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Best FAA Approved Car Seats to Use on Board of a Plane

Various parents in the US tend to opt for bringing an FAA approved car seat to use in flight when flying with a baby. While it’s not a legal requirement to bring a car seat on the plane, FAA does advise it.

In the US, as long as you have an FAA-approved car seat to use on the aircraft, you can use it. Things however are tricky when flying internationally.

Remember that car seat rules will vary on non-US airlines!

Just because your car seat is on the list of FAA Approved Car Seats, does not mean all airlines will accept it. FAA rules only govern US airlines so if you’re flying on a non-US different airline (including a co-share operated by a non-US airline), your car seat might not be approved or allowed to use in-flight.

Rear-facing infant car seats are often not allowed on various airlines as they limit the recline of the person in sitting in front of you. Many airlines don’t allow children in car seats over 3 years old, such as Qatar Airlines. On Australian airlines, you cannot bring a car seat on board unless it’s an Australian car seat.

Infant sitting on a plane without a car seat

Do you have to bring a car seat on the plane?

Legally you’re not required to bring a car seat as infants can fly as lap babies and sit on your lap.

You can bring a car seat to the gate and see if there’s an empty seat available so you can install an infant car seat for free, without buying a seat in advance. I recommend bringing a car seat travel bag in case you need to gate check your car seat or a stroller.

You are required to bring a car seat or Caress harness if:

  • you specifically purchased a seat for an infant
  • flying alone with 2 kids under the age of 2

Over the age of 2 years toddlers have to have their own purchased seat but can sit using an airplane seatbelt.

You also need to bring a car seat if flying alone with two kids under 2. Then, one child has to sit in a car seat and you need to buy them a seat. This rule doesn’t apply to Canada as their strict requirements prohibit one parent from flying alone with 2 children under the age of 2 years old anyway.

Regardless of the car seat you decide to bring look for the instructions for airplane car seat installation.

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats:

  1. Lightest weight for infants: Nuna Pipa Urban
  2. Most compact (toddlers only): WayB Pico
  3. Most durable one: Diono Radian 3R
  4. Lightest for toddlers: Cosco Scenera Next
  5. Most comfortable: Baby Trend Trooper

There are more airline approved car seats on the market and they work great. But, if you’re going to invest in a car seat that you’re also planning on using on the plane you better get something lightweight and slim – so it won’t get rejected when flying on non-US-operated airlines.

Most airlines outside of the US won’t let you use a car seat wider than 17″, so while you might be tempted to get something like Baby Trend with a privacy hood (because it’s a pretty awesome car seat!), it’s 18.25″ wide.

The main reason I don’t recommend Doona or Evenflo Shyft is because while it’s good to fly in the US, internationally it might be an issue, as it’s an infant car seat only that’s also wide.

Detailed Buyer’s Guide for FAA-Approved Car Seats to Use In-Flight

Toddler nad baby traveling to the airport in their travel car seats

Lightest weight for infants: Nuna Pipa Urban

If you’re looking for a convenient car seat for your travels Nuna Pipa Urban should be your top choice. It’s truly a gem on the US car seat market, as it doesn’t require a base and weighs only 7 lbs!

While most car seats can be installed without a base using seat belts, but Nuna Pipa can be clipped into the car using latch system in seconds.

Nuna Pipa Urban car seat

Lightest for toddlers: Cosco Scenera Next

 Cosco Scenera Next car seat is mostly great for a younger toddler who cannot sit front-facing in the car just yet (the legal requirement in the US is 2 years while in most European countries is 12-15 months), as it can be rear or front facing.

It’s not my favorite car seat, due to not enough head protection and the simple fact that your child might outgrow it by the age of 2.5 or max. 3 years old, but if you need a lightweight temporary solution for a toddler that will be the most reasonable option.


Most comfortable: Baby Trend Trooper

Baby Trend Trooper is an extremely padded comfortable car seat. It’s lightweight, affordable, narrow and has an in-built cup holder which makes it perfect for travel.

Plus, it can be rear or forward-facing. It also comes in cute, but not obnoxious colors.

Most Compact for Toddlers: WayB Pico

I’ll admit that despite the high price tag, WayB Pico has always been our favorite car seat. It’s not without its flaws, but it’s small, foldable, lightweight and works fantastic as a travel car seat.

You can use it on board as it’s FAA-approved, but you can easily fold it and store it in the overhead if your child wants to lie down flat. That isn’t possible with any other car seat on the list.

You’ll never need to gate check WayB Pico either as it’s small, so we always just brought our Babyzen Yoyo stroller along with it on board – making getting off the plane extremely quick and smooth, without having to worry about any damages or delays.

Most Compact FAA approved car seat for Toddlers: WayB Pico

Most Durable Car Seat to Use on a Plane: Diono Radian 3R

Diono Radian car seats are known for quality and durability. The Radian 3R is an extremely slim car seat that fits perfectly on an airplane seat.

It can be reclined slightly for comfort, and in the car it can be rear facing or forward facing.

The only downside is that Diono Radian 3R is heavy (30 lbs), so you will need a wheeled car seat travel bag to lug it around.

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