Flying with a car seat

How to fly taking a car seat onboard a plane
My daughter Layla in her carseat onboard.

Taking a car seat onboard could mean a few hours of bliss for everyone on the plane. I have found it makes a very noticeable difference. If you fly regularly with a car seat or what the aviation industry called child restraint system (CRS), children learn to associate the car seat much like taking a ride in the car and this becomes the safe and familiar place to sit and even sleep in when flying. Even if you fly once off with a car seat, you can notice the difference.

If you have a toddler that can happily sit on your lap or with their lap belt secured tightly in their seat for the duration of the flight, I am in awe of you. Please tell me your secret!?

Layla on the left, pants off, out of her seat belt and ready to escape. On the right, sleeping like an angel in her car seat.
Layla on the left, pants off, out of her seat belt and ready to escape. On the right, sleeping like an angel in her car seat.


Car seats are safe

Whilst my initial reason to bring a car seat onboard was to survive a flight with toddlers, it’s very clear to me that car seats are the safer option for a child. The Australian Government – Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in their FSA issue 94 states that:

Whether in an aircraft or a car, an approved child restraint system (CRS) is a much safer place for an infant than an adult’s lap. It is impossible to hold a child securely during turbulence or an impact with ground, water or another vehicle.”

“…there is also evidence that an individual seat may be inappropriate, with some tests showing a higher rate of head injury for young children.”

Whilst any parent can manage without a car seat. If you have an option to bring one along and you are flying with a mighty toddler, I highly recommend it.

The problem with Australian airlines and car seats onboard

I picked up this tip living in the USA where there are loads more parents flying with a car seat. I feel the American airports and airlines are better set up for traveling with little ones, more so than Australia.

Americans have a better understanding of flying with car seats and have a more uniformed approach. Not just with car seats, the strollers are with you right from embarkation to disembarkation, meeting you at the jet bridge on the other side, whereas most Aussie airlines check it in at the gate and you don’t see it until you pick up your other luggage at the turnstiles.

Australia is slowly coming around to the idea of flying with a car seat. I’ve flown with most of the major Aussie airlines with a carseat and generally you can bring them aboard, though there are inconsistencies not only between airlines but also between their own staff members. If this doesn’t deter you, here are some tips and suggestions on flying with a carseat.

Tips for flying with a car seat

1. Pay for your child’s seat

Remember, you have to purchase a seat for your child. You cannot bring a car seat onboard for a lap child.

Best age group to fly with a car seat

There is a sweet spot in terms of age when flying with a car seat. It’s not necessary for infants to fly in their own car seat.  Children aged 2 years and under fly free and a bassinet can be requested. Though at 18 months, we were ready for Layla to have her own seat. She was a bit crazy without one.

On the other end of the scale, and generally speaking kids aged 3.5 years of age and older will be OK without a car seat. This is dependent on the child and some are more disciplined than others.

A 3 year old can more or less be reasoned with and have longevity to stay in their own seat with the lap belt secured safely. However for long-haul flights, a car seat is still beneficial, I have found that they sleep better, sleep a little longer and because they don’t have an avenue to escape they aren’t trying to make a run for the aisle. This age is a slightly grey area, so use your own judgement to see if you child is ready to fly without a car seat.

The best ages to bring a car seat onboard is from 18 months – 3.5 years. Especially during the terrible 2’s as I think 2 year olds are the most difficult to fly with.

2. Notify the airline of your intentions

Unfortunately there are inconsistencies in procedures and regular updates to internal policy concerning car seats, these differ with each airline, do your homework and call the airline in advance to notify them that you intend to travel with car seat.

Provide the details of the car seat including the certification stickers, make and model. Request that you have these added to your notes of your booking and get a confirmed written approval.

Reconfirm again at least 24 hours prior to departure. Airlines have a way of forgetting, which is no big deal for them but inconveniences you as you are the one left carrying the bulky car seat during your travels.

The airline will perform a physical inspection of your seat at check in to look for the certification stickers, so it’s handy to know where they are located yourself. We flew with a Meridian Safe and Sound and the sticker is in tucked away around the back.

3. Have the right car seat

Booster seats are not permitted

Booster seats are not permitted onboard as they require a car seatbelt mechanism for use. Generally if your car seat does not have a 3 point safety harness, it can’t be used for flying.

Flying with an Australian car seat

Australian car seats must be approved to Australian Standards AS/NZS 1754.

To date, I have had no problem flying Qantas and Jetstar with a car seat that has a AS/NZS 1754 approved safety label.

All Australian car seats must have the AS/NZS 1754 label affixed to the car seat for flying onboard. All that is required for Qantas and Jetstar. Virgin Australia requires furthers details.
All Australian car seats must have the AS/NZS 1754 label affixed to the car seat for flying onboard. All that is required for Qantas and Jetstar. Virgin Australia requires furthers details.

However, on my recent international flight to Bali in September 2014, on Virgin Australia I came across new regulations.

Virgin Australia’s new requirements for carseat as of August 21st 2014 – show two stickers

  • Car seats must have the new AS/NZS 1754:2013 (Aircraft use criteria) label affixed to the car seat which is approved for use in aircraft.
CASA approved label that clarify's that top tether is not required for use onboard
CASA approved label that clarify’s that top tether is not required for use onboard. Image courtesy of CASA.
  • OR, car seats must have a manufacturers date of 2013 onwards. However, if there is no green aircraft use sticker, but it is dated 2013 or later, it should be suitable to fly. However it’s best to check with Virgin Australia as this is a grey area. If you get confirmation from VA, make sure they add it to your booking notes. As opinions do differ.
  • AND all car seats must have a AS/NZS1754 label affixed, see example below:

Please refer to Virgin Australia website for more information, though it requires an update as their site still says that all AS/NZS 1754 cars (basically all Australian car seats) are not safe to fly due to the top tether. I beg to differ on this statement:

  1. The internal manual which all Virgin Australian flight staff have access to onboard (VAA Vol 16) which you can quote is more up to date than the website and states that the new AS/NZS 1754:2013 criteria makes Australian Car Seats suitable for flying
  2. I am confirming whether car seats prior to 2013 are still permitted onboard without the official sticker and the reasoning behind it. The problem with car seats prior to 2013 is that the existing AS/NZS 1754 label does not specifically state that the top tether point is not required to be used onboard.

Flying with a US car seat in Australia

Most Australian airlines will permit a car seat that is FAA (Federal Aviation Association) approved. The FAA label reads  “Certified for motor vehicles and aircraft.” Once again, check with the airline to confirm your booking prior to departure.

Even for Virgin Australia, no manufacturers date is required. More information can be found at the FAA website.

“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly urges you to secure your child in a CRS or device for the duration of your flight”.

Flying with an Australian car seat in America

America is ahead of the game when it comes to flying with a CRS and the procedures are quite consistent across each airline. Always confirm prior to booking and have them add it to your notes that you received pre-approval.

On the rare occasions that US airlines asked about flying in the US with an Australian car seat, we showed them our Australian Standards AS/NZA 1754 sticker for flights with South West, American and United, Qantas (international), without any problems taking it onboard. However, it’s best to check with your airline and get confirmation of approval.

Flying with a EU car seat in Australia

Australian airlines allow car seats that have been approved by the European Safety Standard requirements of United Nations ECE Regulation 44 (UN/ECE 44) with a valid ECE label affixed to the car seat. Obtain pre-approval with your EU car seat during booking and obtain written confirmation.

Flying with a Canadian car seat in Australia

Australian airlines allow car seats that have been approved by the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) No. 213 entitled “Child Restraint Systems” or CMVSS No. 213.1 entitled “Infant Seating and Restraint Systems with a valid CMVSS label affixed to the car seat. Obtain pre-approval with your EU car seat during booking and obtain written confirmation.

Australian airlines allow car seats that have been approved by the European Safety Standard requirements of United Nations ECE Regulation 44 (UN/ECE 44). Once again, obtain pre-approval with your EU car seat during booking and obtain written confirmation.

Flying with asian car seats

Most airlines including Australian airlines do not recognise safety standards of it’s Asian counterparts it doesn’t help when car seats are optional in some asian nations. Below a reason why asian car seats aren’t up to scratch, a car seat that is being sold on Ali Express.

Do not buy this car seat, the below image is used to illustrate the unsafe asian car seats available:

Safety standards? Car seat being sold on Ali Express
Safety standards? Car seat being sold on Ali Express, one of the reasons why asian car seats are not permitted onboard.

3. Insist you can bring a car seat onboard – because you can!

At times, particularly with the Aussie airlines, we have run into some road blocks. Some have said you can’t take the car seat onboard. Others weren’t quite sure. So if you contact your airline, insist on them putting a note on your booking and request an email to confirm you have approval. If anyone queries you and you have followed all their procedures, be confident and insist you can bring it onboard – because you can.

Usually it’s up to the Cabin supervisors discretion, for example Jet Star state the car seat needs to “…be in good condition, showing no signs of damage”. Which is a subjective decision by air stewards perhaps not trained in what “good conditions” are.

So long as you state your case, back it up with confirmation and comply with the regulation, stand your ground and defend your case as unfortunately not all airline staff are on top of correct policies and procedures. One Virgin Australian staff mentioned she has never let an Australian car seat onboard, even though I had flown with a car seat on Virgin Australia several times.

Prepare to lose the fight sometimes. We flew a very small domestic airline in Australia called Air North and we backed down on brining the car seat onboard as we though the plane was too small to accommodate a car seat also it was a short manageable flight.

4. Get the right window seat

At check-in, make sure they place your child in a window seat at least two rows before or back from the emergency exit row. It’s an industry regulation that car seats can not be fitted on an aisle seat, bulkhead row or exit row.

If you are travelling with two car seats, this means the kids are not sitting side by side. You can specify two window seats directly behind one another when making your booking arrangements.

5. Allow time for security

Going through security with young children is something from which I would love to opt out. With a car seat, you need to allow even more time to go through. If it’s in a bag or attached to a trolley, the car seat needs to be taken out for security to inspect it. Some car seats do not fit through the standard X-Ray machine. A staff member has to pick up the car seat and manually check it. You often have to wait until someone is available and then wait again whilst it gets checked.

6. Get onboard first

Airlines are quite good at recognizing parents with children. They often board families early because you need that time to fiddle with the car seat and not block other passengers from locating their seat. If they do not automatically offer priority boarding, request that you board first.

7. Become an expert at installing the car seat onboard

Thread the plane’s seatbelt through the bottom of the car seat, just as you thread a car seatbelt. Once it’s threaded through it clips onto the plane’s seatbelt buckle . If your car seat is particularly wide, you can ask for a seatbelt extender.

The belt that attaches to the anchor from the back of the car seat is not often used. There are exceptions.

We flew a JetStar domestic Australian flight and the attendants installed a special belt that had an anchor point which looped over the plane’s seat. You then clipped the belt to the makeshift anchor point. They had asked us to board first so they would have time to attach the seat and assist us with installing it. Also, on some select Qantas flights there are allocated seats with anchor points where they will seat you if you are traveling with a car seat.

8. Keep your child in the car seat

Once it’s installed, pop your child into the car seat and DO NOT release your child from it unless you absolutely must. Valid reasons include a gross nappy or a sick child. Set a precedence that once you are in the seat you remain there, just like in the car. You have to be seated in it! If the child is protesting and you can’t bear it anymore, take your child out but make it as brief as possible. Their little toes shouldn’t touch the ground. Otherwise, it’s a very slippery slope.

Layla flying to Bali, the best thing we did - happy girl, smooth flight!
Layla flying to Bali, the best thing we did – happy girl, smooth flight!

9. A note on rear facing car seats

For newborns, there are separate rules for flying with rear facing car seats. Ring your airline to inquire before bringing it onboard. Some airlines do not accept them as they interfere with the plane seat in front. We were able to bring the Safe n Sound Meridian and have it rear facing, but it was in Business Class.

For newborns, I’m not sure if it’s absolutely necessary to bring a car seat on board. There are often built-in bassinet seats where they can sleep rather than carrying a car seat that may or may not be accepted onboard.

10. Get some good gear to help with carrying the car seat

Get some gear to help you carry the car seat. Carrying a car seat through airports can be a bit of a pain. They are heavy and cumbersome. But stay with me…it’s well worth it. However, there are some great contraptions available to help navigate a car seat through airports.

Go-Go Babyz Kidz Travelmate & Go-Go Babyz Travelmate Deluxe

This a cart designed to wheel your car seat. I bought one of these, but it didn’t fit the Aussie car seat even though Britax and Safe N Sound are the same manufacturer.
The Travelmate Deluxe is apparently a universal carrier, however, be wary as this is a USA site and it might mean universal for US car seats only. For USA car seats this is perfect. Check it out here.

Go-Go Babyz Tavelmate clicks in USA car seats perfectly
Go-Go Babyz Tavelmate clicks in USA car seats perfectly

BRICA Roll ‘n Go Car Seat Transporter

There is also the BRICA Roll ‘n Go Car Seat Transporter which is also allegedly universal for carrying car forward facing seats for USA car seats.

BRICA Roll 'n Go Car Seat Transporter
BRICA Roll ‘n Go Car Seat Transporter

JL Childress Ultimate Backpack Car Seat Travel Bag

This is a car seat backpack with wheels so you can leave your hands free. I thought twice about this because I was also carrying an infant in a baby harness; which becomes a big load to carry. But if you have a partner that can assist, this is a great option. If you have a wide car seat, the carts or trolleys will not fit down the aisle after business class as the aisle gets narrower and you’ll have to pick up your trolley or detach the car seat and carry it down the aisle anyway. With a back pack you don’t have that problem. It fits. Check it out here.

(here are others, but this got the best reviews. J.L Childress Ulitmate carseat Backpack

Traveling Toddler Car Seat Travel Accessory

This is a strap that hooks onto your rolling carry-on. Apparently, a child can also sit in the car seat and you can wheel your suitcase, the car seat and the child all together. It’s pretty affordable to get the job done. This will have the same issue wheeling the car seat down the narrow economy aisle. Also, you can’t access any of the contents on your carry on, as there is a child strapped to your luggage, apart from that it looks quite neat. Check it out here.

Travelling Toddler Car Seat Travel Accessory
Travelling Toddler Car Seat Travel Accessory

Go-Go Babyz Travelmate Luggage Strap

Go-Go babyz also also makes the same type of car seat strap which has also garnered some great reviews. Check it out here.

Go-Go Baybz Travelmate Luggage Strap
Go-Go Baybz Travelmate Luggage Strap

Consider access to your carry-on; you would have to unstrap everything to do so. I also prefer to carry a cross-body or large shoulder bag rather than a wheeled carry-on suitcase, but that’s personal preference. You might still have a separate backpack or should bag with baby essentials and the not so essential items in the wheeled carry on, which takes a load off your back.

A make-shift car seat trolley

I had to travelled solo on a long haul international flight with my infant son and the GoGo-Babyz Kidz Travelmate cart did not fit my car seat. I ran out of time before having the opportunity to buy a new gadget to help me carry the car seat a umbrella stroller, an infant, a baby bag as well as a car seat.

I ended up getting a $15 collapsible metal luggage cart that comes with bungee cord and I wrapped the car seat around it. The car seat did wobble a bit but it made the trip. I would invest in a couple more bungee cords and it would have be a bit more sturdier. I got this one from Walmart.  Check it out here.

Grab a travel cart for a makeshift trolley to wheel around the car seat.
Grab a travel cart for a makeshift trolley to wheel around the car seat.

There is a Britax trolley made specifically for the bulkier USA Britax car seats that resembles a trolley but uses latch connectors to secure. This is really only for USA made Britax car seats and comes at a hefty price of $60+  US dollars.

If you have a Britax car seat then this is for you but it comes at a price
If you have a Britax car seat then this is for you but it comes at a price

CARES safety harness – alternative to a car seat

The CARES safety harness is a FAA approved alternative option to a car seat, which means for Aussies that it is also approved on Australian flights. It’s light weight and fits in a pouch that can be carried in your baby bag.

Whilst it’s not a true five point safety harness, it provides a little more security for bubs by threading the harness through the lap belt and over their seat creates a H harness is created. You fasten the child’s lap belt and clip the straps together to secure the child in their seat.

The CARES harness loops around the plane seat, which means that you will have to request the passenger directly behind to have his tray table down so that you can loop it around and down the seat. It however does not intrude on the passengers space at all, the passenger can then put the table up and down at anytime. I’ve seen it first hand in action and people are quite accepting of the request, though you get the few odd looks, perhaps emphasise that it doesn’t intrude in anyway on their personal space.

CARES safety harness a good alternative to a car seat
CARES safety harness a good alternative to a car seat

The CARES safety harness does not provide a strap between the legs which means that the child can slide down and if wiggled enough can set themselves free. It does not provide the familiarity and comfort of a car seat.

There is also a concern that if they slept unattended they might slouch down causing concern that they may choke. One way of preventing the child from slumping over is a neck pillow.

Adorable neck pillow and comes in a variety of animal forms
Adorable neck pillow and comes in a variety of animal forms
Can't go wrong with a Skip Hop kids neck pillow
Can’t go wrong with a Skip Hop kids neck pillow

CARES safety harness is tested by the FAA, certified by CASA (Australia) and CAA (NZ) and the company boasts it is “As safe as a car seat”. I’m not sure know how safe it is compared to a car seat as aviation authorities have recommended a CRS (carseat) but not specifically the CARES harness. The key difference is the position of the child, your child will be sitting in an adult passenger and positioned quite low compared to a car seat and something to ponder is whether this provides the same protection on impact, but still safer than a lap belt alone.

The major benefits of the CARES is not having the hassle of taking a heavy and cumbersome car seat onboard as well as battling the red tape with the airlines. It’s a good alternative and much easier to bring onboard. Ideal for shorter flights, though I would still take a car seat on long flights. My friends who have used it on long and short flights, highly recommend it.

If purchasing, they are cheaper in the USA check Amazon and eBay

A sherpa otherwise known as travel partner

If you are traveling with a companion, then all is well. This is, by far, the most inexpensive solution. To have someone else carry the seat.

Car Seat Benefits

A car seat may be able to take back a little bit of precious travel time to yourself and most importantly keep your bubs safe and secure on a flight.

Fancy enjoying your in-flight meal without taking turns with your partner or perhaps sitting back with a glass of wine, a book, a movie and my most favourite is just being able to close your eyes onboard knowing that bubs is content and in familiar surroundings. They just might even sleep on the plane too.

All strapped in for a long flight. Liam, reading up on where his nearest exits are.


Please note, some of the above images uses affiliate links. That means if you click on it and purchase from Amazon I receive a tiny commission.

I mainly use it to show examples with pictures, however you are under no obligation to use these links and are welcomed to visit Amazon directly instead. 

Have you flown with a car seat? Any good tips to share? Or do you have a question about flying with car seat. Please comment below.


  • We are flying to Perth from LA via Sidney. Last time we were in Australia our car seats which we had brought from the US didn’t fit in taxi cabs or cars and we had to hold our child in our lap in cabs which really freaked me out. Can you recommend cheap and easy to use car seats to purchase for use in Australia that would be compatible with Taxis or Uber cars? Is it possible to order on amazon and have it delivered to Australia or is there another site you recommend? Our kids are 2 and 5….

    • Hi Sahar,

      It’s an outdated law that taxi’s in Oz do not require car seats, us Aussies prefer the convenience of it all – however it is extremely unsafe! Ubers and other ride shares in Australia do require a car seat for kids.

      ALL car seats purchased in Australia meet strict Australian standards, as opposed to the US car seats which are unfortunately illegal to use in Australia. Pick up any car seat from any Australian car seat retailer such as our major stores Target, Big W and Kmart all offer affordable car seats to serve your purpose here. They offer pay and pick up service and some deliver as well, with a bit of a lead time.

      Amazon Australia have some great prices and better lead times with prime (not as great as the USA but better than most). I’d read the reviews and check out the weight and heigh dimensions compared with price, as a note our cars are more compact to the big ones in the USA. Here’s one that I think is good value for temporary use:

      Britax and the Maxi Cosi seem to be the two popular brands here in Australia. Specialist baby stores are able to recommend a good seat like Baby Bunting and Bubs n Grubs at your price range as well.

      As an alternative, each state here in Australia do offer car seat and infant hire such as cots and change tables. If hiring a car, most companies offer a child restraint add-on per day fee.

      Sorry this is late getting to you but hope it can help someone!

  • We are flying to Perth from LA via Sidney. Last time we were in Australia our car seats which we had brought from the US didn’t fit in taxi cabs or cars and we had to hold our child in our lap in cabs which really freaked me out. Can you recommend cheap and easy to use car seats to purchase for use in Australia that would be compatible with Taxis or Uber cars? Is it possible to order on amazon and have it delivered to Australia or is there another site you recommend?

  • Hi we’re flying to LAX from Sydney with Virgin later this year and so far the Britax safe n sound neo guardian is the only car seat I’ve found that has the aircraft approval sticker and meets Virgin’s 44cm width criteria. Just wondering if this can be used whilst we’re in Anaheim California in a car also, or if we’d be better off buying an FAA approved seat on Amazon and having it shipped here so we can use it on the plane and in a car when over there.

    • Hi Asha, unfortunately we can’t use Aussie car seats in US cars. Considering how litigious they are, even though they are safe I wouldn’t risk it. An FAA Amazon seat would work or car hire companies do hire them out. xx

  • Virgin Australia has just announced that they approve of a few selected “support devices”. This includes the Carrot Special Needs Car Seat.

  • Hi there,
    Thank you for your very informative blog!
    We are travelling from Sydney to Europe (Germany, Malta & Italy) and were going to bring our own car seats for out 1 year old and 2.5 year old. I would hire seats over there but some hire car companies want to charge us 25 euro per day per child seat – this would cost us thousands after our 3.5 week trip and is ridiculous! But you say Australian car seats aren’t permitted in the EU anyway? What advice would you have in this situation? Many thanks

    • Ignore my previous comment!
      I’ve read the fine print with many EU car hire companies and they have a max cap around 70-120€ per car seat. Will still cost us a fair bit with 2 seats in each country, but better than trying to buy in Europe and get it delivered to the hotel.

      • Thank you for reading and the details about the EU car seat 🙂 Hope you have a fab fab fab trip! x

  • Since reading your blog it has been my mission to purchase a seat for my son before we travel. Unfortunately I am yet to find one that fits into Virgin’s tight measurements. I have rang and emailed Virgin with no luck. They were very unhelpful! Just wondering has anyone had any luck?

    • Virgin are kind of the worst with this – trying to deter families from flying. It just seems like the airlines are not catching up to the safety and sanity that a car seat provides. I haven’t got one to mind but if you find one that is almost within their tight constraints please let me know. Thank you for reading xo

    • Where are you flying from? I live in the USA and am in a similar position trying to fly with my 4 year old. The Clek Fllo and Diono seats are the only ones I can find that fit the narrow 17″ rule they have. They are also very expensive around $400. I think the Evenflo Maestro is another but it doesn’t look comfortable for an 18 hour flight.

  • Hi Rene!
    Thank u for a great blogpost! I have a question! We are gonna fly from Canada to Europe on Iceland air in business class with a 19 month old. We decided to get her a seat of her own since she is huge for her age. I will put her in her car seat probably forward facing to avoid the person in front of me getting upset. My question is, can I recline the cat seat with the plane seat back for her to sleep or does it have to be upright the whole time?

    Thank u!

  • Hi!
    Thanks for all your efforts in writing this post!
    We are travelling with Lufthansa most of our journey from Australia to Portugal and Norway in 6 weeks time and I am not having any sucess getting my carseat or even the cares harness approved for the flight !
    We are looking at getting the Britax safe n sound compaq if we can bring it on the plane, our first leg with quantas we would be able to but Lufthansa says no. Talked to one girl today that didnt seem to know too much but didnt seem impressed when I said the carseat wasn’t on their list of approved ones and doesnt have the FAA approval. The webpage also states that any harness type thing thats strapped to the seats are not allowed, so that would include the cares harness I guess…
    Anyways my question is is the ANY Australian carseats that have the FAA approval sticker? And also do you have any tips with lufthansa at all? Anything we might be able to do or say to convince them or is it a lost cause?

  • Hi Rene,

    We are just doing a 2.5 domestic but with a on the larger side active 18mth old boy.

    Would you suggest his car seat or the Cares Harness for domestic?

    • Hi Michelle, it’s personal preference so I’ll highlight the pros and cons.

      If you take a car seat on you will need to battle the airlines, carry the heavy thing onboard for a short domestic flight. However, active toddler will be familiar with the car seat, it won’t cost you an extra as you already have the car seat and you may need it at the end destination.

      The CARES harness is great, lightweight and suitable for a domestic flight. However toddler may slip out from underneath or not be comfortable, it will cost you extra to purchase and you may already be carrying the car seat (checked in) to the end destination so you’ll have both which is a bit of a waste. Each has their pros and cons. The CARES is easier to carry and get through but more expensive, the car seat is tried and tested but a pain to carry onboard.

      Let me know which way you go? I am leaning slightly towards the CARES harness provided you’ll use the pricey item regularly?

      Happy travels and thank you for reading,


  • Hi Rene,
    we are planning to move overseas next year with a 1 year old and 3 1/2 year old. We need to take car seats with us and I have a light weight booster for my 3 1/2 year old but need something for my 1 year old. Can you suggest a car seat to suit him that would be light weight and suitable to use on a plane and not too expensive? So confusing trying to look through the websites-I have really appreciated your blog! Thanks!

    • Hi Hannah, apologies for the tardy reply. I’ve been in South Africa and offline.

      Did you manage to find a car seat? The cheaper versions of the premium brands like Safe n Sound and HiPod are lighter in weight but still meet the Australian Safety Standards can be found at places like Target. Take a photo and write down the make and model before purchasing and have the airline approve it prior to flying. There are no guarantees the less expensive ones meet airline standards (which is absurd as they meet the car safety standards in the country). However, the premium Safe n Sound range I can vouch are Ok to take onboard.

      Thanks for reading,


  • Thanks for the article. We are traveling Jetstar to Singapore and Vietnam with our 14 month old in September. She will be on my lap. However I am still considering taking a car seat to use in taxis etc while we are away. Do you have any recommendations or references for light weight car seats that are Australia standard compliant? All the guides I have found are for US seats. The lightest seem to be about 5kg. Obviously because we aren’t using it on the flight weight is an issue.

  • Don’t fly with Tiger Air!

    I read all of the article and the crew made it more difficult than even. I got the seat on the flight, buckled my blissfully calm son and then a crew member walks over with the Tiger Air regulations book with a section saying “no car seats.” She persisted to remove it and tried to put it in the overhead locker but failed. We opposed and she made it clear that if we wanted to fly that day we have no choice. She then went on the explan that “the pregnant pilot could come back here and support me.” We agreed but she came back saying “the pilot is not allowed to go into the passenger area. The whole experience was very dissapointing for all mothers who need that extra bit of restraint and comfort for their toddlers from a car seat.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about this Dorette! What a terrible and infuriating experience. What I find most shocking is how anyone including a pilot would think flying with a car seat is somehow safer than without. Why would Tiger Air not mention this at check in and when you were boarding. So sorry 🙁

  • We are going to the US for 5 weeks with my 7 month old but planning to use bassinet on the plane. We weren’t planning to take a pram or car seat and just rent or buy one there to keep with my parents (they live in Texas). In your experience with car seats, can I buy a US made car seat (much cheaper) for use during our trip and then possibly bring back to use long term here in Aus? Or would it be better to pay the premium here in Aus and take with us when we travel overseas as my son becomes a toddler. I agree that a car seat on the plane for toddlers is a great idea. TIA

    • Hello Cori, if you’re planning to use the car seat in USA inside a car. It’s best to purchase a car seat in the USA. Target, Walmart and places like Costco sell relatively cheap ones. Then you can leave it with your parents in Texas. If you are just planning to use it on the plane, then take your Australian car seat. Maybe you can consider a CARES Harness onboard for the plane journey and purchasing a car seat. We have hired car seats before and they end up being the very basic variety. For 5 weeks hire, it might be worthwhile paying for a inexpensive new car seat to use whilst over there. Happy travels, we love the USA. 🙂

  • Hi. We are flying with Qatar Perth to Brussels with our 14 month old and want to take his car seat. We have been told its ok so long as it complies with ‘Aus standards’. Any experience with Qatar? Thanks

    • I would love to head to Qatar but I haven’t had experience flying over there. But If you are flying Emirates then you will have no problems. Same conditions apply. So long as you have a Australian approved car seat, there’s no problem. Apologies for the tardy reply. I must have missed this one.

  • Hi there, I would like to check with anyone who has recently (in 2015) flown with Qantas. Do they have the same new car seat requirement as Virgin Australia (ie. manufacture date 2013 and beyond)? Thanks!

  • Hi there, Thanks for the really informative post, I was so glad to know someone out there was so experienced. This will be the first time I’m travelling with my toddler and feel quite anxious about it, but after reading your post I feel a bit more prepared for it.
    I am travelling with Virgin Australia to the South Pacific (where car seats aren’t even mandatory to use in a car) and have read Virgins website and am aware of all the Child Restraint System criteria. However my biggest concern is that their website states:

    “…In addition to the above, car seats must meet the following criteria prior to being considered for travel:
    …Not exceed a width of 40.6cm (16 inches)”

    I was desperate to buy one after reading forums of how unsafe it is to travel with toddlers on laps (although my husband thinks they’re just scaring parents) and my son will be 18months when we travel and he is a little crazy as well. I had my mind set on ‘Britax safe n sound Trufix’ which complies with all their other criteria except the width. The width at the base is fine however increases to 47cm at the arm rests. I am yet to find any other car seats with the aircraft label and a width less than 40.6cm.

    Do you know if anyone has successfully taken any specific make or model on Virgin Australia? And if so did Virgin even check there dimensions?

    I have called them and even contacted their Facebook page (optimistically) asking them but am always redirected to their website.

    My partner wants to just cancel our sons seat altogether as its proven to be such a headache to find a car seat, and with our departure date approaching I’m becoming less hopeful. I really don’t want to spend $450 on a new car seat that will just be thrown into checked baggage. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    • Hello Chelsea. What a shame that it’s with Virgin! They have been the one airline that I’ve personally had problems with. They aren’t bad, just inconsistent with their messages and you will find each staff’s opinion of the rule book different. Last time they did not check the dimensions. The one thing they will look for is that date of manufacture and whether it has the AS/NZS 1754:2013 label and it is dated on or after the year 2013. They may pull you up on the green aircraft use label. Although, I have checked with all the latest models and there are hardly any that have this car seat.

      The best bet is to call them and confirm in writing. Don’t worry too much about the dimensions. On a busy day they may not even measure it. However, they might. You run a small risk of them pulling you up on it. As it’s Virgin anything is possible. So long as you have written confirmation that you got an OK. I would stand your ground.

      As it’s a Britax does it have a United Nations ECE Regulation 44 (UN/ECE 44) label? They seem to be better at passing non-Australian standard car seats. You might have better chance.

      It’s a real shame that some airlines are not getting with the program. Where clearly a child restraint is safer than without. Not to mention an easier ride with a toddler for all passengers onboard.

      Please let me know and I’ll shoot you an email with my mobile number if you need a chat. Any new updates, I’m happy to add to this post.


  • Hi Rene, this is a great site!

    I am convinced that now my son is a very active 18 month old, a car seat is much needed for our upcoming travels. However I am so confused about what seat to get!

    Essentially, we live in Bangkok and will be moving to Switzerland soon. Our travels over the next month will be Bangkok to Australia (return) for a quick visit on Singapore Airlines… Then Bangkok to Geneva on Thai Airways.

    As our end destination is Switzerland, I am guessing buying a car seat that is ECE R44 certified (which is what’s needed to use the car seat once we are there) is the best bet to use on both airlines? My reasoning is that it seems as long as an EU car seat is approved for use on an airline, Australian carriers plus Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways also permits them. Is that your understanding? If so, my husband who is currently visiting Switzerland could pick one up and bring it over to Bangkok, before we fly to Australia…

    However I do understand some European airlines like Austrian Airlines may only allow TUV approved seats on their routes, so not sure if there’s a ‘one size fits all’ solution regarding buying a seat that will fit all our needs!

    Any tips appreciated. Thanks so much!

    • Hello Sarah, apologies for my tardy response. I’ve been getting so many comments. This must have been slipped me by. To answer your question, yes I think if you purchased a Swiss car seat with ECE R44 certified, you are permitted to use this onboard most airlines, including Australian airlines. I am sorry but I am not familiar with the European airlines only Euro car seats on Australian planes.

      If you are intending to use the car seat inside a car in Australia, it’s not ermitted as Australia requires Australian approve safety car seats. So you will run into that problem. Flying however is not an issue, so long as you do all the pre-checks with each airline. Because airlines are inconsistent with their messages. Make sure you get them to confirm it in writing or on your booking notes.

      I am sorry again and thank you so much for reading.


  • Hi Rene, thanks for this very helpful post. Can you tell me if there are particular (Australian-purchased) car seats which meet US standards for use in car travel? We are travelling to the US in late September and thinking of taking our car seat with us, but not sure if we’ll be able to use it in rental cars over there. Would appreciate any advice! Many thanks.

    • Hi Rachel, I think you will run into legal issues using an Aussie car seat in a US car. Where it gets complicated is if you had an accident and you were in an AUS car seat, the insurance company may find a loophole to not compensate you. That said, I lived in the US for 3 years and had my Safe n Sound for 2 years oblivious to the law, but I didn’t get into a car accident to see if they would pull you up on it. The USA being such a litigious society, not sure it’s worth the risk. I hope I got this to you in time. Happy travels. xo Rene

  • Hi Rene

    Thanks so much for posting all of this information! I’m about to fly to the U.S. on Sunday with V Australia with my 2 year old and was hoping to take my Safe N Sound Compaq carseat on the plane. My carseat only has a sticker that says it complies with standard AS/NZS 1754 and this is what the V Australia website says (below) so it doesn’t look like that will be enough. When I called they basically just quoted the website back to me. I’ve done the trip before without a carseat and am pretty desperate to take one on this time. Any advice?

    “Car seats that comply with Australian design standard AS/NZS 1754 which do not bear the approved label for fitment in an aircraft are currently unsuitable for carriage on Virgin Australia aircraft, as they require a top tether in addition to the fastened lap belt to secure the three-point attachment.”

  • Good morning, Just wondering if you know if a Safe and Sound Meridian will be accepted on QANTAS/VIRGIN manufactured 2014.
    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Ronnelle, I think the Safe and Sound Merdian 2014 will comply with both QANTAS and Virgin. However, just call the airline to confirm this. They change details and requirements very frequently. From my last update and discussion with Virgin your carseat should comply. Always have a reference number of the person you called or better still have it entered into your notes and emailed to confirm.

      Happy travels. xo

  • Hi Rene – great post and very timely as I am just about to relocate to the US for work with my wife and 10m.o. son in a couple of months, so a big flight from Aus to New York awaits. We will be flying business class (Qantas) and will have also have a seat for the bub (so three seats in total) however were investigating other options such as bringing a car seat or booking the bassinet. I read in one of your comments above that if you are flying business it is not necessarily worth it bringing a car seat given the aircraft seat reclines flat and my wife and I will be travelling together. Is this still your view? Unfortunately our existing car seat does not meet the regulation and so I am tossing up whether to spend $300 on a new car seat for the sole purpose of this mammoth flight, but can’t really decide! Thanks

    • I am so sorry for the tardy reply. Congrats on the move. I loved living in the USA, their online shopping is the best – oh and the sights 😉

      I think in your situation, I wouldn’t bother buying a car seat just for the flight over. Especially in business class. If you don’t mind co-sleeping and having bubs with you for the ride. You can survive the flight that way. Ordering a bassinet business class seat will be handy. The 10 month old will still fit in one. I didn’t have much luck with the bassinet however my kids were terrible sleepers anyway. I have had friends where the bassinet worked a treat. When they are asleep in it, you get a little (not allot) of alone time.

      The US car seats which are FAA approved and you can use on flights back to Australia are different to Aussie car seats. You will need to purchase a new one over there anyway. So it’s best to wait. There’s also heaps more gear to help you carry carseats onboard in the States. They are so much better with flying with a car seat.

      I hope this helps and best of luck!

  • Hi there. May I ask which brand of car seat you purchased with the green sticker? I am having a nightmare of a time finding one here in Australia to fit Virgin Australia requirements. Did you purchase it in the US? Would appreciate any feedback. Thank you!

    • Hi Jade, this was a sticker from CASA and was indicated by Virgin that new car seats would have these stickers. However, when I went to a a baby store just after updating this story. I couldn’t find many that do have the sticker either. I have been trying to follow up with Virgin, but they haven’t responded. My assumption (it’s only presumed) is that new car seats manufactured after 2012 OR has a green label are both safe to fly. If you hear more about it, please let me know. It could be that only some car seats are labeled safe for flying, perhaps contact a baby store to see which ones they are. I’ll have a look also and see what I can find. Thank you!

  • First of all, I’d like to thank you for putting a lot of handy info in your website. I just Googled and found your blog about flying with a car seat.

    We have 3 kids: 7, 5 and 1 and half and so far the experience travelling with them in economy class hasn’t been that good. In our last trip to Fiji with Virgin, the little one was so unsettled we were the less popular people on the plane. But nevermind… Now we are relocating to the Middle East and most likely my wife will travel with the 3 kids by herself later this year, as I’m close to start my assignment and not sure if I can go to back to help her, I believe it will be much easier if we get the little one in a car seat. We have a safe and sound car seat at home, but I need to check it has the Australian Standards AS/NZS 1754 compliance sticker; from memory we bought it before 2013, so it may not have it. My wife is not buying the idea and reluctant to take the car seat to the airport plus the pram, plus whatever number of luggage she will take with her.
    Big difference she will be flying business class with Emirates or Qantas (pretty sure it will be an Emirates flight), the 9:00 pm Brisbane to Dubai direct flight will be my first option, rather than one with a 2 hours stopover at Shangi Airport in Singapore.
    I’ll try to convince her of the idea of flying with the car seat and will try to get confirmation in writing from the airline, before adventuring into the Airport. But at the end it is a long flight by herself; hopefully they will fall sleep and wake up just in time for landing in Dubai, I’m sure the baby will be more comfortable and secured in a car seat… Would you be kind on giving us a final word/recommendation in addition to all the info in your blog?

    Thanks, Carlos

    • Hello I hope I haven’t replied to you too late. There’s always the nightmare flight, I’m sorry you had to endure it. But usually, the next flight will be better!

      All Aussie car seats should have a AS/NZS 1754 compliance sticker so it should be OK to fly ours is before 2013 also and didn’t have a problem on any other airline besides Virgin.

      It’s Virgin that require it to be purchased post 2012. They may not let you board with it so check with Virgin. As for Emirates they didn’t have the rule at the time. But check with them as they are always changing the goal posts. Just have it in writing to back it all up.

      With 3 kids and taking a carseat, it can be tricky. Some tips: Consider loaning a stroller in the airport so you don’t have to worry about carrying it around. Also using a baby carrier for the baby (highly recommend). That way, you can have two kids walking and the 1 year old hands free strapped to you. Then you can either wheel the carseat in a make-shift trolley or buy a carseat wheely carrier or backpack.

      As you are business class with Emirates. You are treated like a human being (not so much in economy). So they will be able to help you and you can use their lounge to wait and ask for assistance boarding. Don’t be afraid to ask.

      I have taken a car seat in Business class. I have to say, I only used it really briefly before they stowed it away for me. As the seat fully reclines. My 10 month old could lie fully flat. I ended up co-sleeping with him. With basically his own seat free. It was a bit of a waste. There were times when I wanted to pull the carseat back out but didn’t want to bother the staff. I wish I did though so he wasn’t rolling around and reaching out for me.

      However, with 3 kids it could be tricky and you may want to have baby safe and strapped in. A car sea does fit in a business class seat. I flew Qantas last time so I’m not sure what the arrangements are on Emirates.

      They can also stow it for you if you decide not to use it. I’m not sure if it’s worth lugging the car seat to use on business class. In Economy I would say go for it. But if you think baby will lie flay with you in business, the benefits aren’t as great.

      The main advantage for taking the car esat is that baby can be secure in his/her own seat and your wife has a little bit of time to herself or can attend to the older kids. Versus, co-sleeping and baby pretty much on you for the whole flight. You may have good flight karma and baby may sleep nice and cosy in his/her own fully reclined seat. The main disadvantage is navigating the airport and plane solo with 3 kids and this chunky car seat.

      I hope that helps Carlos? Please let me know. I’ll check back for any replies.


      • Thanks Rene for your advice… certainly so helpful, as the rest of the info in your website. I read your review of your stay in Dubai. Although I think the family favourite will be Atlantis… The family wont be flying for another 2 months or so, if you are interested I’ll let you know how things go then.

        Thanks again, Carlos

        • Thank you so much Carlos. Happy travels and best of luck with your new job and the move over there.

  • I’m traveling solo with my children on Emirates. My children are 11months and 3years 2months

    I do have a CARES harness; but am considering taking the seat for my 3.2 year old instead of the CARES harness, because if she doesn’t sleep, no one does!!

    I’m concerned about how much I’ll have to carry (also have the baby zen yoyo to pop one of the kids inst airport.

    I will buy the brica go travel trolley for the car seat do I can wheel that with a child in also.

    Would you just go the CARES or take the seat. Having a bit of a battle with Emirates also!

    • Hi Kirsty,

      Thanks for reading. Oh Emirates! As you know I’m not a big fan 🙂 Make sure you get written confirmation that you have pre-approved your car seat with them if you intend to take it. They should be OK as long as they have the safety labels (see above).

      Travelling with two kiddos a pram and a car seat is not easy. The Go Travel trolley is good, but bear in mind that it maybe cumbersome if you need to tackle any stairs and car seats are quite wide, even with trolley it does not roll right down the cabin alley, they get stuck a little because of the width of the economy row. so if you are way at the back you will need to lift it. This is where you need help, ask, someone for help, humanity does still exist.

      If you think you still want to take the car seat on, maybe a baby carrier will work. So you can have 3 year old in the stroller, the 11 month in a harness and sort of wheeling one handed and pulling the car seat along with you. There is also back pack to carry the car seat rather than the trolley. So you can have the car seat on your back, be pushing the pram and have baby in harness.

      Alternatively, you can borrow a stroller at check-in they should have loaner ones. Then in Dubai they have banks of strollers to borrow. It’s just whether you will have a stroller at your final destination, where are you going?

      To be honest, it’s going to be quite difficult to bring it all on. However if you persist, you will get a better flight out of it. It depends on whether your child likes to ride in the car / sleep in the car?

      The CARES is pretty good, lots of my friends swear by it and they say it’s just as good as a car seat without the load. However, there are few cons:

      – expensive (but you already bought it, so that’s not an issue)
      – Child sits low and may not see TV screen or out window. If it’s for your 11 month old. Then it’s not really a problem
      – harness doesn’t have that strap between the legs so they kind of slump down and foward when they sleep. But I hear a neck pillow is helpful.
      – not as comfy as a car seat.

      My gut says to take the CARES and not worry about the car seat because you have so much stuff to carry. It’s easier solo with one child the load is managable. With two it’s difficult, especially if you take the pram. Also, you still run the risk that your child may not sleep in the carseat and when you carried it all that way. However, when the car seat works – it’s magic.

      I hope this helps?



  • Hi there,
    I have read somewhere that you cannot use Australian car seats in the UK & Europe. We are soon travelling from Melbourne to the UK and want to use the car seat both on the plane and in the car at the other end. Is this possible?
    Also Qantas have told us it must be an Airline accredited car seat. How do I go about finding which seats these are? We have a Safe & sound Meridian but it’s huge! Do you know of any lightweight seats here in Australia that we could hire?
    Many thanks,

    • Hi Caroline,

      Sorry I missed this and thanks until now. Thanks for reading.

      You can use Australian car seat onboard Qantas, just make sure you show them the AS/NZS 1754 safety label (which is the Australian accredited part of it) and ring to confirm you are bringing a car seat onboard. We had a Safe and Sound Meridian and it should be A-OK. Have them put it on your booking notes or better still for an email confimration to avoid confusion. The only time I had a run in, is with Virgin as stated above.

      Unfortunately you cannot use your Australian car seat in Europe. They have their own safety standards even though Australia is more stringent. My friend travelled to Europe recently and the car seats they hired from the hire car were OK but nowhere near as comfortable as a Safe and Sound Meridian.

      If your child is older and can use a booster you can get away with a BubbleBum. An inflatable booster It’s EU compliant. Otherwise hiring from the car hire company is the most convenient way.

      There are car seat / baby gear hire companies in the UK (I have never used these guys, just googled).

      If you think that dragging your carseat around just for the flight and not being able to use it at the destination is cumbersome. There is an alternative of the CARES Safety Harness. It’s expensive at $80-90 but lightweight and does the job. I think it’s more suitable for older kids i.e around 2 years. There are reviews that point out that the childs head slumps forward when they sleep. But a head pillow can fix that. Also, that there is not strap between the legs so kids can slide out, but there are opinions that their child has never slid out. Cares Harness on Amazon:

      Hope this helps and safe travels!


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