“Should I Use A Car Seat On An Airplane For My Child Under 2?”
I get asked this question a lot because people know that before Kati was 2 years old, we still bought her a ticket. The reason for this extra expense was the result of several weeks of research on the topic of airplane safety. The reason I have not written an article about this up until this point is because I don’t like to write controversial things on this blog. But I am finally going to answer this question so you know why I make the choices I do regarding infant air travel.
Travis and I figured out that Katienne did not like to be held while traveling for long periods. I wish we would have figured this out before our 7 hour bus ride from Budapest to Krakow (on which Kati proceeded to scream for all 7 hours). But after that we always bought her a separate seat so she could be in her car seat. Then we started planning for our trip from Hungary to the United States, and I was faced with the decision of paying several hundred dollars more for her to have a seat, or paying $100 for her to sit on my lap. But something was really starting to get to me, money issues aside. I kept thinking about the strict car seat regulations in every country, and it just didn’t make sense to me that the same thing didn’t apply for airplane rides. So I started researching. I came across many recommendations like this from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
“Similar to travel in motor vehicles, a child is best protected on an airplane when properly restrained in a car safety seat appropriate for the age, weight and height of the child, meeting standards for aircraft until the child weighs more than 40 lbs. and can use the aircraft seat belt. You can also consider using a restraint made only for use on airplanes and approved by the FAA. Belt-positioning booster seats cannot be used on airplanes, but they can be checked as luggage (usually without baggage fees) for use in rental cars and taxis.”
“Although the FAA allows children under age 2 to be held on an adult’s lap, the AAP recommends that families explore options to ensure that each child has her own seat. Discounted fares may be available. If it is not feasible to purchase a ticket for a small child, try to select a flight that is likely to have empty seats.”
I should tell you that I’m not the AAP’s number one fan since I’m a breastfeeding support person. Let’s just say there are things we disagree about. In retrospect, I didn’t take this warning as seriously as I should have, but I wasn’t done researching yet.
Then I came upon an article that described the outcome of a plane accident where the mother survived, but her 23-month-old child died. That was it for me. I don’t know how I would deal with being safe, and my child no longer living, because I did not want to pay the extra six to eight hundred dollars (yes that is how much we pay each time we make a cross-atlantic trip for our small daughter to have her own seat).
It’s a safety issue. I understand that parents don’t want to pay more money, but isn’t safety and peace of mind worth it? If you wouldn’t feel comfortable having your baby in the car without a car seat while traveling 40 mph, why do you feel comfortable flying through the air at 500 mph without one? Because the airlines want you to think it is safe! They even have those “handy” straps that allow you to strap the baby onto your strap, but what they don’t tell you is that those straps are not approved for use with an infant or child (would you put your infant in a small lap belt in the back of your car? I hope not). In all likelihood, they are probably extension straps for adults who are too big to fit into a standard airplane seatbelt. Airlines don’t want to lose any money, and they get more when you pay for two people to fly in one seat. Plus, they don’t want to discourage parents from flying with young infants because you have to pay for a seat for them. Even though airline workers generally have a reputation of being irritated with traveling families, they still want your money.
When you do travel with a car seat, you need to make sure it is FAA approved, and that it is a 5-point-harness. For more information on air friendly car seats, I have written this post.
You know my life philosophy involves spending the least amount of money possible, but in this instance I feel very strongly that money is not the deciding factor. If Travis and I ever have another child, we will be forking over the extra money each and every time we fly, because we feel like there is no other option for our family.