December 17, 2007

Pissy 'USAir Flight Attendant' Has Own CARES Flying Harness Laws

Well, we all knew it would happen. On the bright side, it didn't happen to you! Rather than schlep a car seat around on the trains of Europe this holiday season, DT regular Darren is field-testing a CARES flying harness, which is FAA-approved and which, as we established here, every US airline is totally on board with--except for the half of USAir who doesn't give a damn what the FAA "regulations" are:

Took the kidlette to Switzerland from SD to meet up with the wife, as planned. In Basel now. SD - Philly leg of the trip: One flight attendant who said she'd never seen the harness before and didn't think it was allowed. The other who said she had seen it and was certain it was NOT permitted by her airline. I assured her that her own customer service said otherwise and in any case showed her that it was FAA approved. She said as the purser, it was her prerogative, and that it was not permitted, so I' have to carry Ava in my lap for take-off and landing. I said I thought that holding her in my lap sounded MUCH safer than keeping her in an FAA-approved four point safety belt. She didn't appreciate the sarcasm and promply ignored me the rest of the flight, despite me being in seats 1A and 1B.

Philly to ZRH - flight attendants all very familiar with kidsflysafe and approved of use. Thought it was great. Surprised to hear some of their colleagues weren't aware of this.

So about what I was guessing would happen.

It's like the best of Trickledown Theory and the Unitary Executive, with a little bit of Bobby Brown on top! And no warm nut cup. USAir! USAir! USAir!

Previously: Does USAir forbid FAA-approved CARES safety harnesses? Uh, yes, about 50% of the time.


My personal opinion is that airlines hate people. Kind of like Deutsche Bahn here in Germany :P

Hope Darren will write and complain, only way this kind of thing is going to get fixed.

Well, we're flying down to Dallas from Washington DC for the holidays and I have a CARES harness to use instead of the Radian80 seat. We're checking the seat through so I don't have to carry it through the airports. Conveniently it folds up and has a travel bag. But as for the harness, this is sounding like it could be a pita. If I get confronted with a steward like mentioned above, I fear I may get us ejected from the plane. I've already got all the FAA regulations printed out and in the bag with the harness in case this situation arises, but I sure hope it doesn't, because I won't back down. I'm having my son be as safe as possible, which to me means he's going to be strapped in to his seat, which I had to pay full adult price for. If he's not going to be allowed to be in his seat for the most dangerous parts of the flight, I'll be demanding a refund of the price paid, since I was not allowed full use of the seat I purchased. So, we may get ejected from the plane if this situation happens to us, I won't back down on a safety issue.

About the CARES harness, it has been only recently approved for use at the airline I work for (not US Airways). I believe all the US airlines have approved this for use. The way airlines make policy and give out information, both to customers and employees, is another argument. If your consern is the childs safety, don't become confontational if the Flight attendant questions the Cares harness, they have probably never seen one before. I still haven't. Ask the flight attendant if they would refer to their Flight Attendant manual in the infant restraint section to see if their airline has updated the policy. The way these revisions are given out it would be easy to miss something here or there. If, by chance, that airline has not approved the Cares harness, the airlines policy superceedes any blanket FAA certificate on the harness.

[while I can agree with the benefits of not being confrontational with the flight crew, that last statement, about the airline policy superceding the FAA regulation and approval is in direct opposition to CARES' own statement of FAA policy. I highly doubt that the FAA considers that airline policy supercedes its own on safety restraints. And anyway, the previous post on this topic includes links to the published policy for every major US airline, and the only one with any real ambiguity is USAir, and they're clearly inconsistent, sloppy, and ignorant. caveat flyer. -ed.]


I admire your tenacity, but I would seriously consider backing down if it gets to a point where you are looking at being ejected from the plane. "Disobeying a flight attendant" is probably a felony now (it's certainly illegal), and getting escorted off a plane will get you on so many blacklists that you'll be getting colonoscopies from the TSA for the rest of your life every time you try to get on a plane. It sucks, but our entire flight security apparatus is broken from top to bottom, and the only thing we can do in the face of its unchecked idiotic authority is to submit.

[if this is the prerogative the USAir instructor was talking about, then whatever the FAA says is essentially void, and you fly subject to the whim of whatever the flight attendant says or wants. If someone wants that kind of unchecked power, she should be Vice President, not a flight attendant. -ed.]

Yeah, if push came to shove, we'd do what the flight attendants asked us to do, but we would not be happy about it. All the regulations simply say is that a tag/sticker needs to be on the device saying "Certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft" or "FAA approved in accordance with 14 CFR 21.305(d)". The FAA website says that that is all that is needed, if particular airlines require more, that's just annoying.

Hopefully we'll have a nice 3 hour flight to and from Dallas with no issues, a nice quietly sleeping baby and no sore arms from lugging the car seat around the terminals.

Continental's website says:

AmSafe's CAReS (Child Aviation Restraint System) may be used onboard Continental Airlines aircraft. Other booster seats, restraint vests and restraint harnesses may not be used aboard Continental Airlines aircraft. Note: The Amsafe device must have the FAA label attached and its correct use on board the aircraft is solely the responsibility of the customer.

** Wonder if other airlines are updating their sites in the same manner? Might be worth printing out, too?

"f this is the prerogative the USAir instructor was talking about, then whatever the FAA says is essentially void, and you fly subject to the whim of whatever the flight attendant says or wants."

That is my understanding. The crew has an extraordinary amount of authority on board an aircraft.

In this case, my guess would be that while the FAA can approve all kinds of stuff as being safe, that doesn't necessarily mean any particular airline has to allow its use on their privately owned aircraft.

What I meant when I said If, by chance, that airline has not approved the Cares harness, the airlines policy superceedes any blanket FAA certificate on the harness, is if an airline has a policy in place on a an item, that becomes the FAA policy for that airline and overrides any blanket general FAA policy for a 121 carrier.

The USAirways web site at says "vest and harness type child restraints" are unacceptable. Whether that supercedes FAA policy is another question.

However, the USAirways site also says car seats may not be used in middle or aisle seats. We recently flew from DC to Charlotte to St. Maarten and back (4 flights total) and used car seats in both a middle and an aisle seat. I had read the web site ahead of time and knew we wasn't supposed to. I decided to keep my mouth shut and hope no one noticed. None of the flight attendants said a word about it.

And they were all quite helpful and friendly.

So, vice presidential power or not, it really does seem to be a case of whatever suits the flight attendant's whim -- or familiarity with airline policy.

As for schlepping car seats through the airport, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Traveling Toddler strap. We managed to get two kids, two car seats and two rolling carrying-ons to St. Maarten with minimal hassle. For $20 or so on Amazon, it's a whole lot cheaper than any of the other options we considered.

We flew from Seattle to San Diego on Alaska Airlines yesterday with our CARES harness. One of the flight attendants was super excited about the harness, having seen it once before, and we watched as she brought each of the other attendants, one by one, to check it out.

We've had our fair share of suspicious regarding the CARES harness on other flights, but so far nobody has said that we were not allowed to use it (thankfully), and we're betting on things getting easier and easier as they become more common. Even accounting for the flight attendant crazyness it's way less stressful than hauling a car seat through the airport.

We used CARES on four flight legs of a recent trip to the Dominican Republic on United, and we had no airline (or passenger) issues whatsoever. It's not cheap, but after using it, I wouldn't hesitate to buy it again, as it kept our child in place and we were spared the nightmare of lugging our car seat. This and the other post on potential airline objections to CARES are great food for thought, though - I hadn't considered the implications of flying with foreign carriers. We may go to Asia this year (from the East Coast, wish us luck), where we'll be using public transportation and not car seats, so I will definitely keep this all in mind.

US Air is full of idiots! Our "flight attendant" said she'd "rip it off the plane" once we were seated after we insisted that we were taking our tiny umbrella stroller on board (after having been allowed to in our previous connecting US Air flight on the same day). Our bringing it onboard constituted a breach of FAA regulations, and guess what? They let it on. Twice. So I guess we should insist that they pay some sort of fine!

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