The best car seats for airplane travel + the rules and regulations you need to know

This is our guide to the best car seats for airplane travel currently approved by the FAA and and European authorities and an overview of the rules and rights you need to know when flying with a car seat.

The use of car seats on planes is probably the most debated topic in family travel circles (it is up there with the best travel strollers for Europe!).

Questions about the appropriateness of flying with a car seats often dominate the conversation in any chat about traveling with kids and opinions often diverge: using a car seat on a plane is a must for many and an oddity for others.

However, things have recently changed. Experts have come out to say that the safest place for a child on a plane is in an approved restrained system (CRS) and this has changed the debate radically.

Instead of asking if it is a good idea to fly with a car seat on board, the most debated question is now what the best car seats for airplane are, what rules you should be aware of and what rights you have as a passenger

In this article, I try answer all this questions and give a list of the best airline approved car seats for flying.

I put a lot of research into this topic and went straight to the sources of information which are the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration for the US and the Easa website, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (see all sources and links below).

These are the rules you need to know about carrying a car seat on the plane and the best car seats for airplane travel whether you are traveling domestically or internationally.

Disclaimer: this post has been written for information purposes only. Always check directly with the relevant authorities and via official channels about your specific requirements and circumstances

Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

RELATED: Practical and actionable tips for making flying with children easier

Where can you get official info about car seats on airplanes: government bodies

The main sources of information about regulations about car seats on planes can be found on the official websites of Governments and / or regulatory aviation bodies in of the relevant country.

Some quick links for your convenience:

Official resources about car seats on plane on specific airlines

On top of Government regulations, the use of car seats on airplanes is regulated by the specific policies of individual airlines.

To be sure of your rights on each specific carrier, it is paramount to read carefully what each airline says and make contact with them in case of doubts or to get additional information.

For your reference, this is a quick list of links to specific regulations about car seats on planes for some of the most popular airlines:

Car seats on airplanes: what do the rules say?

As you can see from the number of resources and applicable policies mentioned above, it is not possible to summarize a simple set of rules that will guarantee the use of a seats on any carrier, at any time.

However, there are some principles that are useful to know.

The EU and US aviation authorities seem to have the most extensive and accessible info.

The EU says:

‘In principle, your car seat may be used on board. EU rules consider the following child seats acceptable (if the child seat can be properly installed on the aircraft seat)

  • Approved for use in an aircraft by the National Aviation Authority in your county on the basis of a technical standard and marked accordingly
  • Approved for use in cars in accordance with the following standards ESEr44-03 or later amendments – the European safety standard for child safety seats, Canadian CMVSS 213/213.1
  • Booster seats cannot be used on board of aircrafts. For high back booster seat, check with manufacturer if it has been tested and approved for plane travel.

The FAA says:

  • Make sure your 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.
  • CRS must be installed in a forward-facing aircraft seat, in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If an approved CRS, for which a ticket has been purchased, does not fit in a particular seat on the aircraft, the airline is responsible for accommodating the CRS in another seat in the same class of service. The airline may have polices that dictate the specific safe seat locations for specific aircraft

Tips for using a car seat on an airplane

As you can see, the rules are at the same time clear but complex.

To minimize the risk of having difficulties on boarding, it is advisable to:

  • Make sure your car seats is approved for aircraft use by FAA or relevant authority and has the relevant sticker
  • Measure the width of your CRS. It should fit in most airplane seats if it is no wider than 16 inches.
  • In case of rear facing car seats, check the specific dimension of your aircraft to make sure there is sufficient space between your child seat and one in front
  • Familiarize yourself with your airline policies and specific aircraft layout
  • Book the most appropriate seat, keeping in mind special rules about off limits locations
  • Communicate with your airline in advance
  • Print out the official information or communication with your airline proving you can use your car seat on the specific flight, so you can have a swift resolution should you have any difficulties when boarding.
  • CRS must be installed in a forward-facing aircraft seat, in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.
  • This includes placing the CRS in the appropriate forward- or aft-facing direction as indicated on the label for the size of the child.
  • Please remember that the rules above about forward facing are referring to the plane seat, not the car seat. You can use a rear facing car seat on a plane, provided the size and space on board is suitable (see rule above)
Small kids in airport looking at planes before they take off

Why use a car seat on the plane?

If all these rules and regulations are making your head spin, you may find yourself wondering if it s worth it using a car seat on an airplane after all.

Having traveled extensively with my children and their car seats, I personally prefer to do without, although there were situations when having the car seat was definitely a plus.

You may want to carry your own child car seat on the plane in the following cases:

  • You have a long haul flight ahead of you and want to keep your child as secure as possible
  • You have a car journey ahead of you and need your own car seat
  • You have a car journey by rental car ahead of you and cannot trust the quality and state of the provided car seat (or want to avoid spend the extortion prices often applied)
  • You don’t want to check in your car seat for fear of accidental damage

Best car seats for airplane, EU and FAA approved car seats for airplane travel

Photo collage with photo of plane taking off and toddlers in airport with text overlay 'Guide to the best car seats for airplane travel'

Best infant car seats for airplane

Chicco keyfit 30

The Chicco Keyfit 30 is a great car seat for airplane travel that will also keep your child comfortable on the road.

This is a great all around car seat for travel, made by a brand I know and trust and makes for an excellent infant car seat for airplane travel.

Main specs:

  • Suitable from 4-30 lbs, up to 30” in height.
  • Weighs: 9.6 lbs
  • Dimensions –  27.5″ x 17″ x 24″
  • FAA certified airplane infant seat

Doona FAA approved car seat and stroller

The first time I saw the doona car seat and stroller, I could not believ my eyes: this is an infant car seat that opens up to turn into a stroller!

This is an excellent idea for travel an din the case of air travel, it comes with the added advantage of being TUV and FAA Aircraft Approved for travel

With this item, you solve the problems of carrying a car seat and a travel stroller in one.

Main specs:

  • Dimensions (folded): 23.6 x 17.3 x 26 inches.
  • Item Weight: 16.5 lbs
  • Suitable for kids up to 13Kg

Cybex Aton 2

The Cybex Aton 2 is a rear facing car seat  which is great for airplane travel as it is extremely lightweight and always scores excellent results in safety tests.

This is an excellent infant car seat for plane and road trips alike.

Main specs:

  • Rear facing only
  • Dimensions: 18 x 17.5 x 26.25 in
  • Weighs 9.8lbs
  • Can also be used as part of travel systems on many popular stroller frames.
  • Approved by the FAA for air travel

Best toddler car sat for airplane /best convertible car seats for airplane use

Cosco Scenera Next

The Cosco Scenera Next if a lightweight, FAA approved car seat for travel that is certified for use on aircraft.

This is an excellent all round car seat for travel with lightweight frame, easy to clean materials and 5 point harness system.

It can be used both rear facing and forward facing and it is suitable for children 5 to 50 pounds.

Main specs:

  • Dimensions: 23″ H x 17″ W x 22″ D
  • Weighs: 9.1 lbs
  • Made in USA
  • FAA certified travel car seat for airplanes.

Britax Emblem convertible car seat

Britax makes excellent car seats and some are certified for use on aircraft too if used in harness mode (not in booster mode). The two we recommend are The Emblem (lighter) and the Pinnacle (see below, a little heavier and bulkier)

  • Product dimensions 21 x 18.5W x 26 “
  • 3-position recline
  • Product weight 19.5lbs
  • Forward and rear facing

Britax Pinnacle

FAA approved in forward facing harness mode only, this is a good car sat but, as mentioned above, a little on the heavy side.

The advantage of this car seat is that it is suitable also for older and bigger toddlers, a plus that explains the additional weight.

  • Maximum weight: 25-90lbs
  • Product weight 26.5lbs
  • FAA approved in forward facing harness mode only

FAA approved Cares harness

If you are not planning on using a car on arrival and only want to guarantee the safety of your child while on board, then you want want to consider the AmSafe Child Aviation Restraint System CARES

The CARES Child Safety Device is the only FAA-approved harness-type restraint for children and it is suitable for kids weighing between 22 and 44 pounds.

The AmSafe Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES) is ‘the world’s first and only aviation alternative to a car seat’ and works as a belt-and-buckle device that attaches directly to the airplane seatbelt.

If you’re using a CARES child safety device, make sure it has “FAA Approved in Accordance with 14 CFR 21.8(d), Approved for Aircraft Use Only” or “FAA Approved in Accordance with 14 CFR 21.305(d), Amd 21.50 6-9-1980, Approved for Aircraft Use Only” on it.

Please note that the CARES harness is suitable for use on air crafts only and cannot be legally used on cars.

This is our selection of the best car seats for airplane travel currently available on the market. I hope you found it useful. Safe travels!

Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases

Loved this post? Share it or pin it for later!