Reader Questions: FAA and Airline Policies on CARES Harness

I recently received this question from Shannon who will be using her new: CARES Harness onboard a flight to Mexico next month.

Hi Debbie,

We just purchased the CARES system for at trip we're taking to Mexico next month with our two-year-old. Last year, we took him to Hawaii and brought his car seat on the plane, and also used it in our rental car. It worked very well on the plane, and was easy to take through the airport (we used the TravelMate system with it), but a pain to lug down the aisle of the plane (the aisle was too narrow to roll it). This time we don't have a rental car, so we decided to give CARES a try.

My questions are: Have you ever had a problem with airline personnel not accepting it? I contacted our airline, and received an email stating they would accept it, but I'm still a bit nervous... Also, have you ever had a problem with the person sitting behind the seat, since the strap has to go under their stowed tray table?


Here is my response:

First of all, have a great trip to Mexico!

Though airline policies vary widely (check out this great DaddyTypes article), I have never had a problem with the airline personnel accepting the CARES harness (though they've asked questions a couple of times). We always bring along the printed documentation for the harness, including the page that shows it is FAA approved. Since you had the foresight to get email from the airline, you sould bring a printed copy of the email as well. If you do get questions from the flight attendants, you'll be well prepared to answer them.

I've never had a problem with the person sitting behind us (possibly they're just glad that they're not sitting in front of a toddler ;) The CARES harness doesn't interfere with the operation of their tray table, so unless they're bothered by having the tray down for a few minutes while you get things set up, there isn't really any reason for them to complain.

With both flight attendants and other passengers, we try to remember that we already have two strikes against us (D & E) when we step on board a plane. We're extra sensitive and extra polite, especially with all the recent news about flight attendants having passengers removed planes for various reasons.

Related Links:
DaddyTypes: Who CARES? The FAA's Car-Seats-On-Planes Policy Is A Total Train Wreck
Amazon: CARES Harness by Kids Fly Safe
DeliciousBaby: Securing Your Child Safely Onboard a Flight
DeliciousBaby: Picture of the Week: CARES Airplane Harness
FAA: USA FAA Infant and Child Restraint Rules

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  1. lesley on April 10, 2008 at 4:11 a.m.

    Hi Shannon -
    CARES is amazing. I've used it a few time in Canada, and it's so new there that none of the flight attendants have seen it before. I travel with a copy of the documentation saying it's been approved for use in Canada, but so far nobody has said anything to me. I'd highly recommend it. i also have the Travelmate but my son likes to sleep on the plane, so with the CARES, i can undo it and he can still stretch out across me and his seat. Wee Travel Baby Equipment Rentals ( both the CARES and the Travelmate.

  2. Pamela on April 16, 2008 at 11:53 a.m.

    We did have one flight attendant that demanded to see the documentation for the CARES, but once we provided it, there was no problem.

  3. Debbie on April 18, 2008 at 12:47 p.m.

    Thanks Lesley and Pamela for sharing your experiences.

  4. Wendy on August 19, 2008 at 10:11 p.m.

    We flew to Mexico last week and tried to use the CARES harness and we were not allowed to use it. The flight attendants refused and when I insisted and showed the documentation they took it to the captain who also refused stating it wasn't approved in their manual. We were very unhappy about this as I don't approve of using lap belts on a two year old but what can you do if they refuse to let you use it.

  5. Debbie on August 20, 2008 at 10:37 a.m.

    I'm dissapointed to hear that you had such a difficult time with your CARES harness. I've heard from lots of people who were questioned about CARES (including myself) but you are the first person I've heard from who was not allowed to use it at all.

    At the moment when this happens, you have two choices:
    - Accept the decision of the pilot and fly with just a lap belt
    - Get off the flight, get clarification, and fly on a later flight.

    I suppose you could also try calling the airline's customer service number for clarification, but that seems unlikely to work fast enough to get you on your way.

    Now that you are home, you should write a letter to the airline telling them about your experience and asking that they make a clearer policy for their staff.

  6. Emma on October 20, 2012 at 10:56 p.m.

    I know I'm piping in a few years after this thread was active, but I, too, was forbidden to use the CARES harness by an airline once on board. The staff referred to their manual, which forbade any restraint device not approved by the NHTSA or DOT or something (can't remember exactly), even though it is FAA-approved. We are due for another trip soon, which is why I was hunting for an alternative to CARES or carseats (as we won't be needing them at our destination). Thanks for your website!

  7. Debbie on October 21, 2012 at 11 a.m.

    I'm seeing that more and more airlines are familiar with CARES, so I'm curious what airline you were flying, and whether it was domestic or international?

  8. Olga on November 24, 2014 at 2:24 p.m.

    I'm debating whether to use CARES on an overnight flight that's 5 hrs long with my 19 month old son. I've read reviews that kids can wiggle out because there's no strap between the legs. Have you encountered this problem? Any ideas on how to deal with it?