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When flying with young children, it is typically safest and most comfortable for all involved if the child has not only their own seat, but is secured in that seat in an approved “child restraint system” (car seat) during the flight. This is how we flew with Little C for most of her flights between 1 – 3.5 years old or so (when she wasn’t in her CARES Harness), and it is how we will probably fly with Baby S once she also reaches closer to one year old. Right the baby would just scream throughout the flight if she was in her car seat…just like she does in the car much of the time, so we are holding her as a lap baby even though there is a slight safety trade-off over having her in a car seat.
If you have kids, you probably have noticed that car seats, even infant seats, can be quite bulky. As an example, one popular car seat in my mommy group circles is the Britax Marathon. There are several flavors of this car seat, but it can be 18.5 inches wide (not to mention it is quite heavy!). Even though 18.5 inches may not sound especially large given an entire back seat of a car, airplane seats can often be smaller than 18.5 inches wide. As an example, Spirit lists their A319 seats as 17.75 inches wide. Think Spirit must be the worst? Think again as United lists their 737-700 seats as just 17.2 inches wide. This is by no means just an issue for those who fly budget carriers.
In reality lots of economy airplane seats will be narrower than many popular car seats that we use in cars for everyday travel. Apparently the FAA has taken notice of this issue and plans to make it easier for traveling families who bring along their car seats via a new rule.
Per the new FAA Rule, effective by February 29, 2016, airlines must list on their websites the width of the narrowest and widest passenger seat in each class of service for each make, model, and series of airplane used in their fleet for passenger transportation. The reason for this new rule is so that parents can know in advance if their CRS can be used on the airplane that they expect to fly on with their child.
The FAA already has a website dedicated to using car seats on planes and recommends that a CRS no wider than 16 inches should fit in most airplane seats. I am not a car seat expert, but I don’t think many exist that are smaller than 16 inches wide. Even the Cosco Scenera that I highly recommend for travel due to its cost, size, and weight is listed as 17 inches across. The Doona infant seat that turns from a car seat into a stroller when wheels shoot out (that I am absolutely in love with) is about 17.3 inches wide. In other words, good luck finding any seat under 16 inches wide!
As an FYI, the FAA also has an existing rule that if the CRS 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 (assuming one exists), which I could see being interesting if a larger “premium” economy seat is not considered a different class of service. In practice a car seat being slightly too wide doesn’t matter frequently as long as the arm rest isn’t in a fixed position because the extra space it takes up is simply taken away from the parent or caregiver seated next to the car seat. However, car seat and airline seat size is an issue you need to be aware of, especially if you are on an aircraft where the arm rest does not raise.
I’m a big fan of anything the FAA and airlines do to make flying with children even a little bit easier, so thumbs up on this new rule!
Thanks to Gary from View From the Wing for passing along this information!