Child Safety Restraint System For Travel
Airlines must allow a child who is under the age of 18 to use an approved CRS that is properly labeled, appropriate for the child's weight, and as long as the child is properly secured in the CRS. Many companies manufacture CRSs approved for use on aircraft that are specifically designed for larger children who are physically challenged. See Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings for more information.
A CRS must be installed in a forward-facing aircraft seat, in accordance with manufacturer's instructions. This includes placing the CRS in the appropriate forward- or aft-facing direction as indicated on the label for the size of the child.
A CRS is a hard-backed child safety seat that is approved by the government for use in both motor vehicles and aircraft. FAA controls the approval of some but not all CRSs. Additional information is available in FAA guidance (PDF) and on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Not all car seats are approved for use in airplanes.
If an approved CRS, for which a ticket has been purchased, 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. The airline may have polices that dictate the specific safe seat locations for specific aircraft. See Regulatory Requirements Regarding Accommodation of Child Restraint Systems (PDF) to learn more. However, a CRS may not be used in oblique seats in certain premium class cabins. FAA guidance (PDF) to airlines explains this prohibition.
Most young children who use a CRS weigh 40 lbs. or less. However, there are some children with physical challenges who weigh more than 40 lbs. and need the support and security of a CRS or device so they can travel safely on an airplane.
Booster seats and harness vests enhance safety in vehicles. However, the FAA prohibits passengers from using these types of restraints and belly belts during ground movement, take-off and landing because they do not provide the best protection. The FAA encourages parents to make the best safety choice by using an approved CRS during all phases of flight. 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, airlines have policies which may or may not allow the use of those devices. Check with your airline.
The CARES Child Safety Device is the only FAA-approved harness-type restraint for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds. This type of device provides an alternative to using a hard-backed seat and is approved only for use on aircraft. The CARES Child Safety Device is not approved for use in motor vehicles. Learn more about CARES.
To review previously granted exemptions on special needs travel, go to the FAA Automated Exemption System and type "7831", "8264" or "9834" in the "Exemption Number" search field and hit "enter" or click on "Search" on the left side of the screen. Highlight the document you wish to view and click on "View Document" on the left side of the screen.