So, you are going to board an airplane with your baby. Before you go on a flight in the U.S., you have to find out the safety rules and regulations of the particular airline and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). These rules govern what you can and cannot do with your child in flight. Most domestic airlines follow the following guidelines:
- Under 40 pounds or two years old, a child must either be carried in a paying passenger’s lap or they must be in an infant carrier like a car seat or some other convertible restraint. Also, they have to be situated in the window seat of a non-exit row. The child restraint system must have an FAA-approval label and it must be securely fastened in an airplane seat using the provided seatbelt.
- All children over 40 pounds must have their own seats and wear the provided seatbelt low and snug across the hips. Booster seats are not allowed.
Baby on Board
While traveling with an infant you have one of two choices. The first is to carry your infant and travel with them in your lap. The airline will allow you to wear your baby in a sling or carrier while the airplane is in flight. However, during takeoff, turbulence with the seat belt sign on, and landing, they will require you to remove your carrier (or sling) and hold your baby in your arms. If you choose this option you will only be required to purchase one airline seat ticket, but this option has obvious safety issues to consider, as they will only be restrained in your arms. Some airlines may not allow this option.
The second choice is to take along an FAA approved car seat. Such a car seat should have a sticker to that effect stuck on it somewhere; generally you can find it on the underside of the seat. If your car seat does not have a sticker attached to it then you will need to call the manufacturer and ask if the car seat you own is FAA approved or not.
If your infant’s car seat is approved, you will carry it with you on the plane and place it in the seat next to you. This traveling option requires that you purchase an additional seat for your child, though you may be able to get a discount or a free seat in a non-crowded flight if you ask. The carrier has to be on a window seat so they are not blocking other passengers from getting into and out of their seats. Also, make sure it’s not wider than sixteen inches, the width of most airline seats.
If you go this route, and you’re travelling alone with your infant, you will quickly realize how much superhuman effort you will need to carry the car seat, your carry-on luggage, and your baby! Try this instead: Wear a front carrier like a Snugli or Baby Bjorn with baby secure inside, then strap the car seat to your back using a Cheeky Monkey Pac Back. That way you’ll still have both your hands free.
Flying Options For Older Infants
If your baby is between 22 and 44 pounds, you have three options available. The first is to hold your child, under the age of two, in your lap. This is the same scenario as if your child were still and infant. The second option again is to use an FAA approved car seat which will be secured in the window seat of the plane.
The third and new option is a harness known as the CARES flight harness. This restraint, easily stored in your carry-on luggage or purse, can be used instead of a car seat by children between 22 and 44 pounds, or 1 to 4 years. The harness is FAA approved for flight and is much less bulky than trying to carry around your car seat in the airport and onto the plane. While the CARES flight harness can be a bit pricey at about $75, it also insures your child is the safest possible, which in my opinion is priceless.
Flying with your infant or child can seem like a daunting process. However, with some research and planning, both you and your baby can be happy and safe on the airplane. Always check with the airline you will be flying on to be aware of any other rules and regulations. This can usually be found on their website. Have a safe and happy trip!