Airplane Archive

Travel Carseats: The Ultimate Guide to What You Want to Take on A Plane


Flying with Children

Airplane -rf CCOIt’s a lucky parent who hasn’t had to travel by plane with a young child. Some minimalist parents have it down, but the rest of us use up every last cubic inch of space we’re allotted, stuffing it with things we might possibly need like hair ties, mismatched infant socks, carabiners, and Ziploc bags that get thrown out eventually. Think back to your last trip on a plane alone when there was a small child—what was that child doing? Standing on the parent’s lap screaming? Waving at uncomfortable adults who waved once but then wanted to disengage from the outgoing child? Were you trying to eke out that last bit of nap before descent when that screech jolted you out of slumberland? Did that parent look happy or like she was going to cry herself?

happy flyerKids have that natural tendency to want to move and explore their environments when they’re in their parents’ arms. Parents naturally provide a safe place for a child . . . everywhere except in a moving vehicle, which is what an airplane is. Most of us who have traveled with children and carseats can attest that our kids have been better behaved in their carseats and have found their carseats to be safe pods for them. When was the last time *you* were comfortable in an airplane seat, after all? Kids in harnessed carseats are protected against turbulence and against runway incidents, such as aborted takeoffs and landings, and overshots. And think about it: coffee pots and Coke cans are required to be secured during flight. Don’t our kids deserve the same respect?

04-13-15 incident

Can I take any harnessed carseat on the plane?

Maybe. It must have a sticker on it that says the carseat is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft. That part will be written in red ink so it’s easy to find. Your owner’s manual will also have this wording. Be prepared to show the sticker to a gate agent and/or flight attendant because they may ask to see it as you board the plane.

Pria 85 - FAA certification

Can I use a booster seat on the plane?

Let’s get our terminology down first. A booster seat is a belt-positioning booster used by older kids. It’s used only with a lap/shoulder vehicle seat belt. Since a commercial airplane doesn’t have a lap/shoulder seat belt, no, you cannot use a booster seat on the plane. A harnessed seat isn’t called a booster seat. If your seat has a harness that also can be used as a booster later on, we call that a “combination seat.” Most combination seats are approved for use on airplanes only when used with the harness; that’s because you can install it with the plane’s seat belt. You can, however, take your booster seat on the plane with you as carry-on luggage for your child to use in the car when you get to your destination. If you have a backless booster, it fits perfectly under the seat in front or in the overhead bin. If you have a folding booster, it fits in the overhead bin. If you have a booster where the back comes off, you can pack the back in your suitcase and carry the bottom on with you.

What are my rights regarding carseat use onboard an airplane?

We have an article that explains what you need to know. Also, know where the certification sticker is on your carseat and bring a healthy dose of patience. Between oddly intimate security searches, our knees being jammed into the seats in front of us, and man spread by guys in the center seat, flying saps the last bit of patience of everyone. Flight attendants receive very little to no training on carseats on aircraft, so the best tactic is one of “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” If there’s confusion, it’s OK to show them the carseat owner’s manual and smile. Remember that they can (and have in the past) remove ticketed passengers from flights.

How far should I push the rear-facing issue?

If you’ve been online at all, you’ve heard of travelers who have had problems rear-facing their kiddos: the flight attendant misinterpreted the flight attendant handbook, which requires carseats to be installed on forward-facing passenger seats, and they had to turn their 3 mo. old forward-facing. At some point you pick your battle with the flight attendant (with a smile–remember, he or she is just doing their job) and the likelihood that something catastrophic will happen is slim. Turning an 18 mo old forward-facing on a plane probably isn’t going to end the world. If you’re still unsure, I suppose you could whip this regulatory requirement out.

What are the best travel carseats?

Jan Brown’s Petition to Ban Lap Babies on Planes


KeyFit 30 on airplaneIn September 2013, a few weeks before the US Government shut down for 16 days, former flight attendant and plane crash survivor Jan Brown started an online petition. The petition charged the FAA to mandate that children under the age of 2 be retrained in an appropriate child safety seat on all commercial aviation flights – for the safety of everyone on board. Her petition gained wide-spread attention and support when YAHOO! News ran this story on September 17, 2013:

Lap kids on planes must be banned for everyone’s sake

For Brown, who has spent 24 years lobbying, speaking and testifying before Congress on this issue, it’s been a personal battle. Brown was chief flight attendant on United Flight 232, a disabled DC-10 that crash-landed in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1989 killing 111.

Unfortunately, less than 2 weeks after that news story ran, our government came to a screeching halt and that was the demise of Brown’s petition – along with a lot of other important business. Now, 12 months later, a new petition has been started and once again we are sharing the information and asking our readers to consider signing it and sharing it within their social networks. Link:

FAA Petition - Jan Brown 2014

“Dear Friends & Safety Advocates,

We have created a White House petition in hopes of achieving 100,000 signatures in the allotted one month’s time.  The FAA is controlled by OMB (Office of Management & Budget) and OMB is controlled by the White House, so it appears to be the strongest route to eliminating lap children on airplanes and making everyone from baby to paying passengers safe…and allowing flight attendants to offer safety for all passengers not merely the ‘select’ over the age of two!  Please take a few minutes to sign the petition that can be reached at:  If you do not have a White House password it will ask for your e-mail address, name and zip code…there is an opt-out box to check if you do not want White House e-mails and your name will not appear on the petition, only your initials….so your privacy is not compromised and the President will not be calling you [] .  But this is where every vote counts and I am eternally grateful for your support particularly since I never imagined advocating for child safety for 25 yrs.  I do want to live to see it happen!                     

Hugs of Thanks, 

Jan Brown


For more info on the subject of flying with kids and carseats please see our previous blogs on the subject:

Recommended Carseats for Airplane Travel

Lap Babies on Airplane – A Warning All Parents Must See

Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights!

Flying with Kids & Carseats – the checked carseat controversy

Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know 

Recommended Carseats for Airplane Travel


airplaneIt’s the travel season and for many families with small children, that includes flying somewhere. Since so many carseats are heavy and bulky, it makes sense in some cases to invest in a lightweight carseat just for traveling. Plus, this spares you the hassle of re-installing your main carseat when you get back to your own car, weary from traveling.

Ideally, a spare travel carseat should be lightweight (under 15 lbs), easy to install with the lap-only belt on an airplane seat and narrow enough to fit in a typical coach seat. With that criteria in mind, here are several options to consider.

Infant carseats – no need to buy anything new as long as your current infant seat can be installed without the base. I guess it’s possible to drag the base with you on the plane but that’s just making life harder than it needs to be. As long as your infant seat allows installation without the base (most do but there are some exceptions so make sure you know for sure), it’s easy to install the carrier rear-facing with the lap-only belt on the plane.

KF-airplane  Toddler on plane


If you’re leaving the base at home – make sure you practice baseless installation a few times so when you arrive at your destination you know how to install the carseat properly in the car, using a typical lap/shoulder belt.  Here is a video that demonstrates my technique for quick and easy installations of an infant carseat without the base.


Stay clear of products like THIS and THIS. These products are NOT acceptable alternatives to using an actual carseat on the plane to restrain your child. Along the same lines – using a sling or infant carrier also isn’t a safe alternative for your baby or toddler because you aren’t allow to wear your child during take-offs or landings when the risks are highest. There is a good reason for this but the details are ugly so I’m not going to go into it right now. If you would like more info on why slings and infant carriers are not a safe alternative to using a carseat on a plane, please see the NTSB website.

Baby  B'Air vest - NO  Airplane hammock


Convertible seats – if you intend to install the convertible seat rear-facing on the plane then you’ll be best served by a seat that is fairly compact which will increase your chances of the seat actually fitting rear-facing in the space you have to work with.


 Cherry Pie

Combi Coccoro: Rear-facing 3-33 lbs., or up to 36″ tall. Forward-facing 20-40 lbs., or up to 40″ tall




Cosco Scenera Next - stockCosco Scenera NEXT: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., or up to 40″ tall. Forward-facing 22-40 lbs., or up to 40″ tall




Evenflo Tribute - MaxwellEvenflo Tribute: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., or up to 37″ tall. Forward-facing 22-40 lbs., or up to 40″ tall




Graco Contender - Glacier

Graco Contender: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs. (won’t be outgrown by height in the RF position before child hits 40 lbs.). Forward-facing 20-65 lbs., or up to 49″ tall.




Safety 1st Guide 65 - seaport fashionSafety 1st Guide 65: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs, or up to 40″ tall. Forward-facing 22-65 lbs, or up to 43″ tall




No matter which seat you decide to take on the plane for your child – you will want to know where the FAA approval language is stated in case one of the flight attendants asks to see proof that your carseat is certified for use in an aircraft. Look for RED lettering on one of the sticker labels on the carseat. The FAA language is required to be written in red. The language can vary slightly but in general this is what you’re looking for:

Pria 85 - FAA certification  Evenflo Symphony FAA certification - cropped Britax Frontier 80 FAA Certification Label


For forward-facing kids, you’ll be best served by a seat that’s lightweight, fairly narrow, with tall top harness slots and a weight limit of 50 lbs. or more. Keep in mind that combination seats (harness/booster) can only be used on the plane in harnessed mode. Booster seats (or combination seats used without the 5-pt harness in booster mode) are not FAA certified and cannot be used on an airplane because all booster seats require a lap/shoulder belt, which airplanes don’t have.


Evenflo Maestro: Forward-facing only. With 5-point harness from 22-50 lbs., or up to 50″ tall




 300 Loy

Evenflo Secure Kid LX: Forward-facing only. With 5-point harness from 22-65 lbs., or up to 50″ tall




Evenflo SureRide: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., or up to 40″ tall. Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., or up to 54″ tall




Graco ContenderGraco Contender: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., Forward-facing 20-65 lbs., or up to 49″ tall. *Forward-facing beltpath is behind the back of the shell. This unique design means your FF child won’t have the metal latchplate of the airplane seatbelt in their back during the flight.



Safety 1st Guide 65 Safety 1st Guide 65: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs, or up to 40″ tall. Forward-facing 22-65 lbs, or up to 43″ tall




CARES Harness*: Harness for kids over 1 year old who weigh between 22-44 lbs., and are under 40″ tall. *CARES harness is certified for use on the plane ONLY. It’s very useful for situations where you don’t need a carseat to use on the ground when you arrive at your destination. We have a review of the CARES Harness here.



If you want to travel with your usual carseat, or just want to make it easier to travel with any carseat in general  – there are many products that can help you transport it through the airport and onto the plane. Some are just generic luggage carts – other products like the Brica Roll ‘n Go Carseat Transporter, the Go-Go Travelmate products and the Traveling Toddler Strap are made specifically for a carseat.  There are also carseat travel bags with wheels but obviously you can’t put your kid inside it too. Britax, Peg Perego, Clek & Diono all make travel accessories specifically for their carseats too.

go-go babyz used go-go babyz travel strap used

Remember, only carseats with an internal harness can be used on a plane. You cannot use a booster seat on an airplane because booster seats require a lap/shoulder belt and airplanes only have lap belts. If your child rides in a booster seat and you are bringing it with you, you can gate check it or bring it on the plane and put it in the overhead bin (if it fits).

For more info on flying with kids and carseats – check out our related blogs on the subject:

Carseat on airplane

Lap Babies on Airplane – A Warning All Parents Must See

Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights!

Flying with Kids & Carseats – the checked carseat controversy

Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know Pt. 1

Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know Pt. 2

Travel Carseats: The Ultimate Guide to What You Want to Take on A Plane

An Open Letter to the FAA


Britax Update – FAA Certification for Frontier 90, Pinnacle 90 & Pioneer 70 Harness-2-Booster Combination Seats


All current Britax Harness-2-Booster Combination Seats (Frontier 90, Pinnacle 90 & Pioneer 70) will be certified for aircraft use in early February. This change will be retroactive to all current models, and an FAQ and addendum will update this on the Britax website soon. An updated manual will follow in early February.

 Britax Frontier 80 FAA Certification Label


The updated instructions for airplane installation will instruct you to route the aircraft’s lap-only seatbelt in front of the ClickTight compartment. This installation method will ONLY be approved for installation on an airplane. Since the Pioneer 70 lacks the ClickTight feature, you will route the plane’s lap belt the same way you normally would on this particular seat.

More details to follow soon. We’ll share ’em when we have ’em!