FAA Approved Car Seats & Airline Approved Car Seats 2022
Are you considering flying with a car seat? Or maybe you’ve decided it’s your best option and wondering exactly how to fly with a car seat? Then you’ve come to the right place! Here you can find the car seats you can take on a plane. This guide covers everything you need to know about travel with a car seat on planes – from airline rules to installation quirks to insider tricks you can only learn with lots of experience. We’re sharing it all to make traveling with a car seat on a plane a smooth experience for your family.
Flying with a car seat is the safest option
Let’s start with the most basic question: why should you fly with a car seat? The simple answer is that airplane seatbelts aren’t designed for tiny bodies. The general recommendation is for children under 40lbs to fly in an FAA-approved restraint – either a travel car seat or a CARES harness (minimum weight 22lbs, but fits better at 30lbs – full review here). The best car seat for airplane travel depends on your child’s age, size and development level – start your search here to pick the right one. The FAA and the NTSB both recommend using your car seat on airplanes.
Car Seat FAA Approved – Top Picks 2022
The FAA car seat guide below is very detailed and I appreciate that you might be in a hurry. If you just want our top 3 best travel car seat picks for 2022, here they are. Alternatively, each one (plus three more excellent choices) is detailed further down this post (#9 on the menu).
Best Car Seat for Travel (kids under 2 years) car seats you can take on a plane
The basic but extremely lightweight Cosco Scenera Next (7.65 lbs.) is a tried and true winner for flying families.
Best Convertible Airline Approved Car Seat
The tried-and-true Safety 1st Guide 65 weighs just over 11 pounds and has a weight range of 5-65 lbs.
Recently, there have been a few new convertible airline approved car seats that are getting close to the Guide 65, but we still think it is the best toddler travel car seat pick at a convenient 11.65 lbs. (The newer Safety 1st Jive 65 is about 1/2″ narrower but weighs 3 lbs. more.) car seats you can take on a plane tips
Best FAA Car Seat Approved for Toddler (World Traveler)
If you have a more flexible budget and have big travels planned, the WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat is amazing.
Constructed with minimal plastic and aerospace grade aluminum alloy, this stylish travel car seat for toddlers (22-50 lbs.) weighs only 8 lbs. and folds for carrying.
Why aren’t parents required to use car seats on airplanes? First, because airlines have lobbied to prevent rules that might decrease the number of families who fly – and thus, their revenue. Second, air travel is much safer than car travel. Government statisticians have determined that society is better off overall with unrestrained or improperly restrained kids on flights than with many more families taking to the roads to travel. Learn more about the pros and cons of flying with a lap infant if you have a baby.
Car seats you can take on a plane
Even if you’re reading this after you’ve made your travel arrangements and you didn’t buy a seat for your baby, you can always ask at the ticket counter or check in with the gate agent. If the flight isn’t full, you can often use an empty seat for free to put your child (with their car seat) so that everyone on the flight is safer.
So do you need to bring a car seat when traveling? You need some way to keep your child safe in-flight and safe on the roads beyond, so in part it will depend on your child’s age and the type of trip for a safe car seats you can take on a plane.
Can you take a car seat on a plane? It depends on the airline
The US leads the way for using car seats on airplanes. Kind of shocking, eh? Not only do the FAA and NTSB encourage buying kids a seat and using a car seat in flight, but your right to use an FAA-approved car seat through the entire flight is protected by law. Bookmark these FAA rules on car seats on your phone (or even save it) in case a flight attendant gives you a hard time. Across the border, Transport Canada maintains similar standards.
If you bring your car seat on board (and you should), you’ll have to use it for your child for take-off, landing and when the seatbelt sign is on during turbulent patches. All in the name of safety! Just make sure your car seat is certified for airplane use – nearly every car seat in the US is FAA-approved (just not this one). You can’t use a booster seat on planes at all since they require a lap-shoulder seat belt, but a combination car seat like this one is completely fine if the harness is still installed. Get more details on bringing your booster seat on an airplane here.
How do I know if I have an airline approved car seat? Near the base of the car seat there’s a white sticker with lots of small print. In red letters it should say that it’s approved for aircraft use. car seats you can take on a plane
Below is an example of the FAA approved car seat sticker from this seat. It’s located inconveniently on the bottom of the seat, but they’re in different places on different seats. Make sure you locate yours before you get to the airport; for some international flights, we’ve had to show it at the check-in counter to avoid sending it along with the baggage. In other cases, we’ve been asked to show it before installing on the plane.
Some parents (and flight crews!) get confused when they see this because it has two separate sentences about aircraft. That’s because the seat can either function as a forward-facing harnessed seat or as a booster seat. Just leave the harness in and you’ll be fine! An FAA-approved convertible car seat will generally just have the first red sentence, while an all-in-one car seat will have both. A booster seat can’t be used on board so it will only have the last red sentence.
Note that on some airlines the seats are so narrow that you’ll have to choose your travel car seat wisely. If you plan to fly Spirit airlines, for example, be sure to read this article for all the particulars. car seats you can take on a plane tips
There’s one important (and recent) exception to note: some of the new premium classes of service like United Polaris and Air Canada Signature aren’t able to safely accommodate car seats. In those classes, the only option is to hold a child under 2 in your lap and to buckle older kids in the lap belt. Personally, I wouldn’t book those with a young child.
Can you bring a carseat on a plane in other countries? Unfortunately, outside of the US and Canada it’s more like the wild west. Every airline sets their own policies. They can range from airlines that are extremely supportive of car seat usage on board in the interest of safety to airlines that prohibit all car seats in the cabin. Some don’t allow any car seats, some only allow forward-facing car seats, some only allow car seats for certain ages.
The strangest rule we’ve encountered is that even if you bring a car seat on board, some foreign airlines require you to use a “belly belt” instead during take-off and landing. Belly belts have been banned in the US and Canada because they turn a baby into an air bag. What should you do if you find yourself in that situation? Graciously accept the belly belt and attach your child to you. As soon as the flight crew is securely seated in their harnesses, strap your baby into the car seat to keep them safe during the most dangerous part of the flight. car seats you can take on a plane tips
The worst situation reported by one of our Tiny Globetrotters families was when traveling on an Asian carrier with their 3 year old and car seat. They wouldn’t permit the kid to sit in the car seat for take-off, but he was clearly not of an age to use the belly belt. The airline forced the family to gate check the car seat. Which leads me to recommend…
If you’re flying a carrier that isn’t based in the US or Canada, be sure to check their “traveling with children” section before booking your tickets to make sure you’re comfortable with the airline’s policies. You’d hate to arrive at the airport and be told that you need to check your car seat unexpectedly!
Flying with Car Seat Considerations for car seats you can take on a plane
- Safety – Few people will argue the fact that a child is simply safer on an airplane when they are secured in an FAA approved car seat.
- Comfort – What is sometimes overlooked, however, is that most children are really very content sitting in a car seat on a plane. Being secured into a car seat is a familiar routine. More importantly, having your child secured in an airplane car seat allows you as a parent to have your hands free. You can get something out of the overhead bin, you can tie your shoe, you can…imagine…even have a sip of water.
- It’s Free – If you have chosen not to buy an extra seat for your baby on the plane (having them on your lap), airlines will typically transport your car seat for free to your destination.
- Time – When you rent a car seat from a car rental company, you are expected to install the car seat yourself (for legal reasons). Installing an unfamiliar car seat (especially after a tiring flight) can be a real pain. It is quite rewarding when you are able to install a car seat in a flash because you already know how it is done (even more so with taxis or Ubers).
Cleanliness – There is also the issue of cleanliness. As much as car rental companies try hard to keep their car seats clean, this does not always happen.
- Convenience – Having your own car seat just makes things easier. You don’t have to cross your fingers that the car rental company hasn’t given away the last car seat seconds before your arrival. Having your own travel car seat buys you a lot of peace of mind.
- Cost – Most car rental companies charge a daily rate for a car seat. Uber also charges an extra $10/ride for cars with a car seat (available in some cities). It doesn’t take long for this to add up to more than the cost of the car seat itself. Several top selling travel car seats cost as little as $50 USD so you might actually save money!
Car Seat on Plane – Is it Mandatory?
A CRS (child restraining system = FAA approved car seat / flight harness) is recommended by the FAA (not mandatory) for airplane travel with a toddler or baby in the U.S. (or Canada).
The option of securing your child in car seat on the plane is only guaranteed to be available to you if you have purchased a separate airplane seat for your baby or toddler.
Since parents are not required to purchase a separate infant airplane seat or toddler airplane seat for a child under 2 years of age, some people choose to have their baby on their lap throughout a flight for economic reasons (as it is free or very discounted).*
*If you have not purchased an airplane seat for a baby or toddler (of under 2 years), an extra seat may still be offered to you free of charge if the flight is not full. For your best chance of this, arrive extra early at the airport to make this request at the check-in counter. Sometimes you get lucky.
I have travelled with my kids both as lap babies and secured in their own seats in an airline approved car seat.
Naturally a child is safer secured in their own seat, but my biggest reason for recommending an airplane car seat is convenience. I simply cannot impress on you how much easier it is to have your hands free on a flight and peace of mind that you will have a good car seat at your destination.
Car Seat FAA Approved – Key Features
When selecting the best travel car seat for your little one, there are several main points to consider.
The weight of a travel carseat is very important. Flying with a car seat is a little cumbersome therefore you want to make sure you find a lightweight car seat that still keeps your baby or toddler comfortable.
The best car seats for airplane travel should be ideally under 12 lbs. (but some are as lights as 7.5 pounds). A typical car seat for every day use usually weighs over 20 lbs. which is not ideal for lugging around an airport.
The lightest travel car seats tend to be a little light on padding since padding adds weight. While the slim profile does not compromise safety (all car seats go through rigorous testing), it can compromise comfort for a little one.
If they will not be spending a lot of time in the travel car seat this may not matter. If they will be spending a lot of time in the travel seat, you may want to choose something slightly heavier but with extra padding.
2. FAA Approved Car Seat Sticker
In the U.S., FAA approved infant car seats, and FAA approved toddler car seats must have a sticker affixed to them that reads:
“This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”.
The majority of car seats sold in the U.S. and Canada are certified for use on aircraft. That said, many family travelers prefer to buy a lighter weight version exclusively for travel.
Note: In Canada, the labelling is different. It is the National Safety Mark logo, which indicates the number of the standard(s) to which the restraint device conforms, i.e. CMVSS 213 (child restraint device) or 213.1 for (infant restraint device). car seats you can take on a plane
A flight attendant may check your car seat for the appropriate labelling when you are boarding. Typically, U.S. airlines will accept the Canadian symbol as acceptable proof as well. To save time, make sure you know exactly where this label is located on your travel car seat.
When trying to find the best car seat for travel on airplanes – width matters. The FAA recommends that airline approved car seats be no wider than 16″.
In my opinion, this is totally ridiculous as there are very few FAA approved car seats that fit this criteria. Most travel car seats are in the 17-20″ width range.
Do not fret terribly about this point however, since as long as your portable cars seat for travel has the appropriate labelling on it certifying if for use on planes, you will be allowed to use it.
Note: A flight attendant friend of mind told me that they don’t worry a lot about the width of the car seat since they can always lift the arm rests if it is a tight squeeze. Furthermore, since car seats are often positioned in the window seat (so as not to block other passengers), a bit of overlap would likely only infringe on the parent.
4. Age Range
Most bucket style infant car seats are suitable as an airline car seat (as long as they are FAA approved with the appropriate sticker). If you are searching for the best travel car seat for toddler aged children, however, you should be paying close attention to the age/size range limits.
For example, one of the most popular FAA approved car seats has an upper weight limit of 40 lbs. (Costco Scenera Next). In our FAA approved car seat list, you will find several more with a range of 5-65 lbs. like the very popular Safety 1st Guide 65 toddler travel car seat. car seats you can take on a plane
Safety is of course paramount when it comes to choosing a travel car seat. All of the model included in this post meet or exceed rigorous motor vehicle safety standards in the U.S.A and are certified for use on aircraft.
It should be noted that Canadian and U.S. car seats have different certification processes which is why you should only buy a car seat in your home country. (Ex. If you plan to use your travel car seat in vehicles at home, a U.S. certified car seat may not be legal in Canada and vice versa.)
FAA Car Seat Regulation Details for car seats you can take on a plane
How is an airline approved car seat different you might be wondering? An FAA car seat, along with other criteria, must have a 5-point harness and meet FAA inversion requirements for airplane use (an additional testing process).
If you would like to know more about your flying with car seat (CRS) rights and requirements, please see this section from the FAA website. You may want to print and keep a copy of this on you while traveling. The website outlines important information including how a seat should be positioned on the plane (Example: a car seat cannot block a passenger from an exit.)
As far as your rights go, probably one of the most important rules for airline approved car seats (from the FAA website) is the following:
If an approved CRS, for which a ticket has been purchased, does not fit in a particular seat on the aircraft, the airline is responsible for accommodating the CRS in another seat in the same class of service. However, a CRS may not fit in some oblique seats in certain premium class cabins. car seats you can take on a plane
From the FAA website (Feb. 2021), here are the recommendations for car seats on planes.
- Make sure your car seat (CRS) or device is approved for use on airplanes.
- Measure the width of your car seat (CRS). It should fit in most airplane seats if it is no wider than 16 inches.
- Ask your airline for a discounted fare. Buying a ticket for your child is the only way to guarantee that you will be able to use a portable baby car seat (CRS).
- Reserve adjoining seats. An air travel car seat (CRS) must not block the escape path in an emergency. Many airlines have policies that require a CRS to be placed in a window seat. Do not place a CRS in an exit row.