer travel car seat.

Always make sure the car seat being used has an approved FAA sticker on it. Otherwise you will NEED to purchase a car seat for the flight. Most car seats to date have this sticker. I say most, not all. Booster seats on the other hand are not FAA approved since they require a lap-shoulder seat belt and obviously airlines only have lap belt.

Another form of restraint for the airplane is the CARES harness system. (CARES can only be used on airplanes and cannot be used in a car.) Some airlines will provide one for children forward facing from 22lbs – 40lbs. They also offer one for special needs preteens, teen and adults 58” or taller.

Baggage check your car seat?

Most, if not all, airlines offer complimentary car seat check-in. If you do check your car seat on the airplane:

  • bring an inexpensive, lightweight car seat instead of your everyday seat to keep that one safe and ready for your return
  • bag it either in a travel bag or plastic bag to keep from losing parts
  • put a baggage tag on the car seat
  • gate checking may provide slightly better handling and get your car seat back faster to put in the stroller, if you have that type

That said, keep in mind that airlines do not handle your luggage with care. Your luggage is ripped off the plane and thrown on the conveyor belt then thrown on the next plane. Sometimes with such force it has pretty much the same effect as a vehicle crash. You may never want to use your car seat again after watching a typical luggage gate check.

If you don’t believe me feel free to hop on over to YouTube and type in “airline and gate checking baggage“. The airlines do not pay employees to make your child’s car seat top priority. They are paid to get the luggage changed over as quickly as possible. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. You want this seat to protect your child’s life, therefore you need to treat it in such a way for it to do so.

Other options for safety when flying with children

If your child is big enough to do so (around 4 years and 40 lbs), you can have them sit buckled on the airplane seat. Bring a belt positioning device such as the RideSafer Travel Vest, BubbleBum or mifold in your carry-on bag for your car travels once you land.

I still would not trust for it to be in my luggage. I would definitely rather it be in my carry on bag and not thrown around like an old rag doll.

All in all you want to do what’s best for your child. And safety is key when it comes to your child’s safety and life!

(SR4K note: The RideSafer is not FAA approved at this time. However, the manufacturer is working with the FAA to be able to allow the RideSafer to be used on the airplane as well as the car.)

We want to know, have/do you always use a car seat when flying with children? Share your comments below.

Guest post: Lacey Haynes is a stay at home mom and a CPST (Child Passenger Safety Technician). She has six children, two of which are special needs. As if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she suffers from Lupus, which leaves her very sick a lot of the time. Her husband works with the mines. He is gone a lot, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time.

Copyright 2022 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.

We originally published this post in June 2017. We updated the article for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

© danr13 | depositphotos


  1. In April a Aeroflot plane hit major “clear-air turbulence”, the kind of turbulence that occurs in clear skies with good visibility that the weather radar is unable to detect and crew is unable to warn passengers of. 24 unbuckled passengers and 3 babies that were thrown from moms’ arms were seriously injured from the turbulence bouncing them off the roof of the plan.

  2. My family and I had this same issue once one our return portion of our trip. The departing flight flying out of Canada had no issues, but the returning one, for whatever reason (my guess it was a bad day for that flight attendant), wouldn’t allow us to take our car seat on the plane. We argued that it was paid for and that we already did it on the way there. Still no reason given so we had no choice but to check it in. We expected to get it at the gate upon exiting for our layover but guess what? They forgot to do so because they listed the car seat to arrive in that city. Since we were only laying over, I had to exit customs, pick up my car seat, then go back through again. The employee of the airline took me up the elevator and told me that I wouldn’t be impeded further at the security. Turned out that was a lie. Had to go to the airline desks and have them vouch for me because the seat was bigger than what was allowed for carry-on. Just be ready for this kind of confusion with the airlines, security and customs. They’re not on the same page with this.

  3. Oh my gosh. This article has me laughing. I searched for carseats and children on airplane rides but this articles excitedness on the dangers of airlines is over the top. From a baby flying out of your hands to hit their head to baggage being handles at car crash speeds…..

    The writers detailed life bio made me understand this better. 5 kids, sickness and a husband being gone all the time will drive anyone into a worry filled state. Take a deep breath….it will be ok. From one mom of 5 to another.

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