airplane safety

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly recommends that parents keep their infants and toddlers strapped into a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device. It is not certain that a parent can hold an infant securely in their arms throughout a flight, especially during unexpected turbulence. It can also be difficult to keep toddlers in their seats using only the plane’s lap belt.

Airplane Safety Tips: How to Choose a CRS

The FAA urges parents to choose and secure their infant/toddler in a CRS or device based on the child’s weight.

  • An infant or toddler less than 20 pounds should be in a rear-facing CRS
  • A toddler who is at least one year of age and 20 to 40 pounds should be in a forward-facing CRS
  • A toddler or child who is 22 to 44 pounds should be in a CARES child safety device
  • A toddler or child over 40 pounds should use the regular airplane lap belt

While booster seats and harness vests enhance safety in vehicles, the FAA prohibits passengers from using these types of restraints during ground movement or take-off and landing because they do not provide the best protection on an airplane. While there is no regulatory prohibition from using a booster seat or harness vest (or other non-approved devices) for a lap child during the cruise portion of the flight only, some airlines have policies which may or may not allow the use of those devices.

Before you Board your Flight:

  • Check that your CRS or other device is approved for use on airplanes.
  • Measure the width of your CRS; if it is 16 inches wide or less then it should fit in most airplane seats.
  • Ask your airline for a discounted fare if you are planning to purchase a seat for your infant or toddler under the age of two. Buying a ticket for your child is the only way to guarantee that you will be able to use a CRS.
  • If possible, reserve adjoining seats and place your child in their CRS in a window seat so it will not block the escape path in an emergency. Do not place a CRS in an exit row.
  • If you do not buy a ticket for your infant or toddler under the age of two, ask if your airline will allow you to use an empty seat. One way to increase the odds of there being an empty seat is to avoid booking your flight on the busiest days or times.
  • Pre-plan for how you will transport the CRS through the airport up to the gate. There are many options including carts and special backpacks. Ask the airline for help if necessary.

Note that if you purchase a ticket for a CRS and the approved apparatus you bring does not fit in your assigned seat, the airline is responsible for accommodating the CRS in another seat in the same class of service.

Children with Special Needs

A child with physical challenges may need to use a CRS for their safety well beyond the 40 pound recommendation. Airlines must allow a child who is under the age of 18 to use an approved CRS that is being used correctly, is properly labeled and appropriate for the child’s weight. Many companies manufacture CRSs approved for use on aircraft that are specifically designed for larger children with physical challenges.

Adults with Special Needs

Those 18 years and older who have physical challenges that require a CRS for security during travel may request an exemption to the FAA’s regulations that require each passenger to be properly secured by a safety belt. Sometimes the airline makes the request on the passenger’s behalf. Several companies manufacture restraint systems for adults with physical challenges.

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