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  1. #1
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    3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    Hello,
    I am going to be flying Southwest with my 3 kids for Christmas. I am flying solo on the way out and am not sure what to do about car seats on the plane. My girls are 2 and 3 1/2 so they will have their own seats, but obviously we will only have one window seat. I also will have a 4 month old who will be on my lap. We have car seats available to us at our destination, so I don't have to take them on the plane, but I know it is best to have them, I am just not sure how to manage it all, and if their two seats will fit next to one another. We will be using Evenflo Triumphs. I am open to all advice and suggestions-thanks in advance!

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  3. #2
    Admin - CPST Instructor wendytthomas's Avatar
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    Welcome.

    How heavy are your kids? It's unlikely that two Triumph Advances (or are they actually just plain Triumphs?) would fit next to one another. So we can help you find solutions.

    In addition to it being important for them to be in seats, it's very very important to buy your baby a seat.

    Did you know the safest place for your little one during turbulence or an emergency is in a government-approved child restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap?
    That's from the FAA. http://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/crs/

    Your child on your lap can be either a projectile or your airbag in a runway emergency. Neither of which is good for your baby. In addition, it's going to be very difficult to tend to your other kids with someone else on your lap. If your baby falls asleep you won't be able to move well and not wake the baby. So between the safety and convenience issues, I'd definitely buy your baby a seat and not have a lap rocket, as the flight attendants call them.

    You don't need two window seats. A rear facing carseat cannot block the egress of a passenger, but if you can get around a forward facing seat you're fine. Here is a copy of the actual FAA regulations for carseats, even if the flight attendants want to tell you otherwise. http://www.airweb.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAdvisoryCircular.nsf/0/60d70126cf679d5a8625723b007841e7/$FILE/AC%20120-87A.pdf

    What I might do is either get three seats across and the aisle across the way, and they sit together and you sit on the other side (or have your two younger with you and your oldest on the other side), or get two behind two and you sit with the baby behind the other two.

    As for getting their seats through the airport, I'd put the baby in a sling to start. This is tricky and I hope someone else chimes in. But I'd probably get a luggage cart at the airport (the ones here are like shopping carts, they have a place for a child to sit) and put the three carseats on that, have the two year old in the cart, and the three year old walking. Otherwise, get two cheap luggage trolleys and some bungee cords. Attach two seats to one cart and one seat to another. Have the two year old ride in the single carseat, the baby on your back/front, and the three year old walks.

    HTH

    Wendy
    wendy, cpst-i mom to
    piper, 7/26/02, 62", 108#, seatbelt, driving her own car
    laine 9/16/09, 54", 96#, Nuna Aaces, Diono Solana 2
    in my husband's 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, my 2017 Volvo XC90, and big sister's 2016 Honda Civic
    https://www.car-seat.org/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=1353&dateline=1552329  785

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  5. #3
    CPS Technician Brigala's Avatar
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    I'm probably going to get flogged for this, but...

    If you will have seats available at your destination I would probably only bring a car seat for the 2 year old on the plane. And one for the baby, if there's any chance at all that the flight won't be full and you might be able to use it.

    Yes, your children will be safer in car seats than in lap belts or on your lap. I am not disputing that for one second. And if you had another adult with you, my answer would be totally different. I'm also not disputing that it's possible to take a car seat for every kid on the plane. What I question is whether it's worth it or not.

    In my opinion, airplane travel is safe enough that the main reasons to take child restraints on the plane aren't really safety related. One is logistical (I can't imagine trying to keep a 2 year old in the seat because the seat belts are SO easy to unlatch) and the other has to do with needing to get your car seat safely to your destination without getting lost or damaged, because cars, as opposed to airplanes, are very dangerous inventions.

    If you think your 3 year old would stay put and do as told sitting in a seat belt on the plane, I wouldn't haul a car seat on a plane for him. If you think he's going to get up and run up and down the aisles, the hassle of getting the car seats on and off the plane will be well worth trading for the hassle of trying to keep him in his seat once he's there. This is my reasoning for bringing a seat on for the 2 year old.

    Everything Wendy says is true. Yes, it's possible your children could be injured in turbulence or a runway mishap. And it does happen. A car seat would be a safer way for every child to ride. But air planes simply are not as dangerous as cars and in the end you have to decide for yourself what your comfort level is when weighed against your sanity, the pros and cons of making the trip at all, and the logistics.
    Mom to 2 adults and 2 little kids.
    Tall 8 year old in Incognito; Petite 3 year old RF in CA65

  6. #4
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    Quote Originally Posted by wendytthomas View Post
    You don't need two window seats. A rear facing carseat cannot block the egress of a passenger, but if you can get around a forward facing seat you're fine. Here is a copy of the actual FAA regulations for carseats, even if the flight attendants want to tell you otherwise. http://www.airweb.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAdvisoryCircular.nsf/0/60d70126cf679d5a8625723b007841e7/$FILE/AC%20120-87A.pdf
    This is interesting - I had not seen that regulation before. However, though it may be the case that regulations say it is OK, I don't think that the OP should count on a flight attendant knowing this, or, if handed a printed copy, caring. We travel fairly frequently and I have been consistently told that a car seat (whether rear or forward facing) MUST be in a window seat. End of story. We had a recent flight where I originally planned not to put my son in his car seat on the plane, so did not reserve a window for him, and then changed my mind at the last minute. The flight attendants were aggravated and told me I had to check the seat. I refused (as politely as possible) to check it and the flight attendant acted quite put out that she had to re-seat another passenger (who by the way, didn't care in the least that she was switching from window to aisle), and I was given a verbal smackdown about my failure to reserve the proper seat position for a car seat. Point being - whether it is technically true or not that one can put a forward facing car seat in a non-window seat is beside the point; airline employees have obviously been trained otherwise (or perhaps their company policy overrides the FAA guidelines - I have heard this same policy on three separate airlines). I don't think that it is in the OP's best interest, with three children 3 and under, to pick a fight with flight attendants during the boarding process. OP could certainly try to bring two car seats on the plane (one of which will go in a non-window seat), but be prepared to gate check one of them if the flight attendants say so.

    To the OP - have you looked into the CARES harness? If you have car seats at your destination, this might be a great option for your 2 and 3 year olds - FAA approved, easy to pack, carry and install. I think they are approved for kids 22-44 lbs.

    Whatever you do, good luck, and I admire your bravery!
    Last edited by mrswh; 10-23-2011 at 01:35 AM.
    Mom to DD(7), 50", 55 lbs. (HB Turbobooster) and DS(6), 46", 40 lbs., (HB Turbobooster)

  7. #5
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    While my three children are older I fly with them frequently on my own. I have never needed 2 window seats for car seats. DS no longer needs a car seat on the plane but when he did I had dd2 rearfacing by the window, ds in the middle forward facing, me on the aisle and dd1 across the aisle in another aisle from me. I do carry copies of all the regulations I need with me when I fly but I have never needed them.
    Former CPST and Mom to
    C-13 years old, B-11 years old
    A-8 years old riding in a Harmony Youth Booster or Graco TurboBooster

  8. #6
    Carseat Crazy Cath3114's Avatar
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    I think you have to weigh the risks and benefits here. 3 kids and 3 seats by yourself is going to be a huge challenge, not only getting through the airport and security, but getting everybody settled on the plane as well. If it were me, I honestly wouldn't fool with all of them, given that you have seats at your destination. Yes, there are risks. But they are so minimal. I have flown 4X with my lap baby and never thought twice about it. Air travel is extremely safe. Honestly, the most I would do is take a seat for the 2 year old, to keep him/her restrained, mostly because of impulsivity. Your 3 year old is much more likely to listen and sit in the seatbelt than is a child of 2.

    JMO.

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  9. #7
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    Another one here who has had two carseats side-by-side on the plane, RF window and FF middle. The only mention I've had from flight attendants was that the RF had to go at the window and I had to be on the aisle, not in-between the seats. I'm also one who books the baby as a lap child and prays for an empty seat, which I managed to get both ways last trip.

    If you do take multiple seats on board, ask either a flight attendant or another passenger for help actually getting on the plane. Most carseats are too wide to easily fit down the aisle without lifting them up and there just aren't enough hands to do it alone!
    Outdated profile name--I'm up to Momma of 4 boys now with another little boy on the way!

    (9.5yr, 7yr, 5yr, 28mo)

  10. #8
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    CAR SEATS DON'T HAVE TO GO BY A WINDOW!!!!

    I'm a former Flight Attendant and if you read the link Wendy provided, you'll see that the car seat can't block anyone's access to the aisle. So that means it can be installed also in the center seat of the center section of a "wide body" aircraft (def. one that has two aisles) OR a window seat. You can put two car seats together but you can't have someone, even the parent, sitting between two. Whether they were ffing or rfing was immaterial. No one could sit between them.

    There cannot be a car seat between a person and an aisle, if that helps keep it clear.

    In theory, you could put it in the center seat is no one is seated by the window. Not sure why anyone would do that. Perhaps a really empty flight and you were flying with someone across the aisle?

    Someone mentioned company policy "overriding" FAA rules. Not allowed BUT the airlines can "enhance" FAA rules already in place. I switched airlines and my old one didn't allow blankets over knees for take-off and landing. My new coworkers found this amusing, that those of us from the other airline were telling passengers this.

    A F/A from another airline said that a few car seats were allowed on the aisle on, I think it was Delta (an airline I'm not familiar with and only flew once in the 1980's). A few ffing seats were allowed. I was never able to confirm this. Both my airlines were direct, no car seats between passengers and aisles, no exceptions.

    Obviously the window is the most logical location but it isn't the only one! This is of course FYI, as WN only has 737's and therefore, only one aisle on all their aircraft. Xmas travel will be busy so the chances of an extra seat are slim.

    As far as the OP is concerned, you're a good candidate for CARES harnesses for the older two. Rent them on Ebay or Craigslist.

    If you do find yourself taking two or three car seats, I would get the gizmo to carry one on the back and puzzle the other two on one metal luggage cart as suggested earlier. Your carry on, which I recommend only one, use a backpack and hang it on the car seat contraption.

    Practice whatever you decide at home first, before heading to the airport. Use extra bungee cords to double secure it.

    I wouldn't count on getting a F/A to help with the car seats. WN usually has minimum staffing and they're not allowed to leave their doors unattended so no one will probably be available to follow you down the aisle. What I've done is leave a seat by the door, tell the F/A what I'm doing and then dumping the rest in the seat (including children), wiggling back up to get the seat. When people saw me doing this, either the F/A handed the seat over to me or another passenger with a free hand brought it to me.

    Don't "pick a fight" if anything comes up. If you get a F/A with attitude (not hard to do during the Xmas rush), and things are starting to heat up, ask to speak with the head F/A. Don't "get into" it. I do recommend printing up that link to show if there is a misunderstanding. Another trick is to simply ask the F/A to show you in the manual that whatever you're doing is not allowed.

    The FAA states clearly that you are allowed to use your car seat for a child who fits it and for whom you've purchased a seat. So that means your right to use it for the older two is guaranteed. You must be reseated if there is a problem with your actual seat(s). If they force you to check either seat, this is a FAA violation and let them know that you will be reporting this to the airline. WN will take this complaint very seriously and you may also threaten to copy it to the FAA.

    Remember that the lap baby does not have any of these rights.

    I hope it doesn't come to this! Be aware that the CARES harness does not have these restrictions. You may seriously want to look into at least one for your oldest.

    Good luck!
    Former Flight Attendant, 13 years, 2 companies in 5 countries
    3 trilingual, international travelers with two nationalities
    http://flyingwithchildren1.blogspot.com

  11. #9
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post
    [I]
    Someone mentioned company policy "overriding" FAA rules. Not allowed BUT the airlines can "enhance" FAA rules already in place. I switched airlines and my old one didn't allow blankets over knees for take-off and landing. My new coworkers found this amusing, that those of us from the other airline were telling passengers this.
    I didn't mean to say that airlines can ignore FAA regs and do whatever they want! What I meant was that airlines can make their own policies that make things "even safer" than what the FAA requires. I'm not super familiar with exactly what qualifies in that regard, but thought perhaps for whatever reason some airlines made their company policy with respect to car seats stricter than the FAA regs. It certainly seems that the FAs are trained to allow car seats only on the window seats - at least on the three airlines I regularly fly - United, Jet Blue and Frontier. I really get the sense that they wish nobody brought car seats on at all, as I feel like someone (from the airlines) is always trying to talk me out of bringing them on the plane.

    In any event, my point was that (especially during Christmas travel) the OP may run into some difficulties with FAs if she attempts to bring 2 (or 3!) seats on the plane, so if she is really set on having the kiddos properly restrained, she might want to consider an alternative like the CARES harness.
    Mom to DD(7), 50", 55 lbs. (HB Turbobooster) and DS(6), 46", 40 lbs., (HB Turbobooster)

  12. #10
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    Quote Originally Posted by mrswh View Post
    It certainly seems that the FAs are trained to allow car seats only on the window seats - at least on the three airlines I regularly fly - United, Jet Blue and Frontier. I really get the sense that they wish nobody brought car seats on at all, as I feel like someone (from the airlines) is always trying to talk me out of bringing them on the plane.

    In any event, my point was that (especially during Christmas travel) the OP may run into some difficulties with FAs if she attempts to bring 2 (or 3!) seats on the plane, so if she is really set on having the kiddos properly restrained, she might want to consider an alternative like the CARES harness.
    I fly United and Frontier (I also fly Southwest and Sun Country) all the time and have had an issue with bringing 2 car seats and having them installed next to each other. I have had more of an issue with the CARES harness. Not that I have had any real issues with it, but the FA haven't seen it and I get a lot of questions.

    I know a lot of people have horror stories about FA but I haven't run into that. I have had a lot of FA tell me they wont fly without their own kids/grandkids in a car seat and several who have mentioned that kids in car seats always seem to do better on the flight. I have had others ask about different seats. The first few times I flew with my Radian (3ish years ago?) I had a group of FA checking it out, they all loved how well it fit and how it folded.

    I do agree with the poster that mentioned it can be tough carrying 2+ car seats down an aisle, especially wrangling kids. I have lucked out, generally a gate agent notices I am traveling alone and carries a seat down the jetway for me and then they had it off to a FA who takes it to our seats.
    Former CPST and Mom to
    C-13 years old, B-11 years old
    A-8 years old riding in a Harmony Youth Booster or Graco TurboBooster

  13. #11
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    I recently flew with my two kids and sat between their car seats. Baby was RF by window, me in the middle, my son FF in Maestro on the aisle. The flight attendants didn't blink.

    I didn't realize that was against the rules! I'm glad no one said anything though because I didn't want my 4 yo to be the only one next to a 6 week old baby for a 6 hour flight LOL. He was mad enough he didn't get the window seat

  14. #12
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    Quote Originally Posted by gigi View Post
    I recently flew with my two kids and sat between their car seats. Baby was RF by window, me in the middle, my son FF in Maestro on the aisle. The flight attendants didn't blink.

    I didn't realize that was against the rules! I'm glad no one said anything though because I didn't want my 4 yo to be the only one next to a 6 week old baby for a 6 hour flight LOL. He was mad enough he didn't get the window seat
    I have had an airline let me do this too, but I have not tried recently. There used to be a clause that said something about a car seat could block egress of someone in the same party but I don't remember if that was a specific airline or what. Once my third kid was born I found it easier to sit in the aisle, even if that meant having DS next to the baby, so that I could help DD1 if needed.
    Former CPST and Mom to
    C-13 years old, B-11 years old
    A-8 years old riding in a Harmony Youth Booster or Graco TurboBooster

  15. #13
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    I've never flown w/ 3 kids, but I have flown w/ 2 and 2 carseats (Delta, AirTran, United, and Frontier). When DH is with us, I prefer sitting 2 in front and 2 behind. When it's just me and the kids, we sit 3 in a row. I've never been allowed to sit between the carseats, but you can put the 2 carseats next to each other (window + middle). On super-small aircraft (2seat - aisle - 2 seats), I sit w/ DS in one row and DD is either in front of DS, behind DS, or across the aisle in the other window seat (my least fave).

    When traveling through the airport, I brought my single stroller and wore DS in the meitai. I put one carseat on the go-go kids (any luggage cart would do) and flipped the other one upside down on top of the first (bungeed together). The Avenues would go down the aircraft aisle like that; the britaxes would not. When strolling through the airport, I put the handle for the go-go kids over my Mac's handle and pushed the stroller one-handed while pulling our carry-on and diaperbag w/ my other hand. I made it through the airport just fine. The first time I did this my kids were 2 mths and newly 2yo.

    If I were you, I'd buy a ticket for the baby and use his/her infant carrier. I'd also buy/rent CARES harnesses for the other 2 since you have seats on the other end. Buy them the little (kid-sized) neck pillows though so that they can rest. This is the setup we use for DD on planes now (she uses an RSTV on the other end). DS still rides in his carseat.

    For placement on the plane, I'd put your 2 older ones in the row in front of you (window/middle) in their CARES harnesses (or 1 CARES and 1 carseat, w/ the carseat in the window) and baby next to you (in the window seat), while you sit on the aisle. IF someone asks to take the spot btw you and baby, move to the middle seat. However, if the plane isn't full, you'll get the 2 rows all to yourself.

    Be sure to print the FAA regs abt carseats and bring them with you. Most FAs won't give you a hard time, but some will and being threatened to be kicked off a plane is NEVER fun (has happened to us). I also highlight the important parts (such as "install in the correct forward or aft-facing direction as indicated by the manual"). Happy Travels!
    K (9/07) 90 lbs, 58" & E (7/09) 70lbs, 53.5", GHD / bone age delay
    2017 Subaru WRX: K - RightGuide, E - Olli
    2014 Subaru Forester: K - RightGuide/5-stepping, E - GoFitPlus
    Other Cars/Travel: K - Incognito, E - Bubblebum

  16. #14
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    I'll admit that I know about the car seat in the center seat, in the center section because I mainly worked long haul international so virtually all the aircraft I worked were dual aisled. I also have three kids so usually I'm in the center section with the four seats across so we're all together. I installed the car seat i one of the center seats.

    Yes, U.S. companies can't override FAA regs and since the FAA said that if the child has a seat and the car seat is approved, they can use it. The airlines can't refuse your right to use your car seat. They can restrict car seats in certain rows (which is important to know with open seating).

    Some wont allow car seats in the aisle with, in front and in back of, a window emergency exit. These are smaller than the door exits and are built into the wall. The window comes completely out in an emergency evacuation. The F/A will toss the window exit into an empty row so they want those rows around clear. My airline only restricted two rows but either that's been changed or other airlines want all three rows car seat-free.

    If you want to put a car seat on the aisle, ask about this specifically. I recommend putting the ffing seat there and if the other is rfing, put that by the window OR putting the bigger seat by the window and the smaller one on the aisle. It might be allowed on your specific airline so those of you who did this might not have been breaking any rules. Do ask though and not get "discovered" right before pushback. It wasn't allowed on my two airlines. The seats had to be next to each other. I wish I had more details but maybe it'll be allowed if your car seat doesn't extend past the airline cushion under it or perhaps they have a list of approved-on-the-aisle ffing seats. We all know that the Radian hardly would block anyone's access to the aisle.

    Wish I knew more, or even had a confirmation whether this is allowed and on which airlines!

    If anyone finds anything out, perhaps just bring it up if you're chatting with the F/A's on your next flight... Start a thread and share please! I might do some poking around on the airline employee sites and pages.
    Former Flight Attendant, 13 years, 2 companies in 5 countries
    3 trilingual, international travelers with two nationalities
    http://flyingwithchildren1.blogspot.com

  17. #15
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    Maybe the issue is when you are not taking up an entire row? When we fly all together (me, DH & 2 kiddos) we usually sit 2 in one row and 2 behind. It is pretty standard for an FA to say to me (without me asking), "car seat goes in the window seat." In fact, I have had reservation people tell me that before. Perhaps if you are taking up the whole row with your travel party, the rules are different? On the few occasions I have tried to put the car seat in the middle seat - even if *I* am sitting in the window seat - I have been told no. On occasions where I have had no window seat reserved, the FAs have shuffled other passengers to make a window seat available.

    Was just flying Frontier today, I should have asked what their policy is. I do have a friend who flies for United, I will ask her!
    Mom to DD(7), 50", 55 lbs. (HB Turbobooster) and DS(6), 46", 40 lbs., (HB Turbobooster)

  18. #16
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    Quote Originally Posted by mrswh View Post
    Maybe the issue is when you are not taking up an entire row? When we fly all together (me, DH & 2 kiddos) we usually sit 2 in one row and 2 behind. It is pretty standard for an FA to say to me (without me asking), "car seat goes in the window seat." In fact, I have had reservation people tell me that before. Perhaps if you are taking up the whole row with your travel party, the rules are different? On the few occasions I have tried to put the car seat in the middle seat - even if *I* am sitting in the window seat - I have been told no. On occasions where I have had no window seat reserved, the FAs have shuffled other passengers to make a window seat available.

    Was just flying Frontier today, I should have asked what their policy is. I do have a friend who flies for United, I will ask her!
    Yes, your issue is probably that your party is split up. It is different when you are one adult flying with 2-3 kids on your own.
    Former CPST and Mom to
    C-13 years old, B-11 years old
    A-8 years old riding in a Harmony Youth Booster or Graco TurboBooster

  19. #17
    CPS Technician An Aurora's Avatar
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    I have always been required to put the seats next to the window (and since I have three in seats, one in the center). They have rearranged our tickets to make sure that happens
    Anna~ RN and expired CPST (hoping to recert soon!)

  20. #18
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    Thanks for all your input ladies! I have used the CARES before with my oldest, so I was definitely considering using that at least for her. We are flying Southwest so we don't have assigned seats, but I can always bring the infant seat in case there is room on the plane. The other thing I didn't mention in my OP was that we have to transfer planes-so I need to find the safest, yet simplest way to manage this on my own .

  21. #19
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    Re: 3 kids, 2 car seats and 1 mom on a plane-help!

    Quote Originally Posted by An Aurora View Post
    I have always been required to put the seats next to the window (and since I have three in seats, one in the center). They have rearranged our tickets to make sure that happens
    You're not clear on this. Did the aircraft have one or two aisles? Were you told directly that you could not use the center section?

    This is where the confusion is. People are saying that they have to put the car seats by the window but they're not saying whether the aircraft had a second aisle or not. Obviously, a car seat has to go by the window of a small aircraft with only one aisle but on a bigger plane, you CAN use the center section. You just can't have the car seat between a person and the aisle.

    This is NOT a policy that is airline-based. Individual airlines can't override FAA policy and the FAA says that two car seats can go together.
    Last edited by Eclipsepearl; 10-31-2011 at 04:24 PM.
    Former Flight Attendant, 13 years, 2 companies in 5 countries
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    http://flyingwithchildren1.blogspot.com

  22. #20
    CPS Technician An Aurora's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Alaska
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    6,114
    I've never been on a domestic plane with three rows. I'm speaking about a plane with two rows/one aisle, as is the OP.
    Anna~ RN and expired CPST (hoping to recert soon!)

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