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Can you take a child car seat on a plane?

Find out if your car seat is allowed on the plane and more tips to travel safely

The summer holidays are here and following two years of pandemic-related restrictions, and irrespective of the problems that airports are experiencing, many families are still looking forward to travelling.

If you're jetting abroad you may be considering whether to bring your baby or child car seat, as sitting on a child car seat can provide a more comfortable flight for young children and it could be handy if you're hiring a car at your destination. 

But is it worth it? And what do you need to consider?

Here are the five essentials you need to know before you book your plane ticket and board that flight.


Compare the best baby and child car seats we've tested or read all our baby or child car seat reviews


Baby in a child car seat

1. Pros and cons of bringing your car seat

Cons

  • 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. 
  • Young babies should be in a child car seat for no longer than two hours according to experts, 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.

Pros

  • 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 to 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 three-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. 

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.

Toddler and parent at airport

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.

AirlineWidth of seat
Aer Lingus43.2cm
Air Canada43.2cm
Air France43.2cm
Air New Zealand43.4cm
American Airlines41.1cm
British Airways43.2cm
Easyjet45.7cm

Measurements are based on data from seatguru.com


Which airline has the best seats? Find out how they compare in terms of size and legroom


4. How to install your car seat in an aeroplane

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. 

How to install a forward-facing child car seat on a plane

Here's our step-by-step guide to setting up a forward-facing child car seat on an aeroplane seat:

How to install forward facing car seat in a plane seat
  1. Position the car seat by the window, or in the middle seat of a central row on larger planes 
  2. Recline the plane seat back and place the car seat forward facing onto the plane seat 
  3. Thread the plan lap belt through the holes at either side of your child's car seat 
  4. Buckle the release flap towards the back of the plane seat, pull the loose end taut and raise the airplane seat back.

How to install a rear-facing child car seat on a plane

But if your car seat is rearward-facing, it's slightly different. Here's our step-by-step guide to setting up a rear-facing child car seat on an aeroplane seat:

How to install a rearfacing car seat in a plane seat
  1. Put the car seat by the window facing the backrest 
  2. Thread the belt under the guides of the car seat 
  3. Buckle it and pull the loose end taut.

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. 

Nuna Pipa Next, £240

Nuna Pipa Next car seat

The rearwards-facing Nuna Pipa Next is an i-Size-approved car seat for infants measuring 40cm to 83cm, which should see your baby through from birth to around 15 to 18 months old. The car seat fits onto the Next isofix base, which you can also use with the Nuna Todl car seat. The seat is also compatible with the Nuna Mixx pushchair.

Read our Nuna Pipa Next review to find out more about this TUV approved car seat.

Joie i-Gemm, £210

Joie i-Gemm car seat

The Joie i-Gemm has been around for a while, but it's still a favourite with parents. It's approved for use with babies measuring 40cm to 85cm, which is newborn to around 15 months old. 

It's worth noting that the Joie i-Gemm 2 is now available to buy - we haven't yet tested it - and this may be the version that's sold in most retailers.

Read our review of the Joie i-Gemm car seat.

Maxi Cosi Pebble 360, £225

Maxi Cosi Pebble 360 car seat

The Maxi Cosi Pebble 360 is an updated version of the popular car seat and it went on sale last year. As well as taking it on an aeroplane, you can also fix it to travel system-compatible Maxi Cosi and Quinny pushchairs.

If you use the car seat with the FamilyFix 360 base, you can rotate the seat towards you to make it easier to get your child into the seat. 

Read our review of the Maxi Cosi Pebble 360 to find out how it fared in our tough crash tests.

You can see the full list of TUV approved car seats on the TUV website.

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.