and Child Safety
use of an approved child restraint system (CRS) on an aircraft enhances
child safety in the event of turbulence or an accident. The Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly recommends that all children who
fly, regardless of their age, use the appropriate restraint based on
their size and weight.
Frequently Asked Questions
should I buy a separate seat for my child when he can fly on my lap for free?:
- Safety: Turbulence, sudden stops and emergency landings present a huge
risk to the lap child. First, in severe turbulence, it is unlikely that the
parent would be able to hold on to their child. It is very likely that the child
would be tossed around the passenger cabin and sustain serious injuries or even
be killed. Second, in emergency landings, parents of lap children are instructed
to wrap their child in blankets and
place the child at their feet. Children have
died in survivable landings when they were thrown through the cabin.
Unrestrained children also pose a hazard to other passengers - when a 20 lb
child is thrown through the cabin in an accident, he would have a force of 1000
lbs (at only 50 mph, much more at higher speeds) when striking another person or
object. Third, parents who are able to hold on to their children in a sudden
stop or collision will
very likely end up using that child as a "human air bag". Children
have actually been "crushed to death" by the parent on whose lap they
American Academy of Pediatrics
Policy Statement on Restraint Use on Aircraft: "Occupant protection
policies for children younger than 2 years on aircraft are inconsistent with all
other national policies on safe transportation. Children younger
than 2 years are not required to be restrained or secured on aircraft during
takeoff, landing, and conditions of turbulence. They are permitted to be held on
the lap of an adult. Preventable injuries and deaths have occurred in children
younger than 2 years who were unrestrained in
aircraft during survivable crashes and conditions of turbulence. The American
Academy of Pediatrics recommends a mandatory federal requirement for restraint
use for children on aircraft. The Academy further recommends that parents ensure
that a seat is available for all children during aircraft transport and follow
current recommendations for restraint use for all children. Physicians play a
significant role in counseling families, advocating for public policy mandates,
and encouraging technologic research that will improve protection of children in
- Convenience: Your child should be used to sitting in
their car seat every time they are in the car. An airplane ride should be no
different. It may even be easier. A lap child will not understand the need to
stay in your lap and may want to get down and run around the passenger cabin.
Not only does this pose a risk to your child, but it can be a hazard to other
passengers and flight attendants who need to go down the narrow aisle. While it
will be difficult to hang on to a child who is squirmy and cranky in your lap,
it may be very easy to entertain a child in their comfortable, familiar car
seat. Many children also fall asleep in their car seat, making the trip more
pleasant for parents and passengers alike.
- Child Safety Seat Issues: The best way to get a child to
happily use a car seat is to use it all the time, every time. Make no
exceptions. If the child isn't buckled in, the car doesn't go. Using a car seat
on an airplane only serves to reinforce the "no exceptions" policy.
And since a child who has used a car seat all the time, every time, since day
one is used to being in it, they won't notice any difference on an airplane (and
may travel better than a baby who's suddenly forced to stay on your lap)
I use my child safety seat on the airplane or just the lap belt they provide?:
1) A child who fits within the limits of a rear-facing seat (either an infant
seat or, or if too big for an infant seat, a convertible seat) should use a rear-facing seat tightly installed using the
2) A child who is at least a year AND 20 lbs (must be both) can use a
forward-facing seat (either a convertible seat or a high-back booster WITH
the internal harness) tightly installed using the airplane's belt.
However, many children can remain rear-facing for up to 30-35 lbs, based
on the seat's rear-facing weight. Engineers and safety experts state
that rear-facing would be safer for everyone on the plane, so as long as
the child fits in a rear-facing seat, use it that way.
information on rear-facing past 1 year/20 lbs on airplanes, click here
3) A child who is over 40 lbs can use a higher weight harnessed seat (such as
the Britax Marathon or Safety Baby Airway) or can use the airplane's lap belt tightened
snugly over the hips.
I use the child safety seat anywhere on the airplane I want?:
- It depends on the plane. Some car seats will not fit in the "bulkhead
row". This is because the car seat is wide, and the armrests in the
bulkhead rows do not lift up to accommodate that width. The last row of the
plane generally will not have seats that recline - which could make installation
difficult (see installation tips, below). Most airline policies state that any
child restraints must be placed in the window seat. Child restraints CANNOT be
used in exit rows.
do I know if I can use my particular child safety seat on an airplane?:
- Check the label and/or carseat instructions. All seats must be approved for
use on an airplane. The label will say something to the effect of "This
seat is approved for use in motor vehicles and aircraft". In general, most
infant seats, convertible seats and combination seats (high-back booster seats WITH an internal
harness) are approved. What is not allowed: high-back belt-positioning boosters,
low back boosters, shield boosters, travel vests and harnesses.
about those "vests" that fasten to the parent's seat belt?:
- As mentioned above, any child on your lap has the potential to become a human
air bag for their parent. A vest offers no more protection than holding the
child on your lap. There is generally enough slack in the "tether"
that attaches the vest to the seat belt to allow the child to be flung towards
seats, the ceiling, and the sides of the aircraft, as well as other passengers.
Most airlines state that they DO NOT allow any of these types of vests. One
popular model states that it
is "tested to meet or exceed FAA stress levels", but currently, there
is NO certification or FAA standards for this type of product. The FAA has
banned the use of these "belly belts" and vests; they are not permitted
during take-off, landing or any movement on the surface (taxi). Many parents trying
to use these products have found that the airline WILL NOT ALLOW their use,
despite the fact that the product package reassures them they can.
do I know if my car seat will fit on the plane?:
- Call the airline you are using and ask if they have any guidelines for you to
go by. Many have general measurements, but these should be followed as a guide.
Often the widest part of the car seat will be wider than the narrowest part
airplane seat, but still fit because the car seat is shaped differently than the
1) Use the seat the same way you'd use it in the car (if you use it rear-facing,
rear-face on the plane, etc.).
2) Take advantage of pre-boarding. Take that extra time to get the seat
3) Recline the airplane seat back when installing the seat, then bring it
upright to get the seat even tighter.
4) For some forward-facing seats, twist the latchplate around once (so that it's "backwards") to make
it easier to unbuckle at the end of the trip. Not twisting it may make it nearly
impossible to unbuckle the belt. This will also help keep the belt from slipping
5) Put up at least one armrest. This will give the seat more room for
installation, and keep it more stable (since resting against an armrest may
cause it to tip to one side).
Remember, it's always a good idea to buy your child, no matter what their age,
their own seat on the plane so you can use your child safety seat - especially
since airplane seats are relatively inexpensive and children tend to be