When traveling with children, parents’ first priority should be the safety and well-being of the children. That’s why here at the Car Seat Parent community, we highly recommend using a car seat when flying with your baby.
It’s certainly an additional expense and effort, but the peace of mind that the child is much safer in a properly secured seat is incomparable to her sitting on our laps.
But if you do choose to secure your tiny creature in a car seat, you will have to do a lot of research on the airlines, and their car seat rules, and then find a suitable car seat before you book your tickets.
In this round-up, we will reduce your efforts and list our favorite car seats for airplane travel. Most of these car seats are narrow enough to slide into those cramped economy seats, light enough to lug around the airport, and most importantly FAA-approved.
Comparison Chart: Best car seats for airplanes
Top Car Seats for Airplane Travel
Below are our individual car seat reviews, including infant, and convertible car seats (Booster seats are not allowed on the airplane).
Read our reviews if you are looking for:
- A car seat to use on the plane for your 1 year old,
- A car seat to use on the plane for your 2 year old,
- A car seat to use on the plane for your 3 year old,
- A car seat to use on the plane for your 4 year old
Doona (Best car seat-stroller combo for airplane travel)
Reasons to consider for airplane travel: A great car seat stroller combo that will make transporting your child through the airport easier.
There is nothing better than having a car seat and a stroller in one and the Doona offers you just that.
The Doona is an infant car seat that converts into a stroller in seconds. You just pop the legs out and you are ready to roll.
The best part is that you won’t have to worry about carrying a heavy car seat through the airport.
The Doona is a rear-facing car seat that’s FAA-approved. Meaning, you are allowed to use it on the plane as a safety seat.
It is also sufficiently narrow (17 inches only) to fit on airplane seats and in 3 across installations in your car.
- Dimensions: 23″ H x 17″ W x 22″ D
- Fits: Rear-facing only (4 to 35 lbs; up to 32″ in height)
- Weight: 16.5 lbs
Read our full review of Doona here
Chicco KeyFit 30 (Best Infant Car Seat for Airplanes)
Reasons to consider for airplane travel: A budget-friendly infant car seat that’s easy to use and install on the airplane. It’s also very lightweight.
The all-time popular Chicco Keyfit30 is also suitable for aircraft use. This infant seat measures only 16.5 inches wide and it is one of the lightest infant seats on the market (9.5 lbs without base).
The Chicco Keyfit 30 can be used from 4 to 30 pounds rear-facing and it provides a secure and comfortable fit even for premature babies.
We love the Keyfit 30 because it’s easy to use and install.
This seat is an affordable infant car seat for air travel (Around $190 on Amazon). So, you won’t have to worry about getting your fancy $500 car seat banged up at the airport.
And trust me, traveling with a car seat can get things really messy!
- Dimensions: 27.5” x 17” x 24”
- Fits: Rear-facing (4 to 30 lbs; up to 30″ in height)
- Weight: 9.6 lbs
Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX (Best budget car seat for Airplanes)
Reasons to consider for airplane travel: Budget-friendly convertible car seat that can be purchased as a second seat just for traveling purposes. Easy to carry, compact and it costs less than $100.
If you are looking for a dedicated travel car seat that can last you a bit longer, we recommend the Cosco Mighty Fit.
This FAA-approved convertible seat is both compact and lightweight and it comes at a great price point (Less than $100).
You can use the Mightly Fit for both rear-facing and forward-facing from 5 up to 65 pounds, this gives you a few years of use which is not a bad investment for the price.
It is however not the best car seat to install. It took us a lot of effort and time to get the hang of it. But this is not a superrise. Most affordable car seats are a bit tricky to install and use.
But if you are looking for a more user-friendly convertible car seat, check out our next seat on the list.
- Dimensions: D14″ x W18.50″ x H30.50″
- Fits: Rear Facing (5-40 lbs, and 19-36″); Forward Facing (22-65 lbs and 29-52″)
- Weight: 12.76 lbs
Graco Contender Slim (Best comfortable car seat for Airplanes)
Reasons to consider for airplane travel: A go to travel car seat that’s easy to install, and comfortable for long trips. It’s lightweight which makes it our favorite convertible car seat for airport travel.
Frequent traveler families love the Graco Contender slim. It’s a popular travel car seat for so many reasons. It can be used in both rear-facing and forward-facing, cozy, compact, easy to use, and affordable.
It’s equipped with a No-rethread harness so it’s easy to adjust the harness height as your child grows.
Plus, when installed on the plane seat, the airplane seat belt buckle goes behind the Contender’s frame and won’t rest against your child’s back. This provides a more comfortable flying experience for you and your child.
Similar to the Graco Contender Go, the Contender Slim has ditched the fixed cup holder that the original Contender 65 had and replaced it with a clip-on cup holder.
Both the Contender Slim and Contender Go have the exact same features of the original model but they are slightly slimmer thanks to the removable cup holder feature.
- Dimensions: L21.5 x W18.9 x H24.75 inches
- Fits: Rea-facing 5-40 lb and your forward facing 22-65 lb
- Weight: 16 lbs
Safety 1st Jive 2-in-1 (Best user-friendly car seat for Airplanes)
Reasons to consider for airplane travel: It’s super light weight allows you to easily transport the Safty 1st Jive through the airport. It’s also well priced for the long use period it offers.
Safety 1st Jive is another great car seat option for travel. It’s not too heavy to carry in a car seat backpack or strap it to your carry-on-suitcase, and it installs super easily on both planes and cars.
For around $100, the Safety 1st can be used from 6 months up until your child is 6 or 5 years old which is a worthwhile investment to be honest.
We also like how compact it is when installed rear-facing in the car, so if you have a small car, it’s definitely a win.
- Dimensions: 18.13 D x16 W x 29.75 H
- Fits: Rea-facing (5-40 lb); Forward facing (22-65 lb)
- Weight: 10 lbs
WAYB Pico (Best portable car seat for air travel)
Reasons to consider for airplane travel: Wayb Pico is a foldable car seat that’s easy to handle when traveling through the airport, taking Taxis and Ubers. Plus, it comes with its own premium travel bag.
WAYB Pico is a forward-facing only car seat that fits kids 22-50 lbs. The special thing about this car seat is that it can actually fold and be carried in a bag that comes with it.
The best part is that it weighs just 8 pounds. With the WAYB Pico, no more backbreaking heavy lifting!
It has a 5-point harness to keep your child safely strapped in the car or plane (It’s FAA & NHTSA approved)
You can easily install it using either the LATCH system or seatbelt.
- Dimensions: 15.2“L x 14.5”W x 27.8”H
- Fits: Forward-facing only (22-50 lbs, 30” up to 45” tall)
- Weight: 8 lbs
CARES (Best Airplane harness for kids)
Reasons to consider for airplane travel: If your child is 1 year old or more and for some reason you cannot use a car seat on the plane, consider the CARES safety harness as your plan B. Cares insures that your child is safely strapped in aiplane seat.
While CARES is not a car seat, it’s an aviation restraint system for kids. It’s designed specifically for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds to use on the airplane.
It’s basically an FAA-approved safety belt that attaches to the plane seat to support the regular seatbelt.
We love this brilliant solution because it’s easier to install than a car seat. It literally takes a minute to install it on the airplane seat.
And this is what CARES set up looks like when installed on the airplane.
Good to know: CARES is an Aviation only harness system and cannot be used for cars.
- Dimensions: Can be folder to fit in a 6” pouch
- Fits: 1 year old or more (22 up to 44 pounds)
- Weight: 1 lbs
Buyer’s Guide: How to choose a car seat for Airplane travel?
Car seat must be FAA/CAA -approved
Depending on the airlines you are using, the car seat must adhere to the rules imposed by the international airlines association (FAA-Federal Airline Association in the USA) or (CAA-Civil Airline Association in the UK).
Once you know which regulation your car seat must follow, check for the label. The car seat must clearly state that’s allowed to use on aiplanes. Generally there is a sticker/label on the frame of the car seat that says: THIS RESTRAINT IS CERTIFIED TO USE ON MOTOR VEHICLES AND AIRCARFTS.
If you are not usre where to start, check our car seat recommendations listed above. These are all FAA-approved and accepted on American airlines and several other airlines as well.
But, make sure to read through the airlines guidelines bout car seats before you go a head and purchase. Car seat regulations very from one airlines to another and they may have other requirements/rules to consider.
Check these airlines rules about flying with a car seat:
- American airlines car seat rules
- Southwest Airlines car seat rules
- Frontier Airlines car seat rules
- British Airways car seat rules
- Cathay Pacific car seat rules
- Delta airlines car seat rules
- JetStar car seat rules
- Emirates airlines car seat rules
- Qatar airlines car seat rules
- Ryan Air car seat rules
- Singapore airlines car seat rules
- Virgin Australia car seat rules
- Virgin Atlantic car seat rules
Car seat must be compact
Airplane seats are tight, and you need a car seat that’s narrow enough to fit in most seats on the plane. Ideally a car seat that’s 16 inches wide.
Not too many seats are 16 inches in width but check the airlines seat dimensions and find a car seat that’s suitable for their requirements.
Car seat must be lightweight
There are so many ways to go about carrying a car seat in the airport but when the car seat is heavy trust me it’s not gonna be fun.
That’s why we love the Doona car seat-stroller combo. You can easily switch your car seat to a stroller when you need to.
If you are going for a regular car seat make sure it weighs 10 lbs or less.
Can you bring your car seat on the plane?
Yes, you can bring an approved car seat on the airplane if you choose to do so. Using a car seat for your child on the plane is not a requirement but the FAA advises that a child weighing up to 40 lbs (18 kg) use a certified, harnessed child seat while traveling on an airplane.
What is an FAA-approved car seat?
An FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approved car seat is a child safety seat that has been certified to meet the specific safety standards set by the FAA for use on airplanes.
Do car seats count as checked bags?
No, a car seat is not counted as a checked bag if you are flying with an infant. Most airlines allow you to bring a car seat and stroller in additional to your normal baggage at no extra charge.
Do you pay to have a car seat on the plane?
Yes, you do have to pay the regular price of seat to have your child in a car seat.
Can I use a Booster Seat on an Airplane?
No, all airlines do not allow booster seats to be used as a restraining system in an aircraft. Only infant and convertible car seats can be FAA approved.
Do crew members install the car seat for you?
While this depends on the airlines, crew members are generally not responsible for installing your car seat on the aircraft. If they do help install it, don’t expect them to be an expert in car seat safety.
Will the car seat fit on any seat on the Airplane?
Airplane seats vary not only from premium class to economy class, but the seats within the economy class also vary from each other. Generally, if an airline accepts FAA-approved car seats (and yours is), they have to provide a seat that fits your car seat.