So you are going to board a plane with your baby. Before taking a flight to the United States, you should educate yourself about the safety rules and regulations of the relevant 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 on the lap of a paying passenger or it must be in an infant carrier such as a car seat or other convertible restraint. In addition, they must be located in the window seat of a dead end row. The child restraint system must have an FAA approval tag and it must be securely secured in an airplane seat using the seat belt provided.
- All children over 40 pounds must have their own seat and wear the provided seat belt low and snug on the hips. Booster seats are not allowed.
Baby on Board
When traveling with a baby, you have two choices. The first is to carry your baby and travel with him on your lap. The airline will allow you to carry your baby in a sling or baby carrier while the plane is in flight. However, during take off, turbulence with seat belt sign and landing, they will require you to remove your baby carrier (or sling) and hold your baby in your arms. If you choose this option, you will only need to purchase one plane ticket, but there are some obvious safety issues to consider with this option as they will only be held in your arms. Some airlines may not allow this option.
The second choice is to take an FAA approved car seat. Such a car seat should have a sticker to this effect stuck somewhere; usually you can find it under the seat. If your car seat doesn’t have a sticker, you’ll need to call the manufacturer and ask if the car seat you own is FAA approved or not.
If your baby’s car seat is approved, you will carry it with you on the plane and place it in the seat next to you. This travel option requires you to purchase an additional seat for your child, but you may be able to get a discount or a free seat on an infrequently traveled flight if you request it. The carrier must be in a window seat so as not to prevent other passengers from getting in and out of their seats. Also make sure it is no more than 16 inches, the width of most airline seats.
If you take this route and travel alone with your baby, you will quickly realize how much superhuman effort you will need to transport the car seat, your carry-on luggage and your baby! Try this instead: wear a front baby carrier like a Snugli or Baby Bjorn with baby inside, then attach the car seat to your back using a Cheeky Monkey Pac Back. This way you will always have both hands free.
Flight options for older babies
If your baby weighs between 22 and 44 pounds, there are three options available to you. The first is to hold your child under the age of two on your lap. It is the same scenario as if your child were still and baby. The second option is still to use an FAA approved car seat that will be secured in the window seat of the aircraft.
The third and new option is a harness known as the CARES Flight Harness. This child restraint, easily stowed in your carry-on or purse, can be used in place of a car seat by children 22 to 44 pounds, or 1 to 4 years old. The harness is FAA approved for flight and is much less bulky than trying to carry your car seat to the airport and on the plane. While the CARES flight harness can be a bit pricey at around $ 75, it also ensures that your child is as secure as possible, which in my opinion is priceless.
Flying with your baby or child can seem like a daunting process. However, with some research and planning, you and your baby can be happy and safe on the plane. Always check with the airline you will be flying on for other rules and regulations. This can usually be found on their website. Have a good trip!