Booster / Car Seat on Airplane for 5 Year Old?

Updated on January 05, 2010
S.M. asks from Ashburn, VA
13 answers

I will be taking a 3 hour flight with my toddler and five and a half year old in a few weeks. The baby will be in a car seat on the flight. My older daughter has a Britex booster and we still use the five point harness. I am wondering if I should take the booster on the plane for her. I don't know if it is really safer at her age, and i am worried about dealing with two car seats on the plane (even though there will be three adults).

Has anyone used a booster on a plane for an older child? Was it useful and did you feel it was safer?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for your advice. I am going with the FAA guidelines(below). My daughter is 40 pounds, and it is recommended she use the lap belt. I think the CARES system would still work for her (I need to weigh her) but I am not sure I feel it is necessary. From the FAA:

The FAA has approved the use of a child safety restraint system for travel. The system, named “CARES”, 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 44lbs 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.

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when using a CRS. FAA recommends that a child weighing:

Less than 20 pounds use a rear-facing CRS
From 20 to 40 pounds use a forward-facing CRS
More than 40 pounds use an airplane seat belt
A child may also use an alternative, such as a a harness-type restraint, if it is approved by FAA. FAA has approved one restraint appropriate for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds. This type of restraint is not safe for use in motor vehicles.

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answers from Washington DC on

The last time I was on a plane with my 5 and 2 year olds, I did NOT bring a booster. I brought the booster for the older one on the previous trip... what a drag! He kept wanting to squirm in his seat, sit on his knees, lay back a little, etc. Then dragging around all that was too much. He's safe in the airplane without it, in my opinion, and the airlines don't care if you bring them or not... IF they are approved to take in an airplane by the FAA.

Good luck.

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answers from Norfolk on

I've never used a carseat on a plane but my daughter just turned 3 so I've never had to. If you're already paying for you're childrens seats I would put the carseats in them. That's what they're used to traveling in anyway and may relieve any anxiety about flying for them. My daughter was almost 2 the last time I flew and she thought it was great when a seat opened up and she got to sit like a big girl.



answers from Washington DC on

We took my son's booster on the airplane (he was 7) because we wanted to be consistent with him always using it when in a moving vehicle and we needed it when we got to our destination. But I really don't think it would do any good in an emergency in a plane though. But on the return flight we couldn't use it and had to check it because of the seats we were in. Apparently the seats near the emergency exits can't have a child restraint placed in them. Let the airline know when you book your tickets that you will be using a child restraint so you won't be placed here and the baby can use her carseat too. Have a great trip.



answers from Washington DC on

I have traveled cross country with my boys when they were 6 months and 31months, both in car seats/booster seat. You would never consider NOT putting them in the seats if it were a car, why do it for an airplane? I felt much safer, and my older son was more comfortable in his own seat. Don't forget about the ride to and from the airport. Also, you can have them in the car seat up to the gate and have them check it at the plane, to be sure that it gets where it's supposed to.



answers from Washington DC on

I have flown quite a few times with my kids (ages 6 , 4 & 1) and have not used car seats for any of them , I know you can but I always check them in , for the 5 yr old I really don't think you will need it , she will be on her own seat and has the seat belt for take off/landing just like you will. You will probably find it more of an annoyance then anything else having to carry it all.



answers from Washington DC on

I've traveled with all three of my kids (5, 3, and infant)on long flights and my advice is to minimize the amount of gear that you have to carry. Your 5 year old will be fine in the airplane seatbelt if you explain how and why to stay properly buckled in. You could also try a CARES, the only FAA approved Child Aviation Restraint System.
Much easier than lugging the carseat onboard!

Here's the link to the FAA child safety guidelines:

The airlines also require that carseats be fastened in the window seat of the row so that it does not block passage for inside row passengers. Also, check to make sure your booster is approved for airline travel. If it is not they will not let you bring it on board.

And by the way, checked carseats do not count as luggage and they will not charge you a fee to check them. If you do however, buy a case for it to protect it... it will get really beat up when they handle it and if it rips or gets damaged you will not get any money for it.

It is also a huge headache to board the plane with multiple carseats and most major airlines will not let families with small children board early anymore. So you are stuck boarding with everyone else, bumping into the seats as you go down the isle, feeling pressured by everyone behind you to hurry up and get into your seat, securing your children while you buckle in carseats all while trying to stow your loads of other carry on gear (toys, snacks, diapers, etc). Most times the airplane seatbelt won't fit through a carseat so you have to get a flight attendant to give you a seatbelt extender. Or if you fasten and tighten it, the buckle ends up getting stuck in the rear of the carseat where you can't reach it to unbuckle it. Oh I could go on with the headaches of airline travel with kids.

And I once traveled by myself pregnant with two kids in carseats. One in a britax marathon and the other an infant carrier. I sat in the middle seat so I could tend to both kids. My toddler needed a diaper change badly, but since I did not have room on a seat (flanked by 2 carseats) and the lavatory on the plane did not have a changing table (most don't), I had to crouch down and change him on the floor in my row. Not fun. Having the extra seat space for diaper changing is much nicer.

While my daughter was still 3, I did bring along her Britax boulevard (big & heavy) but I got smart and bought a Go Go Babyz travelmate that attaches to her carseat and it was easy to use and she loved riding in her seat through the airport. Well worth the money in my opinion.

The less you have to carry the better!!!
Oh and if your toddler tends to kick the seat in front of her, warn the passenger in that seat ahead of time and apologize up front. I've found most people are more sympathetic if you warn them ahead of time.

Can you tell I've traveled alot with my kids?!?!??
Have a great trip and good luck to you.



answers from Washington DC on

We flew on four flights this summer (two down and two back) to New Orleans with our 2, 4, and 6 year olds. We checked all of the car seats. My husband sat with the two year old and I sat with the older two. Not one of them moved the entire time, and we arrived to three car seats to install in the rental. It's just important to tell them how important it is to sit still and stay buckleded, and have plenty for them to do and snack on.



answers from Charlottesville on

My only advice is that a car seat can't be in a position where it is between an occupied seat and the aisle. Depending upon how may seats there are in a row on the plane may affect your decision. My 4 year old always flies without her carseat. I can't say the seatbelt on the plane is very reassuring to me, though. She also had a bit of a hard time last time because the planes all had faux leather seats, which were so slippery that she kept sliding down under the seatbelt. I'd at least recommend bare legs or some other sort of "sticky" clothing possibility;) Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

If you are paying for the seat on the plane, then yes you should use the booster. Make sure ahead of time that the booster is approved for airlines because many are not.



answers from Richmond on

to be completely honest, every time we've every flown with our daughter, we didn't use a car seat-we checked it as luggage. She was just about 3 years old the first time. Also, you might want to check on airline policy since the flotation devices are the seat cushions-(especially the toddler car seat.) I can't see the booster to be as much of an issue since it lifts out, but in an emergency, unstrapping a harness seat might be more of a danger to you & baby. I have never seen a child in a car seat on a plane before- maybe that's why it never occured to me.



answers from Washington DC on

If it is not approved for airline use, they will not let you use it.



answers from Washington DC on

The 5 year old doesn't need the booster on the plane. Check it; one less thing to carry. We were using a Regent(very heavy) and ended up buying a smaller folding booster to take with us on our last trip. Our son was also fine as a four yr old w/o a booster on the plane.



answers from Washington DC on

The last time I tried they wouldn't let me take a booster for my older child, just for a baby in a bucket seat. They made me store it in the plane and it was a waste of time (unless you are going to use it in a car once you arrive). Your 5 year old should be fine sitting in a seat and buckled.

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