Monday, August 3, 2009

Using a car seat on the plane.

Do I have to use a car seat on a plane?

You're not required to, but both the Federal Aviation Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend that you use an FAA-approved child restraint device. That means either an approved car seat or the CARES harness.

Legally you may carry a child up to 24 months old on your lap, usually free of charge — but unexpected turbulence can send that lap-carried kid flying out of your arms. And in a crash, your child could be crushed against your body.

Ironically, the law mandates that everything in an airplane cabin be battened down during takeoff, landing, and turbulence — except children young enough to ride on their parents' lap. (how crazy is that!)

Why isn't there a law requiring child safety restraints in airplanes? Because Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) analyses have found that if forced to buy an extra airline ticket, many families would drive instead. And statistically that's a far more dangerous way to travel.

Whether you use a car seat or a harness, your child will need his own seat on the airplane. If your child is young enough to ride free, you may be able to find an empty seat for him, but there's no guarantee. Call your airline to ask for a possible child discount, or ask what the company's policy is for using empty seats.

How do I position and use the seat?

Whenever possible, book a window seat. That's where you'll need to put the car seat, to make sure it won't block the escape path in an emergency. You may not put a car seat in an exit row. (we did this once and were asked to move)

Here's what the FAA recommends for children riding on airplanes:

• Less than 20 pounds? Ride in a rear-facing car seat.
• 20 to 40 pounds? Ride in a forward-facing car seat.
• Over 40 pounds? Use the airplane seat belt.

As always, follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully when strapping your child into the seat.

For more on this log on to

Safe Travels!