Child Safety Seats on Airplanes
Under current U.S. air rules, kids under the age of two can fly free if they sit on a parent's lap. While the choice still remains with the parent or guardian, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is urging the industry to require the use of child safety seats. Today, most airlines accommodate families who choose to use a car safety seat if they buy a ticket for their child. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly recommends the use of child safety seats to improve child safety during flights; however, they have not made their use mandatory.
FAA Tips for Safe Air Travel with Children:
- Make sure your Child Restraint System (CRS) is government approved and has "This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft" printed on it. Otherwise, you may be asked to check the CRS as baggage.
- Measure the width of your CRS. It should fit in most airplane seats if it is no wider than 16 inches.
- Ask your airline for a discounted fare. Many airlines now offer discounts of up to 50 percent for children less than two years old. Buying a ticket for your child is the only way to guarantee that you will be able to use a CRS.
- Reserve adjoining seats. A CRS should be placed in a window seat so it will not block the escape path in an emergency. Do not place a CRS in an exit row.
- If you do not buy a ticket for your child, ask if your airline will allow you to use an empty seat. If your airline's policy allows this, avoid the busiest days and times to increase the likelihood of finding an empty seat next to you.
- Ask your airline if they can provide a CRS for your child. If so, you may not be permitted to bring your own CRS on board, and may need to check it as baggage.
- Arrange for your airline to help you if you need help making a connecting flight. Carrying a CRS, a child, and luggage through a busy airport can be challenging.
- Pack a bag of toys and snacks to keep your child occupied during the flight.
The FAA also recommends that a child weighing:
- under 20 pounds be placed in a rear-facing CRS;
- from 20 to 40 pounds use a forward-facing CRS;
- over 40 pounds may safely use an airplane seat belt, just like an adult.
Source: Federal Aviation Administration (Flying with Children)