November 26, 2007

Does USAir Forbid FAA-Approved CARES Safety Harnesses?

DT reader Darren and his gang are planning a trip to France and Switzerland soon, and he was considering putting his kid in a CARES Safety Harness--which is FAA-approved--rather than haul a freakin' car seat around the Alps on a train for two weeks.

usair_safety_belt_rule.jpg

But USAirways' children's travel policies are not entirely jibing with each other, much less the FAA: First, check out the screenshot from USAir's site, which clearly--and incorrectly, and with multiple typos--states, "Vest and harness type child restrains [sic] or belly belts" are "Unacceptable". Then Darren says,

I called the airline twice and got two different answers on the topic, in typical fashion – one negative and one “probably not but up to the flight attendants”. I suspect that I would probably get a third answer if I called again.
On the CARES FAQ, meanwhile, it sounds like the harness company is psyching customers up for a showdown which may affect your on-time departure:
Q. Do I need permission from my airline to use CARES?
A. No. CARES is certified by the FAA for use on all U.S. registered airlines. Because CARES is a new product and is a unique harness type child safety restraint, some airline personnel may not yet be familiar with it . Parents have the right to bring CARES on board for their children and airline personnel may not prevent you from using CARES for your child. This is a Federal Aviation Administration – not an individual airline - decision and it applies to all U.S. airlines.
So there you have it. There are even links to printable FAA documentation that you can present if "challenged." All of which is cold comfort if your flight attendant decides to give you the boot for an unchallengeable reason like "not following flight attendant instructions" instead. Has anyone had experience flying with a CARES harness on USAirways or anyone else? Any tips or suggestions? Darren's back might thank you.

update: here's United's comparable policy, which is very specific about the kinds of harnesses and belly belts it doesn't allow. Their policy sounds like it won't improperly snag the CARES:

The following child restraint devices may not be used on board the aircraft: booster seats, belly belts which attach to adult seat belts only, and vests or harnesses which hold the infant to the chest of the adult.
The other major airlines' stated policies are after the jump. They run the gamut, but there's one thing they have in common: they make it look like USAir doesn't like to sweat the pesky official-type details on flying with kids.

Policies & Special Needs - Infants & Children [usairways.com]
CARES FAQ - Kids Fly Safe [kidsflysafe.com]

Previously: DT Unboxing: the CARES Flysafe Planeseat Harness
FAA Announcement: No Airline CARES, so now parents can buy car seat replacements themselves

Delta:

Restraints that are Not Permitted

We do not permit the following types of car seats:

# Vest and harness-type child restraint devices other than the FAA approved CARES restraint device.

Continental:
Children unable to sit upright with the seat belt fastened must be carried in an FAA approved infant seat if not being held by an adult. Continental does not provide infant seats.The infant seat must be secured in an aircraft seat and cannot be held in an adult's lap.
Northwest: nothing but a link to the FAA's "Travel With Children" page.

American: in a word, whoa.

american_cares.jpg
Aviation Child Safety Device (ACSD) Learn more about this lightweight, convenient option to enhance your child's safety while flying.
Southwest doesn't fly interationally, but their Taking The Kids section gets special mention anyway, for their parent-invented travel device stories, their vacation tips for single dads, and their smooth segue from child restraint policy to sales pitch:
Under 20 pounds, they should be in a rear-facing seat; from 20 to 40 pounds in a forward-facing child restraint. Children over 40 pounds may safely use an aircraft seat belt. Visit www.faa.gov/passengers/childsafetyseats for more information. Southwest was the first carrier to offer a fare that would give parents a low-cost alternative to traveling with a lap child. Southwest’s affordable Infant Fares are available for children less than 2 years-old who occupy a seat (with an FAA-approved car seat) and who are accompanied by a customer aged 12 or older.
12/21 update: Southwest has since updated their child restraint policy. They now mention the CARES harness by name, and they also cite the very car seat-ish Century Breverra booster seat as approved, the only booster seat I've seen get an airline nod. [thanks dt reader steve for the heads up.]


JetBlue:

Child aviation restraint systems (CARES) are also certified by the FAA for use during all phases of flight including taxiing, takeoff, landing and during periods of turbulence. CARES is a belt-and-buckle device that attaches directly to the
aircraft seatbelt. It is designed for children over one year old, weighing between 22 and 44 pounds.

8 Comments

There is a decent CARES review thread over on the Flyertalk.com Travel with Children special interest forum:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=637695

Here's the Travel with Children forum in general:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=221

Note that if you register for Flyertalk you'll be able to do forum-specific searches and you'll find a wealth of information in the Travel with Children forum. Darren might also consider searching the USAir forum to see if CARES has come up there.

Finally, note that although the CARES system is FAA approved and therefore US should accept it, that doesn't mean US's European codeshare partners have to accept it. So if any leg of the trip is on a flight operated by a codeshare partner (e.g., Lufthansa connecting in Frankfurt or Munich), FAA approval doesn't mean squat.

[a good point. As I looked through all the airline policies, I see that the FAA policy is to accept foreign-made car seats and restraints labeled as approved by a government and/or the UN. Interesting that the reciprocity doesn't seem to be in effect. Though we had a couple of run-ins with our EU-spec Maxi-Cosi on US carriers, we talked our way through it. -ed.]

I actually flew USAir with a CARES to and from Europe a few months ago. On one flight they made no comment. On another, they remarked positively. The month before, on the same flight a friend had been told he couldn't use the same harness. I pointed this out to the flight attendant who commented on ours, and she rolled her eyes and said some flight attendants don't pay attention in training.

Both USAir and United are merely trying to put the FAA policy in understandable terms. As the CARES people say, it's not up to US airlines to decide. They MUST accept FAA approved devices and must not accept unapproved ones (PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS APPLIES TO US CARRIERS ONLY, that is, if you try this on Air France, you will be governed by French law and they will not accept ANY device that a reasonable person could live with).

So, yes, USAir has been known to accept them. Printing out the FAA brochure will help when you kindly but firmly tell them that FAA regulations require them to permit your FAA approved device. (Oh, and the CARES people don't mention this, but be sure to figure out where the FAA Approved tag is before you use the device -- it's not intuitive.)

[the FAQ does mention the label is stitched inside a loop somewhere. The foreign carrier rule is worth paying attention to. CARES is approved in the UK and some other countries, but not in many others. -ed.]

Oh, and note that car seat standards in Europe are different from here, too.

On a recent trip to England, I contacted the UK department of transportation and learned that my kid's Graco Snugride was not approved for use in British vehicles.

Although it was technically illegal, I decided to bring it and use it anyway, under the theory that (a) the odds of anybody noticing and stopping me were extremely slim and (b) I felt more comfortable putting my kid in our own clean car seat with which we were familiar as opposed to renting a seat from the rental car company (which would be of questionable cleanliness and which I would have to learn how to use). We had no problems, nor have other Flyertalkers with whom I've discussed the subject.

Thanks, everyone. All of our flights are on USAir, rather than code shares, so that shouldn't be an issue. Appreciate the link to the forum; I'll check that out, too. It's starting to sound like perhaps the risk is smaller than customer service at USAir indicated.

I travel every 2 weeks with my toddler and I use the CARES here in Europe only once did a flight attendant ask me not to use it (so I used the normal seat belt).
It really isn't a big deal here.
By the way -I no longer fly USAir because they offer the worst "service" smaller spaces, crap meals and guaranteed lost luggage to Europe.

We've flown several times with our CARES harness (we love it), and have been questioned about it on half of the flights. It helps to bring the printed FAQ and instructions (which state that it is FAA approved) to show the flight attendant.

My favorite flight attendant "training issue" on a recent flight was the British Airways stewardess who let me keep my sleeping daughter in her sling, but made me wrap a belly belt through the sling and around her "so that she would be securely fastened to me" The contraption took several minutes to undo when she finally woke up...

The CARES restraint was given to me for my son before his Make a Wish trip to Florida. We did not have any problems from USAir on the first flight, but on our connecting flight into Orlando, the flight attendant told me that they weren't approved even though they say they are and then told me that I could kill my child by leaving him in it. It was awful...haven't used it since.

We took our CARES flight harness on a domestic United Airlines flight and never asked for 'permission'. We didn't have any problem at all as the harness is FAA approved and it says so on the harness itself. I know there are some questions about other harnesses such as the Baby B'Air (http://www.familytravelgear.com/page/FTG/PROD/Baby-Bair-vest-harness) and had some people tell us they were not able to use the product, but I have yet to hear of anyone being refused to bring on a CARES flight "restraint system" (not harness) http://www.familytravelgear.com/page/FTG/PROD/CARES
I think if you are calling the airlines and are getting different responses, you need to request to speak to a supervisor, and be careful with the words that you use to describe the CARES product.

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