FAA focusing on child safety seats

Airlines would be required to notify parents about whether their child safety seats will fit on a plane under a new rule from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). [READ PROPOSED RULE.]

The FAA already regulates the use of child safety seats on airplanes, but it is considering a new rule that would require airlines to disclose the size of all of their seats on their website, so parents can determine whether they would fit on airline seats.

The airlines would specifically be required to list the width of the widest seat in coach, business and first-class for each airplane they operate.

"Although the FAA has provided guidance to air carriers regarding how to accommodate (travelers with child safety seats) that do not fit in a particular seat, this proposed rulemaking would give caregivers additional information on whether an FAA-approved (child safety seat) will fit on the airplane on which they expect to travel," the agency wrote.

Under existing rules, airlines must permit parents to use child safety seats, as long as the seats comply with existing FAA regulations.

"No air carrier may prohibit a child, if requested by the child's caregiver, from occupying a (child safety seat) furnished by the child's caregiver, provided that the child holds a ticket for an approved seat or a seat is made available by the air carrier for the child's use, the child is accompanied by a caregiver and the (seat) is appropriately labeled and secured," the agency wrote.

"However, (the rules) permit air carriers to determine the most appropriate passenger seat location for a (child safety seat) based on safe operating practices," the agency added. "For example, if an approved (safety seat) for which a ticket has been purchased does not fit in a particular seat on the airplane, existing (regulations) permit an air carrier to identify the most appropriate alternate forward-facing passenger seat location."

Current regulations specify that children's safety seats should be placed in forward-looking locations, and generally advise that they are placed in a window seat, so they do not block the aisle for other passengers in the event of an emergency.

The public has three months to comment on the proposed rule.