Best FAA Approved Car Seats for Travel

Here we explore everything you need to know about FAA approved car seats for travel. We look at regulations, what to look for in a car seat and compare some of the best travel car seats on the market.

Using a car seat on the plane as an airplane child seat has become much more popular in recent years, and we are seeing questions about approved airline car seats coming up in Facebook travel groups much more frequently.

According to the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), the safest way for your child to travel on the airplane is to be secured in an approved car seat, or child restraint system (CRS):

“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly urges you to secure your child in a CRS or device for the duration of your flight. It’s the smart and right thing to do so that everyone in your family arrives safely at your destination.”

Best FAA Approved car seats for travel

 

Note however that not all car seats are approved for use on airplanes. If you want to use your car seat on the plane, you must make sure that it is an FAA approved car seat.

This means that it is certified by the Federal Aviation Authority (or CAA in the UK) for use on aircraft as well as in motor vehicles. We have more details on regulations for air travel with a car seat below.

Note also that using a booster seat on the airplane is not allowed. There are no FAA approved booster seats. If you are looking for the best booster seats for travel (not for use on the plane), click here for our recommendations.

Scroll down to read all our car seat reviews in detail. But before we get to them, here is a quick look comparison chart of our FAA approved car seat list:

 

Name Image Dimensions (inches) Weight Max. weight Price
Cosco Scenera Next 17 x 22 x 23.5 7.65 lb 40 lb
Evenflo Tribute LX 18.5 x 22 x 26.6 12 lb 40 lb
Safety 1st Guide 65 18.5 x 20.2 x 27.2 15 lb 65 lb
Britax Emblem 18.5 x 21 x 26 19.5 lb 65 lb
Graco SnugRide 35 18.6 x 15.6 x 30.7 7.5 lb 35 lb
Combi Coccoro 17.5 x 15.5 x 28 14.3 lb 40 lb
Chicco Keyfit 17 x 24 x 27.5 9.6 lb 30 lb
CARES harness 9.6 x 7.1 x 3.4 15 oz 44 lb

 

What to look for in an airplane car seat

There are several things to look out for when choosing FAA approved carseats. The best car seat for airline use will need to be small enough to fit in the airplane seat, light enough to carry through the airport… and big enough to fit your child.

We break down what to look for in airline approved car seats here:

Lightweight car seat for travel

If you are flying with a car seat then obviously the weight of the car seat is going to be a major concern. Remember that you will be lugging that thing through the airport and up and down the airplane aisle, in addition to your hand luggage… and quite possibly your child too.

So ideally your airline approved car seat will be lightweight to make this easier. Do note though that the very lightest car seats may only be suitable for smaller babies and might not be an infant to toddler car seat that will grow with your child.

So be sure to check and weigh up (pun not intended) the benefits of weight vs versatility. Many of the car seats we review here are designed to grow with your child from baby to toddler, but not all.

Click here to read our reviews for the Best Car Seat Travel Bags to help you carry your car seat through the airport easily.

Narrow car seat

You need to make sure your car seat is narrow enough to fit in an airline seat. In their tips for parents document, the FAA suggests that if your car seat is no wider than 16 inches, it should be ok for air travel. However, it is pretty rare to find a car seat that narrow.

In fact, in all our research, none of our recommended car seats came in that narrow. Particularly if you are looking for a toddler airplane seat, you will probably need to go a bit wider than that.

The majority of airline seats in Economy are around 17-18” wide. For this reason, most airplane approved car seats are less than 19” wide.

As long as you have an FAA approved carseat with a sticker, even if it is a little too wide for the seat you are in, the cabin crew are obligated to help you find a way to make it fit, even if this means raising the arm rests.

“If an approved CRS, for which a ticket has been purchased, does not fit in a particular seat on the aircraft, the airline is responsible for accommodating the CRS in another seat in the same class of service.”

Note that this is only the case if you have bought and paid for a seat for your child.

Note also that this only applies to US Airlines. It may not for example apply if you are flying British Airways, Qantas, Emirates or other international airlines. You can read these airlines’ rules and regulations here. And be sure to check with your airline before you fly.

British Airways car seat policy

Qantas car seat policy

Emirates car seat policy

Bonus – if you have three or more children, these slimline car seats will also usually allow you to have three car seats together in the back seat of the car.

Maximum weight allowance

Be sure to check the maximum weight allowance of the child for the car seat. Not only is this important from a safety point of view, but also an airline will be within their rights to prevent you using the car seat on the plane if your child is not within the manufacturer recommended weight and height restrictions.

Many of our car seat recommendations here are convertible car seats, meaning they can be used as a rear facing car seat when the baby is younger, and then convert to a forward facing car seat once they are older.

Be sure to check that the weight and size restrictions for each way of using the car seat.

Car seat and stroller combo

Buying a travel system, where the car seat attaches to the stroller can be really useful for plane travel.

This allows you to push the car seat stroller right up to the airplane gate. You can then check in the stroller part here and you only have to carry the car seat from the gate to the plane, rather than through the entire airport.

This usually only works with a small baby car seat though rather than with bigger car seats for toddlers.

LATCH or Isofix System

Of course you won’t just be using your car seat for travel on airplanes. You also want it to be suitable for car use too. For this reason, it’s a good idea to look out for car seats that can be used with the LATCH or Isofix system.

This allows the car seat to be quickly, easily and safely installed into your car (providing the car is fitted with LATCH/Isofix fittings).

Also make yourself familiar with fitting the car seat without using the LATCH system, in case a hire car or taxi you want to use on vacation does not have this option.

What are the regulations for having car seats on the plane?

You can read the full FAA car seat guidance for the use of child safety restraints on aircraft here. In summary, these are the main points:

  • To use a car seat as an infant airplane seat, it must have the following printed on it: “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”
  • The car seat must not be placed in an exit row
  • The car seat should be placed in a window seat so as not to block the escape path in an emergency
  • It must be installed in a forward-facing airline seat (this does not include oblique seats that are sometimes used in Business/First class)
  • The car seat may be installed either rear-facing or forward-facing, according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Booster seats and harness restraints (other than the CARES harness) are not approved for taxi, take off and landing. Whether they are allowed during the cruise portion of the flight is at the airline’s discretion.

Note that these are the FAA guidelines and they apply to US Airlines. Click here for the CAA UK, CASA Australia and CAA New Zealand guidelines which may differ.

Fitting a car seat on the plane

You can watch the FAA video with instructions for installing a CRS on the airplane below. Your air crew should also be able to help.

Our airplane approved car seat reviews

With all the above in mind, here we look at the best car seats for travelling on a plane. We have highlighted the features of each one to help you decide which is the car seat for airplane travel for you.

All of these car seats can be ordered on Amazon and delivered straight to your door, giving you one less thing to think about before you travel!

Cosco Scenera Next

This Cosco car seat is one of our favourite travel infant car seats as it is super lightweight and compact and yet is also designed to grow with your child.

This infant convertible car seat can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing and features 5 height settings and 3 buckle locations, making it very versatile and easy to adjust to the size of your child.

At less than 8 pounds in weight, this is easy to transport and carry through the airport. As a rear-facing seat, this travel baby car seat is suitable from 5 to 40 pounds (19”-40”) while as a front facing car seatit will accommodate kids up to 40 pounds and 43” tall.

We also love that the seat pad of this travel child car seat is machine washable AND tumble dryer safe, and the cup holder is removable and dishwasher safe. Definitely a bonus when you are planning a road trip or flight with a child.

If you are looking for cheap car seats, this is in the lowest price category of our approved FAA car seats.

Dimensions: 17” x 22” x 23.5”

Weight: 7.65 pounds

Maximum weight allowed: 40 pounds

Features:

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Low price
  • Convertible rear and front-facing
  • 5 heights and 3 buckle locations
  • Machine washable seat pad
  • Dishwasher safe cup holder
  • LATCH/Isofix equipped
Click here to check prices and buy the Cosco Scenera Next.

 

Evenflo Tribute LX

This Evenflo car seat is another great option for the best convertible car seat for travel.

Suitable for both rear facing and forward facing, this aircraft approved car seat has 4 shoulder strap positions to accommodate growing children and ensure the right fit for the size of the child.

As a rear facing seat, this travel baby seat is suitable for babies 5-30 pounds (19”-37”) and as a forward facing travel toddler car seat is recommended for children weighing 22-40 pounds (28”-40”).

It has a machine washable seat pad and removable cup holder, making it easy to keep clean. It is also among the cheapest of our recommended best car seats for air travel.

Dimensions: 18.5” x 22” x 26.6”

Weight: 12 pounds

Maximum weight allowed: 40 pounds

Features:

  • Compact & Lightweight
  • Low price
  • Convertible rear and front-facing
  • 4 shoulder strap positions
  • Machine washable seat pad
  • Removable cup holder
  • LATCH/Isofix equipped
Click here to check prices and buy the Evenflo Tribute LX.

 

Safety 1st Guide 65

This Safety 1st car seat is another great option for an infant convertible car seat. Its 5 harness heights, 3 buckle locations and adjustable headrest means it will grow with your child and make it easy to adjust to suit their size.

At 15 pounds in weight, it is not super lightweight but it is also not the heaviest of the top rated car seats we review. It is also mid-range when it comes to price.

A bonus selling point of this Safety First car seat is that it has a larger weight and size capacity than most others. It will accommodate children up to 65 pounds in weight and up to 52” in height, making it one of the best travel car seats for larger children.

The recommended weight/height restrictions are 5-40 pounds (19”-40”) as a rear-facing seat and 22-65 pounds (34”-52”) as a forward facing seat.

Dimensions: 18.5” x 20.2” x 27.2”

Weight: 15 pounds

Maximum weight allowed: 65 pounds

Features:

  • Convertible rear and front-facing
  • 5 harness heights and 3 buckle locations
  • Adjustable head rest
  • Removable cup holder
  • LATCH/Isofix equipped
  • Larger weight capacity

Click here to check prices and buy the Safety 1stGuide 65.

 

Britax Emblem

This Britax car seat is convertible to rear and forward facing and comes with an amazing 10 different harness positions and adjustable headrest, making it super versatile and easy to make it the right fit and comfy for your child.

We also love how easy it is to remove the cover of this Britax infant car seat without removing the harness, which is definitely helpful.

The main downside to this as an airline car seat is at 19.5 pounds, it is the heaviest of the portable car seats we recommend, which is not great if you have to carry it through the airport.

As a trade off however, it will accommodate children up to 65 pounds in weight and up to 49” in height, so it will last you longer. The recommended restrictions of this child car seat for rear facing are 5-40 pounds and forward facing 20-65 pounds.

Dimensions: 18.5” x 21” x 26”

Weight: 19.5 pounds

Maximum weight allowed: 65 pounds

Features:

  • Convertible rear and front-facing
  • 10-position harness adjuster
  • Adjustable head rest
  • Easily removable cover (without removing harness)
  • LATCH/Isofix equipped
  • Larger weight capacity
  • * Heavier weight
Click here to check prices and buy the Britax Emblem.

 

Graco SnugRide 35

This FAA approved Graco car seat is another of our favourite lightweight and compact car seats for travel. At just 7.5 pounds (without its base) it is super light, making it one of the best car seats for airplane travel as it easy to carry through the airport.

Another reason this is good for a baby plane seat, is that it can connect to a Graco stroller as a travel system, meaning you can keep the baby in the car seat on the stroller to the airport gate, then clip off the car seat and carry it onto the plane. This not only means you don’t need to carry the car seat, but is also super useful if your baby is sleeping.

The downside to this Graco infant car seat is that it is not convertible, meaning it can only be used as a rear facing seat. It also only has a capacity up to 35 pounds and up to 32” in height.

So as a baby plane seat it is a great option, but would not be the best toddler car seat for travel.

Dimensions: 18.5” x 15.6” x 26”

Weight: 7.5 pounds (without base)

Maximum weight allowed: 35 pounds

Features:

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Machine washable seat cushion
  • LATCH/Isofix equipped
  • Can connect to Graco stroller as travel system
  • * Rear-facing only
  • * Smaller weight capacity
Click here to check prices and buy the Graco SnugRide 35.

 

Combi Coccoro

Another favourite for a travel convertible car seat is the Combi Coccoro. With 4 adjustable harness heights it will grow with your child. As it is suitable from just 3 pounds in weight and has an infant pillow insert, it is a great option as a newborn car seat all the way up to toddler seat.

If car seat safety is a major concern, you will love the colour indicator on the buckle of this top rated car seat, that gives you a visual cue that the harness is securely buckled. We also love the one-pull front harness adjuster.

The recommended restrictions for this kids car seat is 3-33 pounds for rear facing and 20-40 pounds for forward facing (up to 40” in height).

Dimensions: 17.5” x 15.5” x 28”

Weight: 14.3 pounds

Maximum weight allowed: 40 pounds

Features:

  • Convertible rear and front-facing
  • 4 harness heights
  • Easily removable and washable cover
  • Infant pillow insert
  • LATCH/Isofix equipped
  • * Expensive

Click here to check prices and buy the Combi Coccoro.

 

Chicco Keyfit

This Chicco car seat is our final recommendation for best car seat for flying. One reason we love this aircraft approved car seat is that it can be attached to the Chicco stroller as a travel system, making it ideal for airport use.

Another reason this is a really good travel child seat is that it adaptable for all seasons. A zip-off sun canopy is great for sunny days, while the zip around boot will keep your baby cosy in cold weather.

We also love the reversible knit/mesh fabric cover that can be chosen depending on the temperature. This can also be removed and washed in the washing machine.

With its removable head and body support this is great as a newborn baby car seat, and will accommodate your child up to 30 pounds and 30” in height. Note that it is not convertible to forward facing, and therefore not suitable for a toddler plane seat.

If using it in the car, the stay-in car seat base has an in-built spirit level to ensure it is accurately installed, while the ReclineSure technology and the one-pull LATCH tightener makes it easy to install. The one-pull tightener on the 5-point harness also makes it easy to secure the child in the seat quickly.

Dimensions: 17” x 24” x 27.5”

Weight: 9.6 pounds (without base)

Maximum weight allowed: 30 pounds

Features:

  • Machine washable seat cushion
  • LATCH/Isofix equipped
  • Can connect to Chicco stroller as travel system
  • Zip-off sun canopy
  • Removable head & body support for newborns
  • Reversible fabric for all seasons
  • Zip around boot for cold weather
  • * Rear-facing only
  • * Smaller weight capacity
Click here to check prices and buy the Chicco Keyfit.

 

CARES Harness

If you don’t want to have to carry a car seat with you, another option is to go with a CARES toddler airplane harness, which provides the equivalent level of safety to a car seat on the plane. The CARES Child Safety Device is the only FAA-approved harness-type restraint for children.

Weighing less than a pound, the CARES harness is ultra-lightweight and can easily be folded up into your child’s hand luggage. The harness attaches directly to the back of the airplane seat and augments the regular airplane seat.

This FAA approved harness is designed for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds (approximately 1 to 5 years of age).

Note: There are other harness-style airplane child restraints on sale, but the CARES is the only one that is FAA approved. To be sure – check that it has “FAA Approved in Accordance with 14CFR 21.305(d), Approved for Aircraft Use Only” on it.

Also note that the CARES harness is NOT safe for use in cars. It is intended for airplane use only.

Dimensions: 9.6” x 7.1” x 3.4”

Weight: 15 ounces

Maximum weight allowed: 44 pounds

Features:

  • Ultra lightweight (less than 1 pound)
  • Can fold up into hand luggage
  • Provides equivalent level of safety to car seat
Click here to check prices and buy the CARES harness.

 

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Best FAA car seats

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