Saturday, June 25, 2011

planes, trains and car seats

My long vent of the day.

First, my sincere apologies for posting something so baby-centered during ICLW week. I really try to avoid Kate-heavy posts during this time, but ugh, I need to vent.

Here’s the deal. We’re moving in August. We’ll be Stateside for a month, then we need to fly back to Europe, where we’ll live for three more years. Before Kate, I really didn’t care, nor pay much attention to, which airline we flew. Well, now that I have an infant, who I insist ride in a car seat while flying, I’m paying much more attention to our choice of airline.

Kate is my daughter and whether she’s in a car or a plane, she’s strapped into her car seat. Our upcoming travel is not leisure, it’s work related, and therefore, we don’t have a choice about flying. To keep the nasty, anonymous comments at bay, can we just leave it at that? Please? Yes I know that a lot of people are comfortable flying with their infants in their laps, I’m not. Yes I know that if the plane falls from the sky, it’s likely, though not certain, that we will all die anyway. I worry more about take-off, landing, turbulence, aborted take-offs, and my personal desire of not having a squirmy, one-year old in my lap for 8+ hours.

So, here’s the problem. The European carriers are notorious for being anti-car seat on board, and there are no U.S. carriers that fly into our destination city. I have spent hours upon hours researching online, and yesterday, hours upon hours on the phone with several of the European airlines, trying to get a straight answer about their car seat policies.

Today, I’m more frustrated than ever.

Airline A: Website policy looks phenomenal, even listing specific makes and models of car seats. I wasthisclose to telling my husband to book with them, without even talking to a customer service rep. Fortunately the little voice in my head told me to call. Sure enough (after 30 minutes on hold), I was told that car seats are not permitted on board and the agent was shocked when I read her the policy from their website. So I called back, hoping to get a different agent, and therefore different answer. Once again, no car seats are allowed on board. When pressed for a reason, I was told it was a “security issue.” WHAT? So, I called again. Same thing. No car seats allowed on board, and no explanation as to why the website hasn’t been updated to reflect the policy change.

Airline B: Website states car seats are allowed. Internet research for passengers’ experiences with this airline tells a very, very different story. Add in that the armrests are fixed, making car seat installation difficult, if not impossible.

Airline C: Website states that car seats are allowed, forward facing only. Kate is too young to front face. I mean yeah, it’s better than nothing , but when questioned about using a car seat on board, the agent said it was at the discretion of the flight crew.

Airline D: Website policy looks good, with one, MAJOR exception. Car seats can’t be used during take off, landing, or when the fasten seat belt sign is on. I had to read that about 10 times. Um, isn’t that the most critical time of the flight, the time I most want her strapped into her car seat? Having hit severe turbulence going over the Atlantic when she was seven weeks old, I was very grateful that she was safely nestled in her car seat. There is no way I could have held onto her during that flight anymore than I could have done it in a car. I asked the agent about the policy and she said she had no idea, other than they might be worried about the car seat “tipping over during take off.” WHAT? It’s held in by the same seatbelt that keeps all of the adult passengers in their seats.

I AM BEYOND FRUSTRATED! As of last night, I’m leaning toward Airline D, and hoping for an understanding flight crew. Plus it’s the only direct flight from Dulles to our next home, so only once will I have to show my angry face, I mean, sweetly explain that I need to use the car seat for Kate’s safety, and for the comfort of other passengers.


  1. Ugh! How frustrating of a progress to go through. I commend you on your research and sticking to your guns about what you want. Hopefully, whoever you choose will be accommodating about your safety needs. Good luck!

  2. OMG! what is wrong with these airlines? !! It makes no sense - esp when their written policies are in direct contradiction to their actual operations! What was the airline you flew when Kate was 7 weeks old? Sounds sane! I'd go with the one where you have to rely on the flight attendants' discretion and do something to make their day! Can't think of what that would be. Do the ones that don't allow car seats expect her to be on your lap for take off and landing and then in her own seat or what? Bizarro!

  3. PS- any clues on the next European destination?

  4. I struggle with this issue, too. It just amazes me, these policies.

  5. That's crazy! And from what I've read, a lot of deaths from plane accidents happen after the fact. People survive the impact, but can't get out because of broken legs or other injuries and die from smoke inhalation. A carseat makes so much sense to me! I also don't understand why school buses in America don't have seat belts.

  6. Have you considered the CARES FAA approved harness seatbelt if the airline won't let u bring a car seat on board? Although I'm not sure if it can be used for takeoff and landing.

  7. This is really interesting (given how many long-haul flights we'll be making!).. I've never actually seen a baby in a car seat on a plane and I guess now I know why... idiotic airlines!
    It would drive me so crazy that the website info is completely different from the answers you get on the phone.. my tendency would be to believe that the people on the phones just don't know what they're talking about, but not a lot of reassurance for you. Hope you get some answers :)

  8. I'd honestly just print out the policy and show them, they cannot argue with their companies policy.

  9. I second what Claire says. If they put it out there, then they need to honor it, and if their policy changed then they should have updated the site, but just say you booked based on what you saw online. And keep demanding higher and higher ups until you get satisfaction :)

  10. I flew American Airlines when Kate was little and they were very accommodating with regard to her car seat. We will be using them to fly back to the U.S., but they don't fly to our next post :(

    Yes, I have looked into the FAA Cares harness. She would barely meet the weight restriction, plus it's FAA approved, meaning the European airlines don't have to allow its use. Even if I could use it, that still leaves her car seat to deal with. I refuse to gate check her seat due to the way baggage handlers throw luggage around. They don't treat car seats any differently and I've been told that once a car seat has been gate checked, to consider it as having been in a car accident and not to use it.

    I'll definitely bring copies of the airline policies with me, as I've done in the past. The weird thing is, I'm not asking for a free seat. Kate will be a ticketed passenger. I just want to keep her safe, and myself, sane ;)

  11. I was going to second the vote for a CARES Harness, although they're not ideal. We used one when my daughter was just 12 months old, and just at the weight limit for the harness. She really wasn't big enough to wear it comfortably, and kept wiggling her arms out. And even with the CARES Harness, the flight attendants (Royal Air Maroc) made me hold her and use that crappy not-a-seatbelt attachment for takeoff. We're going to try it again for this PCS now that my daughter is 22 months old and much bigger, and hope it works better although we're flying RAM again so who knows. Good luck!

  12. We fly often, and a lot overseas, and have never had a problem using a car seat (an American Britax one) on BA, don't know if that is one of the airlines. We now use the CARES harness exclusively and it works out great for us - and have used that on many BA flights as well.