Are you planning to fly with your child’s car seat or capsule as carry-on or checked luggage? Here are the rules for every airline in Australia.
Any parent will know that travelling with children – whether interstate or overseas – requires plenty of baggage, including a pram, portacot and, occasionally, a car seat.
The latter can pose something of a challenge to parents, with its cumbersome footprint not quite suited to an overhead compartment, nor to a baggage carousel.
So can you bring a child’s car seat or capsule on the plane and, if so, how do you do it? The answer is fairly confusing, as this writer discovered in doing her own research for an upcoming family holiday.
“There’s no blanket answer because each airline will have their own different rules,” a Melbourne Airport spokesperson told Drive.
“If you do have oversize baggage, then allow yourself extra time to visit the oversize counter once you’ve checked in.”
Here’s what you need to know…
Can I bring my car seat as carry-on?
Yes, generally most airlines allow you to bring your child’s car seat as carry-on baggage, provided you have booked a seat for your child.
Generally speaking, if your child has their own seat on the plane and your car seat meets the airline’s standards, you can install the car seat in the plane seat to provide added comfort for your child.
In fact, it’s often recommended as an additional safety measure for younger children.
However, don’t assume your child seat meets the airline’s carry-on requirements.
Typically, to bring a car seat on board, it needs to have a visible label stating that it complies with Australian/New Zealand Design Standards AS/NZS 1754 and not bear any visible damage.
It also needs to fit in an airplane seat and allow the seat in front to recline, and it must be able to be secured to the aircraft seat with a seatbelt only.
Can I bring a car seat as checked baggage?
If you’d prefer to bring your child seat as checked baggage, you can do so – but different airlines have different baggage allowances.
It pays to call ahead and see whether a car seat is permitted as part of your baggage allowance, or whether you have to pay extra.
Additionally, you might have to wrap your child seat or pack it in a bag to ensure safe carriage, although some airlines will provide you with a clear bag or a plastic tub for the seat.
Stores like Baby Bunting and Baby Village sell specially designed car seat storage bags like this one, but plenty of people take a DIY approach and use either a garbage bag or plastic wrap.
Depending on the airline, you may also be required to drop it or collect it from the oversize baggage counter.
How do I take a car seat on a Jetstar flight?
“We love welcoming families on board our aircraft, especially those flying with little ones,” a Jetstar spokesperson told Drive.
“If parents have booked a seat for their child, they can place them in a car seat free of charge. All they need to do is contact us by phone before their flight to add the car seat to their booking.
“The car seat must meet Australian design standards to be used onboard; however, if it doesn’t, we’ll carry it as checked luggage for free.”
If bringing your car seat as checked baggage on a Jetstar flight, you should ensure all straps, buckles and cushioning are secure and consider using a plastic bag or other type of car seat cover.
Infants not occupying a seat are not entitled to a checked baggage allowance, but those travelling with an infant on their lap will be charged a $30 infant fee per journey on domestic flights in Australia, which includes a car seat.
According to the Jetstar website, “booster seats cannot be used during our flights because these items could slip out from under children during take-off and landing and make seatbelts ineffective but can be carried for free as checked baggage”.
How do I take a car seat on a Virgin flight?
Infants travelling on a Virgin Australia flight are entitled to carry three special infant items as checked baggage, free of charge, including: a pram/stroller, a portable cot, a car seat and a baby capsule. This applies even if they don’t have their own seat booked.
If you want to bring the child seat as carry-on, you must have a seat booked for your child and your car seat must comply with Virgin’s requirements, which can be located here.
How do I bring a car seat on a Qantas flight?
“Child car seats can be carried onboard most Qantas and QantasLink flights and secured to an aircraft seat if approved by Qantas prior to travel,” Qantas’s website advises.
“Approval can’t be obtained at the airport. Infants will need to be booked with a seat by contacting your local Qantas office to make the booking (infants booked online are booked as lap infants without a seat).”
Much like other airlines, if you want to bring your car seat as carry-on with Qantas, it must be in good condition, with no signs of damage.
Booster seats can only be carried on Qantas flights as checked baggage.
“Seat allocation for use of car seats and child restraint systems is restricted, and availability may vary by aircraft type. Not all aircraft and all cabins are able to accommodate car seats and child restraint systems, particularly those that require the use of a top tether point. Please call us to check before you book,” Qantas advises.
“Car seats can’t be located in an aisle seat or in an exit row. If there are two responsible adults travelling with a child, and the allocated child car seat is in the centre aisle, then the two responsible adults must be seated on either side, adjacent to the child car seat.”
How do I bring a car seat on a Rex flight?
“For infants over the age of six months, you may bring on board your infant car seat (it must be forward-facing) for your infant’s comfort. Children over two years of age may also use an infant car seat providing the child weighs less than 18kg,” Rex’s website advises.
“If you choose to use your car seat, you must purchase an additional seat to use it. Due to seating restrictions on the aircraft, Customer Service staff must be informed if an infant is going to be using an approved Infant Car Seat when you are checking-in.
“The use of baby capsules, baby booster beats or baby bassinets are not permitted in the cabin. However, we do have infant seatbelts if you do not want to use an infant car seat.”
To travel with a car seat, you must ensure the seat is in good condition, with no cracked or damaged edges, and all seatbelts and harnesses are fully functioning.
“The label displaying the applicable standard must be legible. If your car seat does not meet these standards, then unfortunately you will not be able to use it during the flight,” Rex advises.
If your car seat does not meet the requirements, or your infant doesn’t have a seat booked, you will need to bring your car seat as checked baggage.
In that event, it is the passenger’s responsibility to ensure the car seat is properly wrapped and protected.
How much does it cost to rent a car seat or capsule?
There are plenty of companies that will allow you to rent a baby capsule or car seat by the day.
If you’re already renting a car, companies like Hertz and Avis will typically charge an additional $22 a day for capsule, car seat or booster seat hire.
Hertz will even include free installation at certain locations.
Budget is more expensive, charging $44 a day, while Sixt is cheaper, offering car seat rental for around $12.65 a day.
If you don’t need a rental car but still require a car seat or capsule, you can also opt for independent operators that allow you to rent a car seat and collect it from the airport.
Pricing varies by company, but typically it works out to around $20 a day for short-term loans, or as little as $5 a day for longer-term rentals.
Some companies, like Hire for Baby, will even throw in complimentary installation.