There is no requirement for child safety seats from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).1 However, both the FAA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend the use of child safety seats when traveling.
FAA Car Seats Safety Guidelines for airplanes
Since the FAA does not require the installation of an airplane car seat, it may make air travel prohibitive for some families. The additional tickets required for seats in which airline-approved car seats can be installed may make air travel cost prohibitive for some parents.
Under current law, airlines allow children under age 2 to fly for free, permitted to sit on a parent’s or guardian’s lap. The FAA, however, is reluctant to add extra barriers for air travel for families because flying is statistically safer than car travel.
A child who is flying is much safer in an airplane car seat, which has the same benefits as an automobile car seat. The FAA provides parents with babies and small children a guide to airline-approved car seats. While there is no mandatory airplane baby seat, the government recommends using front-facing models with a hard back.
Additionally, the FAA has approved a child safety harness device, designed specifically for air travel. These harnesses can be attached directly to the airplane seat, but they are not approved for use in motor vehicles.
Can you take a car seat on airplanes?
Interestingly, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board strongly advocate the use of car seats in planes. During a flight, parents can even use an FAA-approved car seat that contains a child’s face, even if it is being used during the flight. You may want to store this FAA rule on car seats on your phone (or save it) in case of a flight attendant giving you a hard time. Transport Canada maintains a similar standard.
Car seats may be required by the airline during takeoff, landing, and while the seatbelt sign is on during turbulent patches, but be sure that yours is FAA-approved for airplane use (not this one). You shouldn’t use a booster seat in a plane since you must have a lap-shoulder belt, but this car seat works fine, as long as the harness is still attached.
What are faa approved car seats?
At the base of the car seat there’s a white sticker with lots of small print. It should say in red letters that it’s approved for aircraft.
An example of an FAA-approved car seat sticker appears below. It’s located inconveniently on the bottom of the seat, but they’re in different places on different seats. If you have one, be sure to find it before you get to the airport; some international flights require one be shown at the check-in counter. In other cases, we’ve been asked to show it before installing on the plane.
A lot of parents (and flight crews!) get confused when they see this since it has two separate sentences about aircraft. The seat can either function as a forward-facing harnessed seat or as a booster seat. Just keep the harness on and you’ll be fine! An FAA-approved convertible car seat will generally only have the first red sentence, while an all-in-one will have both. A booster seat cannot be used onboard, so it will only have the last red sentence.