The FAA reports that its Air Traffic Organization handles over 44,000 flights per day serving about 2.7 million passengers. Travel is increasing, and many families are flying on vacations and to meet other relatives and friends.
If you are a parent with an infant or toddler and you need to travel by air, you are concerned about navigating the airport with your baby and being able to get around as smoothly as possible at the place of your destination. So you might ask yourself “What baby carriers are allowed on planes?”
We did some checking to find out what parents are allowed to carry on board and what must be checked at the gate or ticket counter.
Baby Wraps, Slings, Vests, and Booster Seats
While navigating the airport, wraps, slings, and vests are your friends. They make it easy for you to function using both hands while baby is strapped securely to your chest. However, once you are on the plane with baby, you can only use baby-wearing gear while at cruising altitude. You won’t be able to use this type of baby carrier during take-off, landing, or taxiing. Southwest, Frontier, and JetBlue all say no baby-wearing gear, unless cruising. United Airlines does not allow booster seats or baby-wearing carriers onboard at all. Southwest prohibits use of booster seats on their planes.
What About Infant Car Safety Seats?
If you are wondering about the abbreviations CRS and CARES that are often mentioned in connection with baby travel, they stand for Child Restraint System and Child Aviation Restraint System respectively. They are approved by the FAA for securing children in place on planes. The FAA has a couple of short videos on how to use these devices.
Child safety seats fall under the category of CRS. They are hard-backed seats with a safety harness. They also have straps around the back of the safety seat through which the parent must thread the passenger seat belt. Some child safety seats might be approved for both motor vehicles and aircraft. But since not all of them are certified for both, you need to verify that yours is approved before traveling, so that you don’t risk having to check your child seat as baggage in the airport. You also need to be sure that your safety seat is not too wide to fit in the passenger seat of your chosen airline carrier. (So much to do when you’re a parent!)
A CARES device has no hard back, but consists of a harness that attaches to a loop placed around the passenger seat. This device is suitable for children ranging from 22 to 44 pounds. As in the case of the CRS seat, be sure your CARES harness system is FAA-approved.
United Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest, Frontier, and Delta allow you to install your child safety seat in one of their passenger seats if you have purchased a ticket for the child. However, you might get lucky, and there might be an unoccupied seat, allowing your child to fly for free in the child safety seat. No ticket? No unoccupied seat? – Check the safety seat at the gate, and hold the child on your lap. But if you are able to get your safety seat on board, be aware of the airline’s seating requirements. Generally, you will need to install the seat at the window. Rear-facing seats and exit rows are prohibited, and sometimes the rows immediately in front of and behind the exit row. There may be restrictions by cabin as well (first class and business class).
What About Strollers?
Strollers are wonderful but a bit bulky for carrying on board. Fortunately, United, American, Southwest, Frontier, and Delta Airlines allow you to gate-check your stroller for free without it counting against your other baggage allowance. If you have a large stroller (over 20 pounds), some carriers, like American Airlines, require checking it at the ticket counter. So Know your stroller before you travel.
You would probably love it if you could just take your stroller right onto the plane. Right? Enter the compact folding stroller! Some air carriers allow you to bring your compact stroller, folded up, right on board in addition to your carry-on and personal bag. This is true of United Airlines. By compact folding stroller, we mean something like the GB Pockit Stroller that falls within carry-on luggage guidelines.
We sure hope this information helps traveling parents out there. Bon Voyage!