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  1. #1
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    Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    We are a European family currently living in the Caribbean. We have a European rear-facing car seat for our six-month-old (a Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix) which we also use for him on airplanes. Recently on a flight to the US we were asked to prove that the car seat is safe for air travel. I duly showed the sticker on the bottom of the seat that reads something like "E4" which I understand is the UN designated approval for child restraints that can be used on board a plane. The stewardess seemed totally unaware of the UN approval system however and nearly didn't let us have our child sit in the seat for the flight although we did in the end thankfully manage to convince her that all was as it should be with our seat.

    My question is does anyone know where I could find documentation online that briefly and clearly explains the UN approval system? Something for us to take with us when we travel in case any questions arise again. I tried to look for something online but so far no luck. The car seat manufacturer's page didn't seem to have anything either on this unfortunately. Our son will soon outgrow his current seat but we are going to get him another European seat so I expect that we'll need some kind of general documentation in the future also when we travel.

    And while I am here and have your attention (hopefully!), is it legal for us to use our European car seats in cars in the US and Canada on holiday or could that get us into trouble? We travel a fair bit in North America and always bring our own car seat for the baby. It never even occurred to me that this could be a problem until I read a few of the entries here today... But I am still unclear as to what the final answer is as to whether it is ok to use European seats in North America.

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  3. #2
    Senior Community Member unityco's Avatar
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    Hi there, and welcome!

    First of all, I'll answer the easy question. You CAN use your European seat while visiting Canada/the U.S.. If you were to become residents, you would have to replace them.

    As for flight documentation, the only thing I can suggest is checking your carseat's manual. There may be a line in there stating something like "this seat is approved for air travel," and that may be enough to get the flight crew to leave you alone. I hope someone else can direct you to more direct info!

    Hope that helps!

  4. #3
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    Thank you very much! That does put my mind at rest for future visits.

    As for our current car seat's manual, unfortunately it doesn't say anywhere about using it on planes. My theory is that in Europe the general assumption is that the seats are fine for planes as long as they are approved for cars, so they don't even bother including a line about it in the manual. But perhaps I should get in touch with the manufacturer as they might be able to help me with the appropriate documentation in any case.

    If anyone does have any idea where to find more information about the UN approval system, I would really appreciate it! Thanks.

  5. #4
    Senior Community Member Adventuredad's Avatar
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    It's legal to use European car seats for vacation etc. in other countries just like it's fine to use US seats in EUrope temporarily. About plane travel, I might be wrong but I think staff could require a FAA certified for you to use on planes in US. I always bring my rear facing Swedish seats for my vehicle but fly without seats on all our trips.

    Even if your seat is approved for air travel in Europe, or some other part of the world, staff might still deny you using it on planes in US. I believe you need a "FAA" sticker but please confirm this with someone else.
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  6. #5
    CPS Fanatic bubbaray's Avatar
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    AFAIK, for air travel on a US carrier, your seat needs to have an FAA sticker and for air travel on a Canadian carrier, your seat needs to have a CVMMS sticker. However, I have heard that some (not all) FAs are lax about that rule for Canadians and Americans -- ie., I've heard of Canadians being allowed to use a Canadian seat on a US carrier. Its probably up to the discretion of the FA. Some FAs can be quite, er, particular and can seemingly come up with their own interpretation of car seat rules.

    I would highly doubt that a FA on either a US or Canadian carrier would allow a European seat to be used *if* they checked for the sticker -- which they do not always do. But, yeah, if they do check for the sticker, my guess is you'll be SOOL.

    Do you mean UN or EU?? Either way, I would not expect that any US or Canadian carrier will be at all familiar any "sticker" other than the FAA or CVMMS stickers -- half the time, I'm not convinced they are even familiar with those!
    Melissa

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  7. #6
    Moderator - CPST Instructor QuassEE's Avatar
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    FAA regs actually allow for use of any carseat certified for flight by a foreign government. The hard part is actually *proving* it's certified, since different countries use different methods to identify airworthiness, and they're not always immediately as evident as the US stickering method.

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  8. #7
    CPS Fanatic bubbaray's Avatar
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    That makes sense, but I still think the majority of FAs would nix a "foreign" seat just because they can.... I mean, US passengers have had problems using a US seat (like the SS1) in the manner it was intended (ie., RFg to the limits of the seat).

    I'd be inclined to bring a copy of the FAA regs allowing the foreign seats and bring a copy of something from the "home" country showing that the foreign seat is safe for install on aircraft....
    Melissa

    DD#1, April 2004, FFg in a Pink Harmony Literider & Onyx Parkway SG
    DD#2, January 2007, FFg in a Pink Monterey & Purple with Pink Hearts HBTB

    Riding in my 2010 Toyota RAV4 and DH's 2011 Ford 150 Crew Cab

  9. #8
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    Thanks everyone.

    I think in practice you are right that American airlines are not familiar with any other system other than the FAA one, or at most the Canadian one. What it is very frustrating to me is that our seat actually is certified not by a foreign government but by an international system and yet there are airline staff who are not familiar with it... Our car seat has an international certification on it, ie a certification specifically by the UN not just the EU. I am just having trouble finding the actual text of this certification that would clearly explain that we are allowed to use our seat onboard.

    Some background information on the certification from the American Airlines website: "Restraints manufactured outside the United States may be accepted provided that they bear either a label showing approval of a non-U.S. government OR a label showing that the seat was manufactured under the standards of the United Nations (U.N.).

    U.N. approval is designated by a label with a circle surrounding the letter "E" followed by the distinguishing number of the country which has granted approval, plus an indication of the category and mass group of the child restraint which will be affixed."

    And so it is the text explaining the UN approval that I am searching for.

    We have been able to use our car seat on numerous American flights, and all over Europe too obviously (our son is already quite the little traveller), but given the trouble we had on our last flight I just wanted to have some documentation on hand for future flights.

  10. #9
    Senior Community Member Adventuredad's Avatar
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    I think it's likely you will be able to use your set but you never know. This is very frustrating for those who want to use a car seat on planes. One can follow the rules and technically be allowed to use a certain set but still be told "no". To get on the flight one must follow rules of the staff even though they might not be correct.
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  11. #10
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    Once on an international flight from USA, that I had been booked for the bulk head seat (but they moved me around and I wasn't...) they told me I couldn't use my car seat for my then 5wk old rf. When I said "She's only 5 wks old, she needs to be rfing..."Their response was, well that seat isn't FAA approved. I said it was, that's the reason I bought it. I showed them in the manual, they still told me no. I had to find it on the seat... long story, I was right they were wrong. If I hadn't put up a fight and insisted I didn't pay $900 for the baby's flight for nothing, they eventually let us sit in the bulk head with her rfing. Moral of the story, they do what they want. Some FA's are nice and some aren't. Every person within the airline will tell you a different rule.

    Bubbaray, the seats approved for use in EU are labeled "ECE..." which means approved by the UN, which can be used in places outside the EU. Often times people get the 2 confused, bc some people (I know I do) say EU to be simpler.

    I don't know if all ECE/UN seats are approved for inflight use. I know I have seen a German website which outlines which car seats are available for in flight use, so that to me means that not all seats are apporved for inflight use, kwim?

  12. #11
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    The FAA says that if a seat is purchased for the child and the seat is FAA approved IT CANNOT BE REFUSED. I'm not sure if that extends to UN approved seats. It might be a good idea to contact the FAA directly. They're good about answering questions.

    It's true that UN seats are allowed.

    One option is to contact the manufacterer. Sunshine Kids wrote back to say that the Radian is UN approved. Seeing if they answer and printing up the email should do it, if the manual doesn't state that (which the Radian manual, or at least mine, doesn't).

    If a F/A doens't seem informed about seats, immediately ask for the purser. Don't "get into it" with someone who doesn't know the rules. Some countries refuse rfing seats but not the U.S.

    Kat's quote came from this document;
    http://web.nbaa.org/public/ops/ac/AC120-87A.pdf

    Printing that up might be a good idea too.

    hth,
    Sharon
    http://flyingwithchildren.blogspot.com

  13. #12
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    [QUOTE=



    I don't know if all ECE/UN seats are approved for inflight use. I know I have seen a German website which outlines which car seats are available for in flight use, so that to me means that not all seats are apporved for inflight use, kwim?[/QUOTE]



    Just because a seat is ECE approved, does not mean it is safe to use inflight.

    In the UK, all seats are ECE approved, but most car seats need to be installed with both a lap and shoulder belt. Obviously planes only have lap belts - so those seats that need both not approved for use on planes.
    Joshua 16th Aug 03 - 46lbs Britax Adventure High Back Booster
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  14. #13
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    Quote Originally Posted by mommytojoshmadty View Post
    Just because a seat is ECE approved, does not mean it is safe to use inflight.

    In the UK, all seats are ECE approved, but most car seats need to be installed with both a lap and shoulder belt. Obviously planes only have lap belts - so those seats that need both not approved for use on planes.
    that's what I was thinking, but I can't find any info to back it up.

  15. #14
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    Which child seat can I use on an aircraft?
    The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) accept child seats that are approved to the European Standard ECE R44 and can be fitted with a lap belt only.
    The following models from our range meet this criteria:
    Britax Freeway (Fisher Price forward facing seat)
    Britax Eclipse (including Si & Ultra models)
    Britax Renaissance (including Si models)
    However, as the ultimate responsibility for use is with the airline in question we recommend that you check with them to make sure that the child seat in question will fit dimensionally on their aircraft seat and gain agreement to use it before you intend to travel.

    We have had positive feeback from customers about the successful use of the Britax Freeway (Fisher Price Child seat).

    Please be aware that FAA (USA) airlines may have different regulations.



    The above info was taken from the UK site for Britax.
    Joshua 16th Aug 03 - 46lbs Britax Adventure High Back Booster
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  16. #15
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    Hi again everyone.

    I have now been in touch with the manufacturer of our seat and they have informed me of what some of you had already pointed out: as the seat is only approved for use with a 3-point belt, it naturally is not approved for use in aircraft that only have lapbelts. I'm not sure how I had not thought of this myself.

    It's interesting that many airlines specifically say that they would accept seats with the UNECE approval given that in fact many of them are not specifically approved for airplanes.

    In any case I'm glad we didn't make a big fuss to get the seat on last time as they were indeed right to question us! Although I would still think that in case of turbulence or a crash landing having my son in a seat (even one not approved for use on aircraft) would be more likely to keep from being thrown about the cabin better than with me just holding him on my lap...

  17. #16
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    Quote Originally Posted by Travelling Kat View Post
    ... I would still think that in case of turbulence or a crash landing having my son in a seat (even one not approved for use on aircraft) would be more likely to keep from being thrown about the cabin better than with me just holding him on my lap...
    Just wanted to say I agree, I think sitting in something that is installed well is fine. Its a plane... if it goes down there isn't much hope for anyone.

  18. #17
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    Quote Originally Posted by canmom View Post
    Just wanted to say I agree, I think sitting in something that is installed well is fine. Its a plane... if it goes down there isn't much hope for anyone.
    On one hand yes, but the other no... If there were an emergency landing it would be much quicker (as long as the kid was still being held by you) to grab the kid and go, rather than un buckle the straps, unbuckle the chest clip, wiggle the arms out of the harness and go. I know for me in non emergency situations, it takes a minute or two to get her in and out of her car seat. and we don't even have a chest clip (part of the ECE quick release reg)

  19. #18
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    On one hand yes, but the other no... If there were an emergency landing it would be much quicker (as long as the kid was still being held by you) to grab the kid and go, rather than un buckle the straps, unbuckle the chest clip, wiggle the arms out of the harness and go. I know for me in non emergency situations, it takes a minute or two to get her in and out of her car seat. and we don't even have a chest clip (part of the ECE quick release reg)

    Actually, that's not really the case.

    Surviving the impact is paramount. It's very unlikely that you could hold your child in an accident. I've read reports for work of children flying in the air, down the aisle, etc. when the parent couldn't hold on. Parents looking for children after an accident. Horrible reading. This stuff is not released to the public...

    If you land in good shape, all you need to do is to get out of the aircraft. This is quick. It's not valid to compare it to when you are putting your child in the seat in your car. You would be much faster after an accident, with your life at risk (especially if there's smoke or fire coming from somewhere), you wouldn't waste a second. You would also have a few nanoseconds since there would be other people headed to the exits too. The chestclip is a non-issue and I don't understand why they're not on European seats (and why so few seats have tether but don't get me started on that subject!)

    We watched videos of people exiting aircrafts as part of a new plane's approval (it has to be done within a certain number of seconds). Now these are healthy people who have not been in an accident (just wearing silly numbers on their shirts but enough on that). Boy is it quick! It's like full cabin....empty cabin. They're gone! You couldn't empty a tube of toothpaste that fast.

    So the issue is not the evacuation but the impact of the crash. People used to use that logic to not wear seatbelts; if the car were on fire, the second it would take to open the seatbelt would kill them. We now know this is not the case.

    Hope no one is reading this right before bed! Sorry to give you nightmares!

    Sharon
    ex-Flight Attendant, 13 years, 2 companies

  20. #19
    CPS Fanatic bubbaray's Avatar
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    OK, I'm not really trying to start something, but DH and I have discussed this at length. As I understand it, victims have a max of 90 seconds to exit an aircraft after a crash landing and 90 seconds to have all passengers exit is an FAA standard. After that, they will succumb to fumes from the burning materials. There is an FAA study on the net somewhere about how parents should hold children to exit an aircraft, which hold is safest, fastest, etc.. DH and I read this. We are both fit, athletic types. And, honestly, I really wonder if we could get our children out of their child seats quickly enough to exit before we are overcome by fumes. The other fear is that one of us parents isn't conscious and the other parent has to exit with BOTH children. I can't imagine being able to (a) get both children out of their seats; (b) hold both children at the same time and find an exit; (c) figuring out how to exit with both children; and (d) doing all of that within 90 seconds. And, you can be DAMN sure if I get to the slide with both of them, I'm taking both of them, not giving one up to some stranger.

    I dunno, I'm not convinced in a crash situation the odds are good at all.
    Melissa

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    DD#2, January 2007, FFg in a Pink Monterey & Purple with Pink Hearts HBTB

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  21. #20
    Senior Community Member Adventuredad's Avatar
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    Re: Flying with a European car seat in the US/Canada

    I've flown more than most with my kids , did 50 flights the first few years and I chose to not use seats. If you're into REAL safety, where you actually look at the risk and probability, it's an easy decision. You don't need a seat. The chances that anything will happen on a flight are as close to zero as you will ever get. Saying that, a child is safer in a seat. But the difference is so unbelievable small you can forget it. During a 20 year period, 3 people died and a few hundred were injured from turbulence. That says it all.

    And crashes? Too few to even worry about them. Most of them are deadly anyway, doesn't matter what seat you're using. Surviving a crash landing means surviving impact. A human can handle sitting without a seatbelt in a car up to about 4-5 mph. Of course less while holding a baby. Forces in a crash landing will be far above this and a seat would of course be much safer. It's not realistic to believe you can hold a baby properly while crashing.

    Your odds in any serious crash situation are close to zero. When planes go down there are usually few, if any, survivors.

    I dunno, I'm not convinced in a crash situation the odds are good at all.
    You're right, your odds in a serious crash are horrible. Thankfully, being in a serious crash situation is incredibly rare
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