The Safest Way to Fly with Children

The Safest Way to Fly with Children

The weather is getting warmer! Time for a well-earned spring holiday. Since certain safety measures rarely make it onto the packing list, we’ve put together a short post for you on the safety aspects of travelling with children, more specifically, when flying.

I (Lorna) recently attended a workshop on the subject of rear-facing car seats and was surprised to find out that rear facing car seats not only are the safest way to transport your child on land but also in the air.

If you’ve flown before, you’ll know the drill already: Children over two years of age get their own seat on the plane and children under two sit on an adult’s lap with one of those loop belts around their waist. But there are other, safer ways to secure your child:

Loop belts are not the only way

Loop belts are NOT designed for the safety of your child but more for the safety of other passengers. In fact, up until 2008, the loop belt was actually banned in Germany (and is banned in the USA) but since European guidelines came into effect, this was reintroduced to allow German airlines to remain competitive.  Crash tests have shown that the internal injuries that these belts can cause would not be minimal. Moreover, should there be some sort of major turbulence or sudden deceleration, the body of the parent with the child on their lap is likely to jackknife, crushing the child.

Therefore: It’s highly recommended that you book an extra seat for your child under two years old and bring along a car seat, approved for air travel.

Having booked a seat, you may face another challenge- that is, actually persuading the staff at the check-in desk to allow you to bring your car seat on board the plane. This depends on the airline and it’s highly recommended to contact them first to ask if car seats are allowed on board for your flight. An appropriate car seat, marked with ‘for use in aircraft’ is what you need. These seats are ECE-approved for use with a 2-point belt.

If the airline has given their approval for you to travel with a car seat, you will usually have no issues. However, occasionally the check in staff or ground crew might ask you to check your seat into the hold. If they do this: Stick to your guns! If you asked the airline and they already said yes then you are allowed to take an aircraft approved car seat into the plane for your child.

To avoid any discussions, if it’s possible, bring along something in writing from the airline, stating their approval of the use of car seats on their aircraft. You could also get a doctor’s note for extra impact, saying that your child needs to travel in this way.

Checking in car seats- Gate check or overhead bins

If things get hairy and there is no way that they will let you on the flight with your airline-approved car seat, have the seat gate-checked or put it in the overhead storage if it fits. A car seat checked in at the ticket counter may often be considered a crashed seat due to damage incurred by clumsy baggage handlers. If you do for any reason need to check in your car seat with your luggage, put it in its’ original packaging or in a different box with padding.

For children over 2 years of age – The CARES Harness

The guidelines clearly state that children up to 1.25 meters high (around 6 years of age) are best secured in an extra restraint system. This can be either a car seat or a harness such as the CARES


According to TüV, a booster seat that enables a better positioning of the seatbelt also makes sense.

For Babies

With most airlines, babies can already fly at 6-8 weeks and can lie in a bassinet, which is available upon request. This is in most cases for babies up to 10kg and is especially popular for long-haul flights. The baby lies in the bassinet (like a little crib) and is secured with a zipper. However, parents must hold the baby on their lap in cases of turbulence. Our tip: The baby bassinet needs to be booked directly with the airline and you should check a short while before you fly, whether the bassinet is still reserved for you.

fliegen baby

More information sources

Further information (in German) from TüV, including a crash test video

A list of all airlines and their car seat policy (in English)

An article with various information sources proving why rear facing in a car seat is the safest way for children to fly

  1. Sehr schön, dass ihr das Thema ansprecht – leider wissen die allermeisten Eltern viel zu wenig über sicheres Fliegen, und die Airlines tun alles, um sie noch mehr zu verwirren.

    Da sich die Regelungen bezüglich erlaubter Kinderrückhaltesysteme ständig ändern, möchten wir anstatt des schon fünf Jahre alten Links unsere ständig aktualisierte Übersicht empfehlen, welche Airline was erlaubt:

    Auf dem Blog der Weltwunderer gibt es eine ähnliche Übersicht für internationale Airlines:

    Liebe Grüße

  2. Vielen Dank für Ihre Erfahrung …

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