Frequently Asked Questions About Traveling With Children
Does the FAA require children on commercial flights to be in child restraint systems (CRS)?
The FAA does not require the use of CRS's on commercial airplanes because a mandate would require parents to purchase an extra airline ticket for their child, forcing some families who can't afford the extra ticket to drive, a statistically more dangerous way to travel. However, the FAA strongly recommends the use of CRS's or an alternative FAA-approved device based on a child's weight. A child safety device is an FAA-approved alternative to using a hard-backed seat and is approved only for use on aircraft. It is not approved for use in motor vehicles. For example, the FAA has approved a new harness-type device appropriate for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds. Airlines currently allow children under the age of two to fly free of charge as "lap children," not the safest way for a child to travel. Many airlines offer half-price tickets so parents can be guaranteed that their child can travel in a CRS or device. Parents should call their airline to ask for a discount and/or ask what the airline's policy is for using empty seats.
Which child restraint systems does FAA approve for use on aircraft?
The FAA does not control the approval of hard-backed child restraint systems (CRS). Nor does it recommend one over another. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards set the standards that manufacturers must meet in order to sell approved CRSs. Only then are two labels approved to be attached to the seat and must read as follows:
This child restraint system conforms to all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards.
THIS RESTRAINT SYSTEM IS CERTIFIED FOR USE IN MOTOR VEHICLES AND AIRCRAFT.
A list of approved, crash tested seats is maintained by NHTSA's Office of Vehicle Safety, Compliance, and Equipment Branch.
In September 2006, the FAA approved a new type of child safety device for use on commercial airline flights. Passengers may use an FAA-approved harness-type device, approved only for use on aircraft, that attaches to the aircraft seat. It is not approved for use in motor vehicles. The device uses an additional belt and shoulder harness that goes around the seat back and attached to the passenger lap belt, providing improved upper torso restraint. It is appropriate for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds. The device provides an alternative to using a forward-facing child safety seat.
What is the required age that an airline allows a child to fly unaccompanied by an adult?
The FAA does not regulate unaccompanied minors. Please contact the airlines for specific requirements.
Do minors need identification to travel?
Each airline determines identification requirements for minors. Contact your airline well in advance of your travel date to determine if they have unique policies or procedures for minors.
Typically, minors under the age of 18 do not have to present identification for domestic U.S. travel. Airlines will accept identification from the responsible adult on behalf of the minor(s).
For international travel, minors under the age of 18 must present the same travel documents as the adult.
Reprinted with the permission of the Federal Aviation Administration.
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