Booster Seats Don’t Fly

Why You Can’t Use a Booster Seat on BoardTwo belt positioning booster seats side by side on a shelf by Graco and Babytrend

  • What: Booster type car seats
  • When: Flying
  • Why not: Can’t be properly installed
  • Where: On airplanes

Did you know you can’t use a booster seat on an airplane? Airlines won’t allow belt positioning booster seats to be installed on board airplanes because they need a shoulder belt to be used properly, and airplanes only provide lap belts.

Two belt positioning booster seats side by side on a shelf by Graco and Babytrend

Neither of these popular belt positioning booster seats can be used on board an airplane.

You can use a booster seat with a five point harness, often called a 3-in-1 booster seat or combination seat  (Confused about all the terms? You’re not alone. Check out a dictionary here.) But if your child rides without the harness, you have to check the seat or stash it in the overhead bin rather than use it on board.

Luckily, by the time kids get that big, they can sit in a regular airline seat and not need the extra restraint or familiar comfort of their own seat. If you have a backless booster, you can stash the seat in the overhead bin or in some cases, underneath the seat in front of you, even if you can’t use it on board. Most airlines allow car seats to check for free, but don’t necessarily provide a bag for protecting them.

Cosco highback belt positioning booster seat

We take our lightweight belt positioning booster seat from Cosco on trips but can’t use it on board.

If your highback seat converts to a backless booster and the back easily detaches, you can often put the back in with your checked luggage to provide extra cushioning and protection. The bottom can be gate checked or carried on to insure that you have a carseat upon arrival.

As a person whose luggage has taken two extra days to arrive on a recent trip, the appeal of having your own car or booster seat with you even if you don’t use it on board almost outweighs the disadvantage of lugging them through one or more airports.

Graco Nautilus 3 in 1 booster seat installed in car

Our Graco Nautilus 3 in 1 booster seat could be used on board in its five point harness mode, but is much too bulky to schlep.

Check your car or booster seat for the FAA approved sticker, which means it has passed the inversion test. I shudder to imagine, but that test means your kid will stay buckled in even if the seat turns upside down. If you see the sticker, you can use your car seat on board. If not, you can decide to check your booster seat at baggage check in, gate check it, or store it on board with you.

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