Flying With A Car Seat Ultimate Guide (2024 Update)

Buckle up, parents, and caregivers! Flying with a car seat can be exciting and daunting. While the prospect of adventure awaits, keeping your precious cargo safe is paramount. Here’s where trusty car seats become your ultimate travel companions, offering a shield of protection even at 30,000 feet. This guide is your flight manual for using car seats on airplanes, designed specifically for you, the modern parents and caregivers navigating air travel with young children. We’ll dive deep into the benefits of securing your little adventurer in their own seat, unravel the regulations and logistics, and offer handy tips to smooth out the journey. Join us as we conquer turbulence and tantrums, ensuring a safe and comfortable flight for your tiny traveler and a peaceful trip for you! Remember, a little preparation goes a long way, so let’s embark on this adventure together and make soaring through the clouds a breeze for the whole family!

Can you bring your child’s car seat on an airplane?

Yes, you can bring your child’s car seat on an airplane! In fact, it’s highly recommended by both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for all babies and young children to travel in an FAA-approved car seat or airplane harness device. These offer significantly better protection compared to simply relying on the airplane seatbelt for your child.

Here are some additional details to consider:

  • Airline policies: While bringing a car seat is allowed, individual airlines may have specific restrictions, like size limitations or fees. It’s crucial to check with your airline beforehand to understand their specific policies.
  • Carry-on vs. checked baggage: You can usually bring your car seat as a carry-on item, but there might be size limitations. Alternatively, airlines typically allow checking car seats at no additional cost. Weigh the pros and cons (convenience vs. potential damage) to choose the best option.
  • Installation: Remember, car seats need to be installed using the airplane seatbelt (without the base). Familiarize yourself with the installation process beforehand to ensure a secure fit.
  • Ever flown with a car seat that jiggles or tilts on the plane? If it doesn’t have a click lock or is a bit lightweight, a special tool called a locking clip can help. This video explains why you might need this clip and shows you step-by-step how to use it to keep your child’s car seat nice and snug during your travels. Remember, safety first, even in the clouds!

Flying with a car seat vs. holding your infant on your lap

When it comes to flying with your infant, the age-old question arises: car seat or lap? While flying with a lap infant is technically allowed for children under 2, using a car seat is undoubtedly the safest option. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons for each scenario:

Car Seat:


  • Unrivaled safety: In case of turbulence or unexpected events, a properly installed car seat offers significantly better protection for your infant compared to being held in your lap.
  • Peace of mind: Knowing your child is secure allows you to relax and enjoy the flight more.
  • Comfortable for naps: A familiar car seat can encourage longer and more comfortable naps for your infant during the flight.


  • Cost: If you need to purchase an extra seat for the car seat, it adds to the travel expense.
  • Luggage: Carrying or checking the car seat adds another bulky item to your luggage.
  • Installation: This requires proper installation using the airplane seatbelt, which might involve some effort.



  • Free: There is no need to purchase an extra seat for children under 2.
  • Convenience: Saves space and avoids handling another bulky item.
  • Bonding: allows for closer physical contact and easier soothing of your infant.


  • Safety risk: In cases of turbulence or accidents, holding your infant is not nearly as effective in protecting them as a car seat.
  • Discomfort: Holding your child for an extended period of time can be tiring and uncomfortable for both of you.
  • Limited sleep: The lack of a secure sleeping position might result in shorter and less restful naps for your infant.

Overall, while the convenience and cost-effectiveness of flying with a lap infant might seem tempting, the overwhelming safety benefits of using a car seat far outweigh any cons. Both the AAP and FAA strongly recommend using a car seat for all infants and young children on airplanes. Remember, your child’s safety is the top priority, and a car seat provides the best chance of protecting them in any situation.

Additional factors to consider:

  • Infant’s age and size: Younger and smaller infants are more vulnerable and might benefit more from the security of a car seat.
  • Turbulence history: If the flight route is known for turbulence, using a car seat becomes even more crucial.
  • Personal comfort: Weigh your own comfort level with holding your child for an extended period against the peace of mind offered by a car seat.

Ultimately, the choice is yours, but by understanding the risks and benefits, you can make an informed decision that prioritizes your infant’s safety and well-being during your flight.

What to consider when flying with a car seat

Taking to the skies with your little one in tow is an exciting adventure, but navigating airport logistics and ensuring their safety can be daunting. One crucial decision revolves around using a car seat. While highly recommended for optimal protection, it involves additional planning. Here’s a breakdown of key points to consider when flying with a car seat:

1. Regulations and Logistics:

  • Airline Policies: Each airline has specific rules regarding car seat usage, size limitations, and fees. Research well in advance:
    • Can you bring it as a carry-on or check it?
    • Does it need to fit within a specific size limit?
    • Are there any fees associated with bringing a car seat?
  • FAA Regulations: Ensure your car seat has an FAA certification label stating it’s “certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”
  • Booking: Consider purchasing an extra seat to accommodate the car seat comfortably. Some airlines offer discounted rates for children under 2, but policies vary.

2. Choosing the Right Car Seat

  • FAA Approval: Double-check the FAA certification label mentioned above.
  • Age and Size: Select a car seat suitable for your child’s age, weight, and height. Check manufacturer guidelines for airplane compatibility.
  • Ease of Use: Choose a car seat that’s easy to install and uninstall using the airplane seatbelt (without the base). Consider its weight and portability for airport travel.

3. Installation and Safety:

  • Familiarize yourself: Practice installing the car seat using the airplane seatbelt before your flight. Many airlines offer instructional videos online.
  • Secure Fit: Ensure the car seat is snug and secure with no excess movement. Double-check harness tightness and positioning as per the manual.
  • Takeoff and Landing: Keep your child buckled in their car seat during takeoff, landing, and any turbulence.

4. Additional Considerations:

  • Airport Navigation: Consider a car seat bag or travel cart for easier airport maneuvering.
  • Entertainment: Pack toys, snacks, and activities to keep your child occupied during the flight.
  • Damage: Airlines handle checked baggage with care, but damage is a possibility. Consider travel insurance for your car seat.

5. Alternatives:

  • Airplane Harness Systems: In rare cases, airlines might offer airplane harness systems for specific situations. Check with your airline for availability and compatibility.
  • Renting Car Seats: Some airports or car rental companies offer car seat rentals. Research availability and compatibility with your child’s needs.

Do you have to pay for a car seat on a plane if you are traveling with small children?

Whether you have to pay for a car seat on a plane when traveling with small children depends on several factors:

1. Airline Policy: Each airline has its own specific policies regarding car seats, including:

  • Checked vs. carry-on: Some airlines allow car seats as carry-on items for free, while others charge a fee. Some might limit sizes or only allow them as checked baggage.
  • Extra seat required: Most airlines require you to purchase an extra seat if you want to use a car seat on the plane, regardless of your child’s age. Some offer discounted rates for children under 2, but fees vary.
  • Specific fees: Some airlines have additional fees for car seats, such as oversized item charges or handling fees.

2. Child’s Age:

  • Under 2: Many airlines allow children under 2 to travel as “lap infants” for free, meaning they sit unsecured on your lap. However, using a car seat is highly recommended for safety reasons.
  • Over 2: Children over 2 always require their own seat, regardless of whether you use a car seat.
  • While the legal requirements for car seats in airplanes differ slightly from those in cars, the answer for all ages you mentioned (under 3, 4, 5, and 6 years old) is the same: using a car seat on a plane is highly recommended, but not legally required, for all children.

Here’s a breakdown of the nuances:


  • Under 2: Most airlines allow children under 2 to fly as “lap infants” for free, meaning they sit unbuckled on your lap. However, the FAA strongly recommends using a car seat or Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES) even for them.
  • 2 and over: All children older than 2 require their own seat on a plane, regardless of whether you use a car seat.


  • Lap infants offer very little protection in case of turbulence or unexpected events. Even though statistically, flying is safer than driving, car seats provide far superior protection compared to just lap holding.
  • Children under 40 pounds are generally considered safer in car seats due to their size and developing bodies. Even bigger children might benefit from the security and comfort of a familiar car seat.


  • Most airlines allow bringing a car seat as a carry-on item or checking it with your luggage. Fees and size limitations vary, so check with your specific airline.
  • Installing the car seat using the airplane seatbelt requires practice and familiarity.
  • Consider the added space and potential inconvenience of bringing a car seat. However, weigh it against the peace of mind and increased safety it offers

How do I get around the airport with a car seat?

Taking your little one on a plane can be exciting, but navigating the airport with a car seat can feel like an obstacle course. Worry not, parents! Here are some handy tips to navigate the airport like a pro, complete with your trusty car seat:

1. Use a car seat bag:

  • Pack it with: Consider a bag with wheels and compartments for storage, carrying essentials like wipes and toys. Some bags even convert to backpacks for hands-free convenience.
  • Benefits: It protects your car seat from dirt and damage, doubles as a makeshift stroller for short distances.

2. Embrace the Foldable Car Seat Cart:

  • Invest in a sturdy option: Look for wheels with good maneuverability and brakes for stability. Some carts even attach to the car seat directly.
  • Pros: Easier to navigate than carrying, perfect for long walks or navigating crowded terminals.
  • Bonus: Many carts fold up compactly for storage overhead on board.

3. Utilize the car seat belt:

  • Pack a secure belt: Choose a strap specifically designed for attaching a car seat to your luggage for effortless towing.
  • Ideal for: short distances or connecting flights, offering hands-free convenience.
  • Remember: Check the belt’s weight capacity and ensure it fits both your car seat and luggage securely.

Bonus Tips:

  • Practice at home: Familiarize yourself with installing and uninstalling the car seat using the airplane seatbelt beforehand.
  • Seek assistance: Don’t hesitate to ask airport staff for help, especially with navigating through security or boarding.
  • Plan strategically: Pack your car seat last in your checked luggage for easy access upon arrival.
  • Consider alternatives: Explore airport car seat rental options if traveling light or if your car seat doesn’t fit your preferred travel style.

By utilizing these tips and choosing the method that best suits your needs, you can breeze through the airport with your car seat in tow, ensuring a smoother and more enjoyable travel experience for everyone!

How do I install a car seat on a plane?

While installing a car seat on a plane differs slightly from car installation, it’s generally straightforward with a little practice. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

At the airport:

  1. Inform the gate agent: Let them know you’ll be using a car seat and inquire about any specific procedures or assistance they can offer.
  2. Find a spacious area: Look for a less crowded area near your boarding gate to install the car seat comfortably.


  1. Locate the airplane seatbelt anchor points: These are usually metal loops embedded in the seat back or armrests. Consult your airline’s instructions or ask flight attendants for assistance if needed.
  2. Route the airplane seatbelt: Thread the belt through the designated belt path on your car seat (consult the car seat manual for specific instructions).
  3. Fasten the buckle: Tighten the belt firmly until the car seat is secure and doesn’t move excessively. Double-check the manual for optimal tightness guidelines.
  4. Check harness positioning: Adjust the harness straps according to your child’s size and ensure they’re snug across their shoulders and chest. Tuck any excess slack in the straps.
  5. Test for stability: Try pushing and pulling the car seat firmly to ensure it’s securely installed and doesn’t wiggle or shift.

Airline-approved car seat list 2024

While there’s no official “airline-approved car seat list” for 2024, you can trust any car seat that carries an FAA certification label stating it’s “certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” This label guarantees the seat meets safety standards for both car and airplane travel.

However, individual airlines might have specific size limitations or restrictions you need to be aware of. Here’s how to find out what’s allowed on your specific flight:

1. Check your airline’s website: Each airline has dedicated sections on their website outlining their policies for car seats, including:

  • Carry-on vs. checked: Some airlines allow car seats as carry-on items, while others require checking them with your luggage. Fees and size limitations might apply.
  • Extra seat required: Most airlines require you to purchase an extra seat if you want to use a car seat on the plane, regardless of your child’s age. Some offer discounted rates for children under 2, but policies vary.
  • Specific size limits: Some airlines have restrictions on the maximum size of car seats allowed on board. This information is usually readily available on their website.

2. Utilize online resources: Websites like Flying With A Baby and the FAA website maintain updated information and resources regarding car seat travel on specific airlines. They often provide:

  • Comprehensive car seat compatibility lists: You can search by car seat model and airline to see if it’s been reported as compatible.
  • User reviews and experiences: Learn from other parents’ experiences using specific car seats on different airlines.
  • General tips and guidance: Get valuable advice on choosing the right car seat, navigating airport logistics, and ensuring a smooth flight with your child.

Helpful tips when flying with a baby car seat

Flying with a baby car seat can be a bit daunting, but with a little planning and the right tips, it can be a smooth and enjoyable experience for both you and your little one. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

Before You Fly:

  • Check Your Airline’s Policies: Each airline has different policies regarding car seats, including fees, size limitations, and whether they can be carried on or checked. Research well in advance to avoid surprises.
  • Choose the Right Car Seat: opt for a compact, lightweight car seat with FAA certification for aircraft use. Consider an infant car seat for younger babies, but a convertible seat might be more versatile if your child will be older.
  • Practice Installation: Familiarize yourself with installing the car seat using the airplane seatbelt (without the base) using the car seat manual and online resources.
  • Pack Wisely: Bring essentials like wipes, diapers, extra clothes, and entertainment for your baby. Pack the car seat last in your checked luggage if you’re checking it to avoid gate hassle.
  • Consider Renting: If traveling light, renting a car seat at your destination might be an option.

At the airport:

  • Gate-Check Options: Some airlines allow gate-checking your car seat with your stroller attached. This can be convenient for navigating the airport, but be prepared for potential delays in retrieving it at your destination.
  • Airport Assistance: Don’t hesitate to ask airport staff for help with baggage or navigating with your car seat.
  • Security Checks: Remove your child from the car seat and carry them through security. The car seat might require additional screening, so be patient and cooperate with security personnel.

Onboard the plane:

  • Choose a Seat: Request a window seat for more space and privacy or an aisle seat for easier access to the restroom. Some airlines offer bulkhead seats with extra legroom, which can be a good option for families.
  • Prepare for Takeoff and Landing: Ensure your child is buckled securely in the car seat and the harness is snug. Keep them calm and occupied with toys or snacks during these moments.
  • Turbulence: Keep your child buckled in throughout the flight, even during turbulence. Turbulence can happen unexpectedly, so it’s best to always be prepared.
  • Feeding and Diapering: Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby during takeoff and landing can help with ear pressure. Utilize airplane restrooms for diaper changes, and ask flight attendants for assistance if needed.

Additional Tips:

  • Pack a car seat bag: This protects your car seat from dirt and damage during travel and can double as a makeshift stroller for short distances.
  • Consider a foldable car seat cart: Easier to navigate than carry, especially for long walks or crowded terminals.
  • Bring familiar comfort items: A favorite blanket or stuffed animal can help your baby feel more at ease.
  • Be patient and flexible: Delays and unexpected situations can arise. Expect adjustments and roll with the punches while prioritizing your child’s comfort and safety.


Soaring through the skies with your little one doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. By incorporating these helpful tips and prioritizing your child’s safety, you can transform flying with a car seat into a smooth and even enjoyable adventure. Remember, a little preparation goes a long way. From choosing the right car seat to navigating airport logistics and ensuring a secure installation on the plane, your efforts will be rewarded with precious memories and peace of mind during your travels. So pack your bags, buckle up your little adventurer, and get ready to conquer the clouds with confidence! Remember, the journey starts with a single step, and with these tips, your skyward journey with your precious cargo will be safe, comfortable, and full of happy memories. Take off with ease and enjoy the adventure.

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