Flying with a car seat
Did you know that you could bring a car seat on board a plane?
We have used a car seat for long haul plane travel for each of our three kids. While having a car seat at our final dentition was attractive, it wasn’t our main our motivation. You see our theory is, that considering our kids were already used to being in a car seat, they would be more relaxed when sitting in a car seat on a long haul flight.
We first decided to use a car seat while flying when the Tween was 11 months old. A friend who had previously lived in America shared that it was perfectly normal to travel in the States with a car seat in the cabin. We borrowed her FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approved car seat and took our first tip Down Under as a family of 3. It was the best decision we ever made!
We've continued to fly long haul with a car seat in tow, no matter how frustrating it was to carry through the airport and through security, the peace of mind it gave while in flight was invaluable. There was no squirming out of the seat, there was already the expectation that once in the seat—you sit there.
For the under 2’s yes it means that you must purchase their own seat—as normally they’d be entitled to fly on the lap of an adult. But from our experience we’ve found buying a seat for long haul travel essential, especially once they no longer fit in the airline basinet.
Is traveling with a car seat right for you?
Positives of using a car seat inflight:
Your child sits comfortable in a seat that they already know.
Your child is safer in flight then when just using a lap belt.
Keeps those wriggly kids still for a bit.
You don’t have to wake your child up to put them on your lap when turbulence strikes - they can continue to sleep safely in their car seat.
Your child is up higher and so can see in the seat entertainment system better.
Makes meal times for you, the parent, easier as your child is secured and leaves your hands free to eat.
Car seats make it more comfortable to fall asleep.
If you are lucky enough to fall asleep in flight, you know your child can’t walk off anywhere if they wake before you!
Negatives of using a car seat inflight:
They are heavy! While we balanced car seats on the back of prams (not recommended!) there are products out there to make carrying a carseat through the airport easier.
It’s not always easy to get the airplane belt through the back of the seat: board early to give plenty of time and avoid too much frustration
You won’t be able to use their tray for meal times or playtime: we never found this to be a big problem
Not every car seat is approved for airline travel: ask friends and search places like eBay for car seats that are FAA approved
Car seats are usually only approved for use on window seats or in the middle seats of the middle rows as to not block the path if an emergency occurs. Make sure to reserve your seats and let the airline know in advance you will be bringing an seat on board.
Your car seat may not be approved for use at your destination.
Which European car seats are approved for air travel?
The most difficult part of all this, is not actually carrying the car seat through the airport, but finding a car seat here in Europe approved for air travel.
Check with your airline and their specifications
The best place to start is to find out exactly what YOU need to look for before you begin the big search. Some Airlines approve only forward facing car seats, some approve infant car seats, some need FAA approval, some are just happy with any air travel authority approval.
Google "my airline - car seats" and you will find the information you are looking for.. Here are policies of some of the airlines we use frequently:
SWISS: "If you have booked a separate seat for your child, you can take your child seat (car seat) on board with you. The seat must be certified for air travel, and its base dimensions must not exceed 40 x 40 cm."
SINGAPORE AIRLINES: Singapore Airlines allows the use of car seats and travel harnesses approved by the UK (CAA), US (FAA), ECE (EU), CMVSS (Canada) and AS/NSS (Australia and New Zealand) and approve use for children aged 3 and under only.
There is a lot of variation in airline policy so its important to know what YOUR AIRLINE allows before you start your search.
From there start your search. I've had luck borrowing from friends and buying online on Ricardo (Swiss eBay) and Facebook Groups. Or if you have to buy a new one ...
Specific European Car Seats approved for Flying
Maxi Cosi has only Rear-facing baby capsules approved for airline travel
And the German site TÜV lists their approved car seats here.
Remember before you depart:
Check to see if your car seat is approved for flight - most airlines require a FAA approval. Look for a sticker on the side of your carseat, in the manual or online.
Check the size of your airline seat (On your airlines website or use a website like Seatguru) to see if your car seat will fit in their seats.
Check your airlines official statement on car seats in flight.
Inform your airline by email that you intend to us your car seat on board and confirm you have seats where the car seat will be able to be used safely.
Can’t find an approved car seat or looking for a lighter alternative? Check out the CARES harness. The light and easy to install harness keeps your toddler secure in their own seat. We have used it with Little Z from when she was 20 months old as our car seat didn't fit on a Swiss Aircraft, and were Available to use from 10kg. (Review to coming soon!)
Are you considering a car seat for your next long haul flight? Or have you used one before and have some tips to share? We would love to hear from you!