As someone who both investigates crashes and teaches child passenger safety, I am frequently asked questions about traveling with children on airplanes. For many families, the infrequency of air travel with a child translates to little knowledge of both the regulations and the best practices.
Most airlines do not require a child under 2 years old to have a ticket. This means the child does not have a seat and will have to sit on someone’s lap for the flight. While this is permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), they recommend all children be secured in a child seat or approved harness on all flights. This is largely due to the difficulty of holding a child should the flight encounter turbulence or make a rough landing. Some airlines offer reduced or specially priced fares for young children.
Once you have a ticketed seat for your child, the recommendation is to use a Child Restraint System (CRS) or a FAA approved child harness device to restrain the child to the aircraft seat. Not every CRS can be used on an aircraft. Only those that have passed the inversion test specified in FMVSS 213 and are labeled with the phrase, “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”, are acceptable. While this does include most rear-facing and forward-facing child seats with harnesses, regulations do not permit the use of booster seats on aircraft. You should also check the width of your CRS to be sure it is less than 16 inches wide or you could find it is to large to fit in the aircraft seat. In addition to CRS, the FAA has approved one harness device, the CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System), for use on aircraft. Continue reading “Car Seats on Airplanes”