Child Seat & Restraint Tips and Rules On Various Airlines

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I often get asked if car seats or other types of child restraint systems are required when you fly with your young child. On US airlines the simple answer is no (assuming the infant is either being held or can sit upright unassisted), but the real answer of what is required and/or permitted isn’t quite that simple. In fact, it actually is a bit complicated as many different airlines from different countries have very different sets of rules. Not all of them are as common sense as you would think. The very best advice I can give is really research with the carriers you are considering flying to find out what is required and what is not allowed in terms of restraints for children, but here is some information to give you a general idea of what the rules are for different carriers taken from their respective websites.

British Airways:

  • When you travel with an infant (under 2 years) who won’t be traveling in a seat of their own, you can reserve a seat for yourself and everyone in your booking, free of charge, as soon as you’ve made your booking. If you don’t choose a seat in advance, we’ll allocate a seat for you three days before departure.
  • If your infant is less than two years old and you haven’t reserved a carrycot position, your infant can sit on your lap using an extension seat belt. The cabin crew will provide this for you and show you how to use the seat belt.
  • BA will also supply a child seat that attaches to the carrycot position. If you have reserved your seat at a carrycot position, you can ask the cabin crew for a child seat
  • The child seats supplied by British Airways are available on all longhaul flights, except in First Class on Boeing 777 aircraft, where only carrycots are supplied, suitable to be used from birth to two years, for infants who weigh no more than 13kgs (29lbs), adjustable to a variety of positions from horizontal to vertical.
  • If you decide to purchase a separate seat for your infant for a child fare, or you’re traveling with a child who is less than three years old, you may prefer to use your own forward facing car seat.The car seat:
    • can only be used for infants over six months old and children up to three years old
    • must be designed to be secured by means of a normal aircraft single lap strap and face the same direction as the passenger seat on which it is positioned
    • must have a 5-point restraining harness
    • must not exceed the dimensions of the aircraft seat, and should fit into an area of 45cm x 45cm (17.5ins x 17.5ins)
    • Two part car seats, (a seat and separate base) are not suitable for use on aircraft seats.


  • When you travel with an infant (under 2 years) who won’t be traveling in a seat of their own, you can reserve a seat for yourself and everyone in your party.
  • No special safety measures are necessary for children weighing more than 18 kg – but make sure they are strapped in
  • If you are traveling with children up to the age of about 7, you may take a child restraint system with you.
  • Here is a list of Child Restraint Systems approved by Lufthansa – note that FAA and CAA labeled seats are also included, provided they fit in the Lufthansa seats.

Cathay Pacific:

  • Children under six months use the Child Restraint Device (CRD) provided by CX for securing the infant onto the parent/guardian
  • Children six months to two years of age may use
    • Child Restraint Device (CRD) provided by CX for securing the infant onto the parent/guardian); or
    • Car Safety Seat (taken on board by passenger); or
    • Child Restraint Seat (CRS) provided by CX
  • Children under between two and three years old may use
    • Aircraft seat belt; or
    • Car Safety Seat (taken on board by passenger); or
    • Child Restraint Seat (CRS) provided by CX
  • A CARES harness may be used by by an infant/child passenger who is able to sit upright unsupported on a forward-facing seat and is not taller than 1 metre (40 in) and weighs no more than 10 to 20 kg (22 to 44 lbs). There are some additional types of aircraft and seats where the CARES harness may not be used listed here.


  • As bassinets are limited, please ensure that you request this at the time of booking. Bassinets on Qantas flights are approximately 71cm long, 31cm wide, 26cm deep, and have a weight limitation of 11 kg. If your infant is too large for the bassinet and is traveling on the parents ticket then they must be nursed.
  • Research demonstrates that the safety of your child will be enhanced with the use of a child seat. If you do plan to use a car seat you will need to reserve and purchase a separate seat and receive pre-approval for your device at least 24 hours before departure.
  • Contact your nearest Qantas Office for assistance with the pre-approval, you will also need to show the device to our airport staff on the day of your travel. You can also purchase a Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES) – CASA has pre-approved this harness style restraint device suitable for children aged two to four years.


Singapore Airlines:

  • The use of booster seats is not permitted. However, you can use approved car-type child seats and FAA-approved child harness.
  • Approved car-type child seats may be used for a child under 3 years but not less than 6 months of age. The seat must be forward-facing and can be secured to the aircraft passenger seat by means of the aircraft safety belt. It must also be approved by a foreign airworthiness authority / government standards.
  • FAA-approved child harness can also be used on our flights. However, AmSafe’s Child Aviation Restraint System (CAReS) child harness does not fit our Business Class seats on our A380-800 and A340-500 aircraft as well as the First and Business Class seats on our B777-300ER aircraft. You may wish to contact our Singapore Airlines office for more details.
  • While a limited number of bassinets (beds specifically for babies) are available onboard on a first-come, first-served basis, we recommend that you request for a bassinet at the time of booking to assure easy travel with your infant.The dimensions of the bassinet are 768 L x 298 W x 158 H (mm). Bassinets can support a maximum weight of 14kg.

United Airlines:

  • Children under the age of two traveling within the United States with a parent or with an adult 18 years or older can travel on the adult’s lap free of charge.
  • Children unable to sit upright with the seat belt fastened must be carried in an FAA-approved infant seat if not being held by an adult. United does not provide infant seats.
  • You may use an approved infant car seat on board the aircraft when you purchase a seat for your child. The seat must be an FAA-approved child safety seat device. Please note the following infant car seat placement restrictions: on one-aisle aircraft, car seats must be placed in window seats, on two-aisle aircraft, car seats must be placed in window seats or the middle seat of a center section. Car seats are not permitted in rear-facing seats on any aircraft.
  • The FAA has approved the use of a child safety restraint system for travel. The system, CARES (child aviation restraint system), uses an additional belt and shoulder harness that goes around the back of the seat and attaches to the lap belt. Children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds may use this device. More information is available at
  • The following child restraint devices may not be used on board the aircraft: booster seats, belly belts which attach to adult seat belts only, and vests or harnesses which hold the infant to the chest of the adult.
  • A limited number of bassinets can be reserved for use, free of charge, on international aircraft (Boeing 747, 767, 777, 757-200 and 787). These bassinets are large enough to hold an infant weighing 22 pounds (10 kg) or less.

As you can see, while US airlines do not allow an infant to be strapped to a parent, some foreign carriers provide those type of belts/straps. While US airlines don’t have a stated upper age/weight limit for a car seat, some foreign carriers have an age limit of two or three years old. Most airlines provide seat assignments free of charge in advance to families and all encourage you to request a seat assignment early if you need a bassinet/cot. Many support the use of the CARES harness up to a certain age, but be sure it works on the particular type of aircraft/seat you are traveling in.

If you are used to the way one country or one carrier handles child seats in the air, don’t assume others handle it the same way. What have your child seat selection and/or child restraint experiences been like on different airlines?

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  1. Jason, thanks!
    ADK, glad you liked it.
    MileageUpdate, I love the age she is right now, but no more carseats will be a nice bonus when she gets bigger for sure!

  2. Interesting post! I searched Google images for British Airways carrycot to see what they looked like and the picture above of Little C came up!

  3. I would be majorly horked off if an airline didn’t let me bring on my 4 yo’s carseat – it’s the only way he can see out of the window and he’s totally comfortable in it (knows he has to stay seated and strapped in). The two times we’ve tried to use the CARES harness have been a disaster with an uncomfortable, crabby kiddo. Fortunately I’m not planning to fly internationally with him anytime soon!

    We put him (and his carseat) between his grandparents on a UA 757 LAX-LIH (Grandpa insisted on the window seat) and no FA commented… on a UA 737 MCI-DEN we had carseats in A and C (bulkhead FTW!) while I sat in B and DH sat a row behind in C in E+.

  4. Cara, that’s too funny! Here is a link to a photo that may help you a bit better. 😉
    Daniel, it is something you purchase yourself and can use on most airlines. You can read my review here.
    Susan, I’m with you on that totally! The CARES harness is great, but our daughter is more comfortable in her car seat by far.

  5. Carseats are an ABSOLUTE MUST for our 2 1/2 year old on our typical 12-hour trans-Atlantic flights. It’s the only way he can get comfortable, fall asleep, & not disturb everyone else. But now that he’s older & we’ve upgraded to a convertible seat purchased here in Germany, we’re not allowed to use it within the U.S. as it isn’t FAA approved. I’ve written to the FAA & NHTSA asking how military, ex-pats, & foreigners can use child restraint systems if they can’t get a U.S. one, but no luck. We made it from Frankfurt to Atlanta on Delta just fine, but were made to check it plane-side on our connecting flight. Any ideas?

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