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I'm going to be flying with my 2 and 3 year old children (and my wife) on a Lufthansa flight from US to Germany, and we'll need carseats when we arrive. We'd like to bring our carseats with us, but are unsure about the regulations.

We have Evenflo Symphony DLX (similar to this model). They're not on Lufthansa's list of approved seats, and I don't think they have the FAA sticker (at least I haven't found it), but they are listed as approved by the FAA in the manual.

It seems to me that in theory Lufthansa should allow us to take the seat on board and either use it with the child in it, or store it in the cargo hold (checked at gate). Is that likely to be in practice true? If not, we may be taking enough luggage that one or both carseats would be over our free allowance, and thus $100 each way - more than the cost of a new carseat over there.

We're in a middle-back row in the middle aisle of an A340-600 (well, three of the four of us are, assuming they fix the 3 year old's seat that is seventeen rows forward of us), so it's unclear if the carseat will really fit in any of the seats as well. We'd like to use the carseat in flight if they'll let us and it will fit, but I don't imagine they'll let us test it out ahead of time?

Has anyone had experience with a similar situation? What can I do to maximize my chances of the air crew allowing us to take the carseat on board and/or not charging us for it in storage? If it's relevant, we will not have a stroller with us; both of our children are sufficiently mobile to not require it.

  • Why can't you check it below the plane as checked baggage? You don't need it in the airport... – Matthew Herbst May 8 '15 at 16:10
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    My first impression--it's going to be too wide AND too heavy to drag around. Go to Wal-Mart or K-Mart or somewhere and look for a lightweight, narrow, simple, inexpensive car seat and take those with you instead. OTOH, The 3 yo should be able go without a car seat on the plane, so check one, and carry one onboard. That might fit. Usually airlines will check car seats or strollers and not count it against your luggage allowance although I could not confirm that on Lufthansa's site. – mkennedy May 8 '15 at 16:14
  • @MatthewHerbst In part because we hoped to use it on the plane. In part because we're concerned whether they'll charge us to stow it as luggage. – Joe May 8 '15 at 16:15
  • @mkennedy It's not the safety that's the concern; it's in part the comfort (he's used to sleeping in it from long car trips) and in part the ability to securely belt him in if he starts to have difficulty with his behavior as he gets tired. 9 hours in the plane, even though it's a late night flight, makes me think we may have to deal with behavior issues at some point... – Joe May 8 '15 at 16:16
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    I just went through 30+ hrs each way with 2 3yo. I understand! We had some issues with keeping seat belts fastened, so very good point. Car seats will have to be put in the inside seats, so I'm worried about the arms/drink holders overlapping. – mkennedy May 8 '15 at 16:21
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We have flown with carseats on Virgin America, United, Delta, KLM, Lufthansa, and British Airways. We have NEVER had to pay for carseats and or strollers. I don't know any airline that will make you pay.

we have both flown with the seat in the hold and in the cabin. It was very helpful for our youngest (up to about 2.5) to sit in a seat, especially when he was around 12 months. He slept much better!

British Airway told us they did not care about FAA approval (as that is an American Entity), but they inspected our seat and found it OK (it was a Britax). It had to do with the strap material, and they told us the FAA has approved some whatever British equivalent did not.

For this conversation, it was clear that if the senior attendant had not approved it, they would have taken it to the front to put it in the hold.

For various brands and models of car seats, it is worth noting that almost all manufacturers are subject to slightly different laws in different regions, so no model is sold in both the US and EU, for instance. (But you can see they are similar). That means that German company cannot possibly list all manufacturers/models, I would think.

Whenever we have flown, we have been at the gate early, and used the option for early boarding for passengers with small kids. This leaves us ample time to install the car seat, chat with flight attendants about it and so forth.

For your particular situation, we have successfully flown with our oldest in just the airplane seat using a CARES harness from 2 and up. At those times we have gotten a car seat bag and simply checked the seat before hand. Sometimes you have to pick up/ check in at the oversize luggage counter, but we have never had to pay, or even had any raised eyebrows.

Adding: Go to the gate EARLY and make it fix so that one the adults sit with one child, and the other adult with the other. They should not have a family of four in 1+3. Lufthansa has been awesome for us with kids, they had little coloring books for them and everything. Remember to select a 'toddler meal' in the online tool, if you want one.

  • Lufthansa specifically states "Child restraint systems that only consist of straps which fasten over and/or around the back of the seat cannot be utilised on board." Would that include the CARES system? – mkennedy May 8 '15 at 19:00
  • Thanks for the advice. I'm within the 24 hours unfortunately so can't order the toddler meals, but our kids love eating regular adult food anyway so I'm not too worried about that - and we have some EasyMac to bring on board. :) – Joe May 8 '15 at 19:13
  • @mkennedy I think Lufthansa might have required us unbuckle CARES during takeoff/landing, but we could use it the rest of the trip (helpful for not sliding under the seatbelt). I don't remember exactly, though. I think it might have been OK, since it also uses the build in seat belt. In addition, some planes have very rigid seats where it can't be used. It is not a lot of trouble to bring though. – Ida May 8 '15 at 19:22
  • @Ida thanks! I debated the CARES and decided to try without. Some struggles, but we would have had that with the CARES too! – mkennedy May 8 '15 at 19:44
  • They ended up refusing to re-seat us (full flight, and they told us we had to pay to choose seats), but the 1 seat person happily switched so we had all four (scared off by the carseats I'm sure). The carseats fit in the seats on the international flight, and were carry-on for the short hop afterwards. – Joe May 18 '15 at 21:10
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We recently did a long series of flights from Asia through Europe and Africa. Each airline had different specs they looked for with our car seat.

KLM's main concern was that the harness was a five point (5 straps to a central buckle) and with metal buckles. This was apparently an EU rule so likely Luftansa has the same. The FAA Airplane Icon on the car seat was not enough by itself.

Air France only gave it a cursory glance (but it had a KLM cabin baggage tag by that point).

BA and SAA were OK once we showed them the FAA Airplane Icon. But on BA's 737s we had to check the car seat because the armrests were not retractable and the base would not fit in between the fixed armrests.

None of the airlines charged us for checking our stroller nor the car seat (when necessary) even though we were traveling with our full allotment of checked bags.

All in we flew: A320, A380, 777 & 737 aircraft

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As the PDF you linked states on the bottom, all FAA approved seats are allowed as long as they can be fixed with the safety belt.

Besides the children's seats listed, seats labelled with "FAA" or "CAA approved car type seats" are also permitted, provided that they can be fixed correctly to the passenger seat.

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