So you’ve decided you want to use a car seat on your next plane trip, but you aren’t sure which car seats work best on an airplane.
Airline seats aren’t exactly known for being spacious these days. When we decided to use a car seat on the plane, I wanted to make sure the car seat was actually going to fit before we were already boarding. I have an Evenflo Triumph 65 LX Convertible Car Seat and my husband has an Evenflo Symphony 65. We have a third Evenflo Symphony that our babysitter uses. None of these car seats work very well on planes. They’re all FAA approved. It’s just that an airplane seat is 16″ wide. The Triumph is 20″, and Symphony is a whopping 22″ wide. (Find out how wide your car seat is here.) They both work fantastically in our car, but in an airplane seat, the situation is a little more dicey. We knew that both car seats could fit in some seats on some airplanes. I just didn’t know if ours would fit, and fit comfortably, on the planes we’d be on.
So I started researching car seats that work well on planes, thinking we might have to buy another car seat. My car seat was brand new, never used, and could still be returned if we needed to. The three I’d heard lauded as great car seats for airplanes were the Combi Coccoro, the Diono Radian, and the Cosco Scenera. All three of these consistently received positive reviews from people who had flown with them saying they were able to use these in multiple planes.
The Combi Coccoro is 15″ wide, making it the slimmest of the three options. It also weighs only 12 lbs., which makes it light for a car seat. It’s a cute car seat and comes in a lot of fun colors, and I like the overall design. It’s a mid-range car seat in terms of price. I’ve seen it anywhere from $170-$200. In terms of safety, the latest model has good ratings. It’s a convertible car seat, meaning it goes from rear-facing to forward facing. However, it is a small convertible car seat with a rear-facing weight limit of 33 lbs. and a forward-facing weight limit of 40 lbs. Most of the reviews I read said kids tend to grow out of it pretty quickly, even before kids hit the weight limit, because it’s not very tall.
There are multiple versions of the Diono Radian, but they all appear to be 17″ wide. It’s a heftier car seat, coming in at over 20 lbs. It’s a convertible seat, though, with a wide range of use. Rear-facing goes to 45 lbs., and forward-facing goes to 80 lbs. It can work as a booster for up to 120 lbs. Reviews all seem to state that this car seat will go the distance. If anything, it will expire before your kid grows out of it. The Diono Radian also appears to have good crash ratings. If you know your family will be traveling by plane a lot, this would make a great choice for your regular car seat–safe, high quality, and convertible. The down sides to this car seat are that (in my opinion) it’s not very attractive and that it is much more expensive. I’ve seen the various versions from between $210 and $340.
The Cosco Scenera is 17.5″ wide and weighs 11 lbs. in the packaging. It is also a convertible seat and the weight limit is similar to that of the Combi Coccoro, up to 35 lbs. rear-facing and up to 40 lbs. forward-facing. It seems to be a little bit taller, and the reviews seem to state that it lasts a little bit longer than the Combi Coccoro. It still isn’t the sort of car seat that will go from birth until your child needs a booster. The Cosco Scenera has high safety ratings, which is impressive considering it is by far one of the least expensive car seats out there. Ranging from $39-75, it’s a very inexpensive car seat.
After looking at the options, we decided to purchase a Cosco Scenera. Because we already have 3 car seats, we really weren’t looking to purchase an expensive car seat. The Diono Radian would be out of our price range entirely, and the Combi Coccoro is about the same price as our current car seats and Isla was sure to grow out of it soon. At less than $40, we could use the Cosco Scenera a handful of times over the next couple of years while we’re flying back and forth between Texas and Oregon, and then again with baby #2 whenever that should happen, and not feel guilty at all about the amount of money spent.
Given that it’s also safe, light-weight, and has a narrow base, it seemed like the perfect car seat for us to use on a plane. Once Isla outgrows it, we could potentially move her into a CARES system, which is a special, FAA-approved harness system for children 22-40 lbs. to use on an airplane, or just let her use the regular seat belt, depending on how big she is when she grows out of the seat. She weighed just over 22 lbs. at the time we made the purchase and could have used CARES, but I wanted to keep her rear-facing until 2.
There are plenty of other options out there, though, and I encourage you to check out this list to find out if your car seat will work on an airplane or if there are other options that might work for you.
* This post originally ran on May 29, 2013. This article was edited and republished on September 1, 2014.