Car seats on airplanes?

I get asked this question a lot, and it’s not an easy one to answer. Given that it is in my interest to promote hiring a seat on arrival I declare my bias. However, to answer the question “Should I bring car seats on airplanes?” … not if you can help it and here’s 6 reasons why.

  • A car seat is a piece of safety equipment, unlike a pram or a cot which I would say are used for convenience. If a pram is damaged in the hold of an aircraft you’ll know about it because it won’t function as it’s supposed to – it won’t open or collapse properly or the wheel or brake will be visibly damaged. How would you know if a car seat is damaged? Do you always take the cover off the seat on arrival and check for stresses and damage? Would stresses on the frame always be visible?
  • A car seat is not built to sustain the loads that could potentially be piled on top of it in an aircraft hold, nor are they built to sustain being thrown around by on baggage belts. General advice is not to buy second hand car seats because you don’t know if the seat has been in a car accident even though the car seat may look perfect, so by extension who knows how the car seat has been handled while not in your care.
  • Some car seats are ‘airline approved’ (they’ll have a sticker to say so on it). This means you can bring the seat on board and install it like you would in a car – however, you will more than likely need to purchase an extra seat (even for children under two, who normally travel for free).
Car seats certified for use in airplanes
Some car seats are certified for use on airplanes
  • For children over two, many seats require a three point seat belt, and most airplanes only provide a lap belt, which means you cannot securely install the car seat.
    Many child seats require a three point seatbelt, and most airplanes only provide a lap belt.
    Many child seats require a three point seat belt, and most airplanes only provide a lap belt.
  • We work with many of the airlines at Dublin Airport and we are often asked to replace car seats that have come through and are soaking wet. So if you do decide to bring your seat – we would advise to use a waterproof travel bag.
  • We hire our prams and strollers for travel abroad (in travel bags) but not our car seats.

My general inclination would be not to bring your car seat on an airplane… but that said, what are the options if you don’t bring your own seat?

Unfortunately in many locations options for parents are not great: car rentals are notoriously bad for car seats and I would say they are the last resort. However, some car rentals now outsource their car seats to companies like The Stork Exchange or do actually look after their seats themselves. Enterprise and Sixt at Dublin airport use Stork Exchange car seats – we provide them with clean and safety checked seats that are between every hire… I know there are similar operations in Spain so a good idea would be to call and ask.

There are many baby equipment rentals abroad… I don’t have any personal experience with any of them as yet, but if anyone does know of some reputable ones, feel free to post them on our page for others.

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