What Parents Need to Know About Flying with Strollers and Car Seats

When you’re a new parent flying with your baby for the first time, you’re probably also navigating the new world of baby gear as well. Domestic airlines are generally helpful and allow parents to bring along most necessary items for free. Here’s the breakdown, by item and airline.

mother and children in silhouette at airport

Strollers
The domestic airlines all permit strollers on board. Some of the airlines require you to check “large” strollers – make sure you check your airline for the specific details. Each airline has a different definition of “large.”

Alaska 
You can travel with your stroller free of charge as checked baggage. Strollers can be checked at the gate or with your regular checked baggage at the ticket counter.

American 
On American, each ticketed adult is permitted one stroller to be checked free of charge. Large strollers (20 pounds or more) must be checked at the ticket counter. All other, smaller strollers can be checked at the gate.

Delta
Strollers can be checked free of charge at the curb, the ticket counter or the gate.

baby in stroller looks at airplane in airport

Frontier
Strollers can be brought with you free of charge but must be checked at the gate.

Hawaiian
Strollers are allowed to be checked free of charge. Non-collapsible and large (50 pounds or more) strollers must be checked. Beach-friendly wagons are also permitted as a free item, but must be checked as baggage.

jetBlue
jetBlue has an expansive checked baggage policy for people traveling with small children/infants or even folks meeting them on arrival at their destination. Strollers, car seats, child carriers/backpacks, and booster seats can all be checked for free at the gate or ticket counter. There is no limit to the number of “assistive devices” a customer may transport within reason.

Southwest
Parents traveling with strollers are permitted to check one stroller per child at no additional charge. This policy extends to every type and size of stroller (umbrella, jogging, full size). Strollers may be checked at the curb, ticket counter or gate.

Spirit
Spirit permits one stroller per child to be checked free of charge, as well as a double stroller for two children.

United
United permits a stroller or foldable wagon to be checked free of charge for each child at the ticket counter or gate. Small, collapsible strollers can be brought on board free of charge and stowed in the overhead compartments.

Car Seats

toddler in car seat sleeping on airplane
Each domestic airline has specific seating allowances/restrictions for car seats. In general, emergency exit aisles are prohibited, one car seat per row is allowed, and all special accommodations are left to the discretion of in-flight crew members. Car seats must be FAA-approved if they are to be used in-flight (check for red lettering on the seat itself to see if it meets approval). Car seats made for use in the U.S. after 1985 should be compliant.

Alaska
When flying with Alaska you can travel with your car seat free of charge as checked baggage. Car seats can be checked at the gate or with your regular checked baggage at the ticket counter.

If you choose to buy a seat for your infant, please make sure the car seat you bring is FAA-approved. If you have not purchased a separate seat but there is an open seat next to you, a lap infant may sit in a car seat free of charge.

American
Ticketed adults can check one car seat free of charge.

To carry on a safety seat, you must have purchased a seat for your child or a free seat must be available next to yours. If there is not an empty seat next to you, a flight attendant will check the car seat to your final destination.

Delta
Delta also allows parents traveling with a lap infant to take advantage of empty seats when they have am FAA-approved car seat. If a seat is not free, the flight attendants will check your car seat through to your final destination. If you’ve bought a seat for your infant, you can always use your car seat.

Frontier
FAA-approved car seats can be used when you have purchased a seat for your child. Car seats cannot be placed in emergency exit rows, in the rows directly in front or behind of emergency exit rows, or in the very first row. Frontier also suggests placing car seats in window seats so they do not impede access to the aisle by other passengers.

Hawaiian
Rear-facing, FAA-approved car seats can be utilized when you’ve purchased a seat for your child. Passengers are advised to communicate with the airline in advance to determine if the seat purchased will accommodate the car seat size. The car seat will not count as a carry-on item if you have purchased a seat for your child.

jetBlue
Car seats can be checked for free at the gate or ticket counter, and can be used (if FAA-approved) in an empty seat next to a parent on board. Not all seats fit car seats, and it is not promised that car seats will be given the widest seat in the purchased class of service.

Southwest
Southwest offers “infant” fares that allow you to purchase a seat for your baby to sit in his or her FAA-approved car seat.

Spirit
Spirit customers are free to bring an FAA-approved car seat on board when a separate seat has been purchased for the child. If you did not pay for an assigned seat and the seats to not fit the car seat, the airlines will try its best to re-seat the parents and child in an aisle that will accommodate the seat, excluding Big Front Seats. Big Front Seats are a premium item and are available for an extra fee.

United
United permits customers to check a car seat for each child traveling. United does not reserve space for FAA-approved child seats, unless a ticket has been purchased for that seat. If space is available after boarding is completed, customers may use adjacent unused seats to secure the child seat. If space is not available after boarding is completed, the item must be stowed in an approved storage space.

Miscellaneous Items

Carry-on Allowances
Each airline has slightly different rules for special items in carry-on baggage allowances. Please make sure to check directly with each airline, as these guidelines are subject to change.

mother and baby on board an airplane

Alaska Airlines
A diaper bag counts towards standard carry-on allowances. Breast pumps are an exception to the carry-on policy and do not count against allowances.

American
American Airlines has a liberal carry-on policy for parents. Diaper bags and breast pumps (soft sided with breast milk) are permitted as carry-on items and do not count against your standard carry-on allowance.

Delta
Delta’s policy toward breast pumps is a little bit vague, since it is not called out specifically as a medical device (which do not count against carry-on allowances). A diaper bag does count towards carry-on allowance.

Frontier
Diaper bags and breast pumps are exempt from carry-on charges.

Hawaiian
Hawaiian Airlines makes no special accommodation for diaper bags and breast pumps as carry-on items.

jetBlue
Diaper bags and breast pumps are exempt from carry-on charges.

Southwest
Breast pumps and milk are permitted as carry-on items on Southwest flights and do not count against carry-on allowances. No mention of diaper bags on the website, so it appears that a diaper bag counts towards the carry-on allowance.

Spirit
Diaper bags and breast pumps are exempt from carry-on charges.

United
Diaper bags, breast pumps and milk are permitted as carry-on items on United flights and do not count against carry-on allowances.

Checked Baggage Allowances
Each airline has slightly different rules for special items in checked baggage allowances. Please make sure to check directly with each airline, as these guidelines are subject to change.

Alaska
Aside from strollers and car seats, it does not appear that supplementary items can be checked free of charge.

American
Play pens, cribs, wagons and pack ‘n’ plays count as regular baggage and will count towards standard checked baggage allowances. If any of these items exceed size requirements, the customer will be charged the appropriate fee.

Delta
No mention of additional items allowed for free on the Delta website.

Frontier
Play pens, cribs, wagons and pack ‘n’ plays count as regular baggage and will count towards standard checked baggage allowances. If any of these items exceed size requirements, the customer will be charged the appropriate fee.

Hawaiian
Play pens, cribs, wagons and pack ‘n’ plays count as regular baggage and will count towards standard checked baggage allowances. If any of these items exceed size requirements, the customer will be charged the appropriate fee.

jetBlue
Play pens, cribs, wagons and pack ‘n’ plays count as regular baggage and will count towards standard checked baggage allowances. If any of these items exceed size requirements, the customer will be charged the appropriate fee.

Southwest
Southwest does not appear to have standard fees policies in place for play pens, cribs, wagons and pack ‘n’ plays though they are subject to standard baggage allowances and will be charged if they exceed size and weight limitations.

Spirit
Play pens, cribs, wagons and pack ‘n’ plays count as regular baggage and will count towards standard checked baggage allowances. If any of these items exceed size requirements, the customer will be charged the appropriate fee.

United
Pack ‘n’ Plays, collapsible cribs and similar items count towards your checked baggage allowance on United.

For more information about flying with infants and small children, check out our series: Air Travel with Your Infant, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

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