Sitting on a child car seat can provide a more comfortable flight for young children.
If you’re going away this summer and considering bringing a baby or child car seat with you, here are the five essentials you need to know before you board that flight.
Compare all the best child car seats we’ve reviewed.
1. Pros and cons of bringing your car seat
Taking a child car seat on a plane is more expensive as it will require you to purchase a seat for your child – generally children under two don’t need to pay for a seat.
If you have a young baby it’s also worth bearing in mind that experts recommend staying in a child car seat for no longer than two hours as they can experience breathing problems (no longer than 30 minutes is recommended in the first four weeks of a baby’s life). A flatter position is considered the best position for babies to travel in, especially those who are premature, newborn and young – not only for comfort, but also to help their breathing.
But taking your child car seat on a plane can be very practical for a number of reasons.
- Older children can sleep in it.
- Being properly secured for take-off and landing will help to avoid preventable injuries as opposed to your little one sitting in your lap.
- It means your child is safely secured in the event of turbulence.
- You can use it travelling to the airport and when you get to the other end of your journey in a hire car or taxi – as long as you can legally use the car seat in the country you are visiting.
- In all countries within the European Union you can use a UK car seat as long as it’s approved to ECE R44.04 or UN R129 (check the label).
Read our guide on car seat laws around the world.
2. Will the airline let your car seat on?
Some child car seats are TUV approved and will have a sticker that says ‘Certified For Use in Aircraft’, but that’s not a mandatory requirement for taking a car seat on a plane.
Typically the car seat must:
- Be designed to be secured by means of a lap belt
- Have a restraining harness (some require a 5-point harness)
- Not exceed the dimensions of the aircraft seat
- Remain secured to the airplane seat at all times during the flight
- Must not require the use of a three-point harness to secure it to the aircraft seat.
Some airlines have their own child car seats you can hire for the duration of the flight if you want to use a car seat but don’t want to carry your own, however you must pre-book them in advance.
Check with your airline before you fly.
3. Will your car seat fit the aeroplane seat?
All major airlines publish the width of the narrowest and widest seats in each class so it’s vital to check your car seat is compatible with the aeroplane seat before you fly.
If your car seat doesn’t have airline approval or is too big for the airline’s restrictions, you may be asked to check it as baggage and won’t be able to use it on the flight.
Below are the narrowest seat widths of the economy seats for the most popular airlines, so you can compare at a glance to see if your car seat is suitable.
3. Speak to your airline before booking
Not all airlines will allow you to use a child car seat on the plane, even if the seat is approved for use in an aircraft, and some airlines don’t allow rear-facing car seats.
It’s essential to speak to your airline before you fly, and it’s worth confirming the make and model of your car seat too.
Try to email ahead of time and get something in writing so you can show airline staff if queried at the gate.
4. How to install your car seat in a plane
Whether your car seat is forward or rear-facing, it’s essential that it’s placed next to a window, so that in the event of an emergency all passengers can evacuate quickly and easily.
Here’s our step-by-step guide to setting up a forward-facing child car seat on an aeroplane seat:
But if your car seat is rearward-facing, it’s slightly different:
5. Which car seats are certified for use in aircraft?
Below are three child car seats from the full list of those that are TUV approved. This means they are compatible with most aeroplane seats.
But if you’re thinking of buying a new child car seat before you fly, see how they fared in a crash tests by reading our child car seats reviews.
You can see the full list of TUV approved car seats on the TUV website.
Cybex Aton M – £130
This group 0+ car seat is approved for use from birth up until around 15 months.
It offers a lie-flat position thanks to the removable seat insert, and an 11-position height adjustment so you can tailor the car seat to comfortably fit your child.
Read our Cybex Aton M i-Size (belted) review to find out more about this TUV approved car seat.
Joie i-Gemm – £130
Approved for use from birth up to 15 months, this aeroplane-friendly car seat has a practical multi-height headrest and harness system that adjust simultaneously to fit your little one, so you won’t need to fiddle about with re-threading the five-point harness.
Take a look at our Joie i-Gemm review to see how this car seat fared in our tough tests.
Maxi-Cosi Pebble Plus – £199
This airline-approved car seat features a one-handed harness for securing your baby quickly and easily, and it comes with an inlay for a snug and near-flat lying position.
It’s approved from birth up to about 12 months old or until your child is more than 75cm in length.
Find out more by visiting our Maxi-Cosi Pebble Plus (belted) review.
Car seats with narrow widths ideal for flights
These car seats are narrow and relatively light, so you won’t be struggling with carrying a bulky and heavy infant seat through a busy airport.
Cybex Cloud Z – £225
This travel system-compatible car seat can be used from birth up until around 18 months.
When used with the Base Z it has a 180° rotation to make it easier to put your baby in the seat, and outside of a car the seat can recline to a more ergonomic lie-flat position that’s better for baby.
See how this car seat is rated for safety, fitting and comfort in our Cybex Cloud Z i-Size review.
Nania Beone SP – £45
This Group 0+ budget-friendly car seat is approved from birth to around 15 months.
It has features typically seen on pricier car seats, including a removable newborn body-support cushion and a sun canopy.
If you accidentally mess the covers they can be removed and hand-washed.
Check out our Nania Beone SP review to see how it coped with our side and front-impact tests.
CBX Shima – £70
Compatible with CBX strollers as part of a travel system, this car seat is approved for use from birth up until 13kg, which is around 12-15 months of age.
It has a well-padded harness and a body support inlay for comfort, especially for younger babies.
Read our CBX Shima (belted) review to see whether we’d recommend it for your child.
Can I also take my child’s buggy on our flight?
As well as a car seat, many airlines also allow you to bring a pushchair on a plane.
Some strollers are small enough to be taken into the cabin with you, while larger buggies will need to be checked into the hold.
Find out more about airlines’ pushchair policies and what pushchairs we’d recommend for flights in our guide to taking pushchairs on planes.