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Local Airlines and Car Seats Onboard

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Local Airlines and Car Seats Onboard

Having flown several times with my five young children, I thought I’d share a few tips this week about flying with kids, just in time for the school holidays. Today, I am sharing more about local airlines, car seats on board and what you should expect.


In case you’re wondering car seats ARE allowed on airlines. However, not all seats meet the requirements and it’s important to ensure that your car seat is approved, before attempting to fly with it.


The FAA recommends that all children under 40lbs (18kgs) fly in an appropriate car seat because the airplane’s lap belt does not begin to fit the average child until they have reached this weight. It is also recommended that a child is rearward facing, ensuring their safety, should the plane come to an abrupt stop.

Our Evenflo installed on a plane

Our Evenflo installed on a plane

I’ll be honest, we aren’t really spoilt for choice and our pickings are slim in South Africa for FAA approved seats. In fact, I ended up importing a seat from the USA just so that I would have one that I could take on board (technically speaking, this car seat is not permissible for use in my vehicle, as in South Africa we prescribe to European car seat standards, making US seats impermissible in South Africa). Having said this, Maxi-Cosi now have a few options for South African parents which is really helpful!


If you are travelling with a car seat that is not FAA approved but you plan to use it on your arrival, you will need to check it in at FRAGILE luggage. Don’t fall victim to having your seat ‘put in the hold’, as this is potentially dangerous for your seat and can cause unseen damage.


Unseen damage can render your car seat useless in case of an accident. Just like hidden structural damage can occur to your car seat if it is in an accident, unseen damage can happen if your seat is dropped or mishandled by luggage handlers. These hidden damages to the seats can reduce the ability of the seat protecting your child in the event of a crash.


The MOUNTAIN of bubble wrap in our rental car after retrieving our car seats

To ensure the safe handling of your car seat, you should bubble wrap and box your seat before checking it in. If you have the original box –bonus! If not, do a VERY GOOD and generous layer of bubble wrap, pad it with some towels and then place it into a very sturdy box before checking it in at the fragile counter. Remember that simply ‘cling wrapping’ it at the airport isn’t good enough – it needs padding and support!


If you are flying with an FAA approved seat, remember that you will need to pay for your child’s own seat. Unfortunately, you will not be allowed to have a car seat, if your child has been booked to sit onto your lap.


If you plan to strap your FAA approved seat onto the plane, do not forget to take the manual with you and ensure that the FAA sticker is visible. Flight attendants are required to check the seat before take-off, so having everything ready makes it easier.


Having previously flown with all our local airlines, I can say that there isn’t one airline that is better than the rest, especially when it concerns travelling with children. For your own peace of mind, I recommend checking your airlines website for information they may include about flying with children, like whether you can bring a car seat along, what the size requirements are and any other important information you may need to know ahead of your flight.

Kululu’s website says, “Infants are entitled to one free checked-in item of luggage weighing up to 20kg, plus a collapsible pushchair and a child car-seat.” This usually means that the ‘pushchair’ is permitted up to the plane, where it is then folded up with the car seat and placed in the hold.


PRO TIP: DON’T DO IT! There is no protection for your child’s cat seat which can cause unseen damage, rendering it ineffective in case of an accident.


Kululu went out of their way to accommodate me by giving me assistance and priority boarding, while also making my kids and I feel super comfortable. Travelling alone with my three ‘big’ kids (aged 1, 3 and 5 years old), I needed to check-in three car seats. I did try to see if they would allow me to take them on-board, but they were quick to explain the ins and outs of FAA approval, before guiding me through the process of checking-in the car seats at their fragile counter. 


Mango’s website says, “Parents may bring on board an approved child safety seat, similar to that used in a car, but this seat will form part of your onboard baggage allowance.” Policies seem to have recently been updated to exclude any information regarding strapping in a car seat while onboard, but from this quote, I would assume that you may take an approved car seat onboard.


When flying with Mango, I personally succeeded in strapping in our Evenflo SecureKid but it took a whole lot of effort, and too many tears. Had it not been for me arriving an hour early before my flight, or the half a bottle of Rescue remedy that I took before my encounter with their ground staff, I would likely have missed the flight – any mom’s nightmare, when travelling with young children!


SAA’s website offers a detailed section on their site which goes on to discuss flying with infants, car seat specifications and sizes, and how to book your child’s seat.


SAA, who my daughter (6 years old) recently travelled with as an unaccompanied minor, was great in assisting us in booking in our booster seat, which Sophie-Mae used when she arrived with her granny. I was so impressed with the care they took to ensure she was comfortable during her trip with them and was happy that they knew exactly how to process the large box which I sent with her.


Before booking your ticket, make sure you have read the fine print of your chosen airline and double-check to see if your car seat is approved by the FAA. Remember that if you are flying with an FAA approved car seat, call your airline ahead of time to get it in writing from their head office that your car seat will be allowed on board. That way you have the printed confirmation with you, when you board, making it less stressful for you and your children.

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