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Flying with a car seat and why I won’t be doing it again

16th October 2014

We went off on holiday with extended family at the end of last month. It was a long haul flight (we went to Florida, which is a 9 hour flight each way) and were umming and ahhing about what to do with our car seats. We had a taxi booked to take us to the airport, for which we’d definitely need them, and a hire car booked for the stay over there, for which we’d also need car seats – sure we could hire them, but it was an additional expense. Our flight included checked car seats at no extra cost, so we thought it was a no-brainer – we’ll take them with us!

Yeah… About that.

Our original intention was to package up the seats to protect them, as we’d heard horror stories about people’s car seats being damaged during transit. The airline told us this wasn’t necessary as it’s all handled separately and carefully and stuff. Hmmm. In any case, we didn’t have time between getting out of the taxi and checking in for our flight, so it didn’t happen.

When we reached our destination, we inspected all 3 car seats (D and E’s cousin, who is just slightly younger than E, also came with us) and we found a small dent to the side of E’s seat. Unimpressed, but not the end of the world at this stage; these things happen and we expected it.

When we returned from our holiday, we collected the 3 seats from baggage claim… And immediately noticed things weren’t right. D’s seat was actually physically broken, with the seat part coming away from the base (it’s an attached base. We found a metal rod connecting the two had disappeared). In an accident, the seat would have thrown itself clean off of the base with him in it :| The polystyrene head support had also been snapped on one side. E’s seat had a large crack in one side impact protection ‘wing’ (polystyrene again) and the other side was even more dented than from what we’d discovered before and looked like it had been badly knocked as the fixings that held it in were very loose. Our nephew’s seat looked ok, but had lots of superficial scratches.

I was always told that the slightest little bash even with no visible damage means car seats should be replaced. Given the extent of the damage – and especially as D’s was completely unusable, we took the decision to replace D and E’s seats. Granted, D’s was a budget seat (and that’s not a mistake I’ll be making again… The fact that it broke so easily does not sit well with me) but E’s was a sturdy Britax that we’ve used solidly for over 2 years – it was D’s before hers. We were limited to the cost of what the airline would refund, but we’ve gone for another Britax First Class Plus for E, and a Britax Evolva (another group 1-2-3 like his old one) for D.

As with when we upgraded D out of the First Class Plus, I wanted to try and rear-face him… But our budget and my small car let us down again. For now, I’m taking comfort in the fact that D’s new seat is a LOT more sturdy than his old one and shouldn’t suffer the same fate should we choose to fly with it again… Not that I will do that again. I’m just glad this happened on the way back and not on the way out, as we were able to easily replace them with identical, or almost identical models.

If you are considering taking your car seats on holiday with you (and they’re going as checked baggage), it will save you money but do bear in mind that baggage handlers probably won’t be very careful with them and/or they’ll get knocked about during the flight. Either consider leaving them at home, or package them up securely so they’ll withstand the knocks and bumps they’ll inevitably encounter.

Oh, and D and E did ok with the flights in case you were wondering ;) The weather was a bit too hot for them but they did very well considering. E was a bit young for most of what we did – the Disney parks – but D loved it! :)