We value the safety of all our passengers. If you're vacationing with an infant or small child, you should know that proper use of an approved child restraint device (CRD) enhances child safety on an aircraft. For this reason, Southwest Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly recommend that infants and small children who weigh under 40 pounds be secured in an appropriate CRD when traveling by air.
Infants and toddlers
A birth certificate is required to validate the age of all infants under age two. A medical release for travel is required for any infant under 14 days old.
You may purchase an air seat for your child and secure him/her safely in an approved CRD. Although not recommended, if your child is under age two and you would prefer to hold him or her on your lap when traveling, you may do so on Southwest Airlines without charge. Southwest Airlines will be glad to check your CRD for use at your destination. FAA regulation requires any child who has reached his or her second birthday to occupy his or her own seat during takeoff and landing. Please keep in mind that Southwest personnel must ensure compliance with this regulation, so be sure to bring along a copy of your baby's birth certificate for age verification.
Does my infant need a bording pass?
If you choose to purchase a seat so that your infant may travel in his or her CRD you will need to obtain a boarding pass for the infant prior to proceeding to the security checkpoint.
If you choose to travel with your infant on your lap (at no additional charge) the infant will not need a boarding pass, however, you will need to obtain a boarding verification document (BVD) for the infant prior to proceeding to the security checkpoint. The BVD will allow the infant to proceed through security screening and to board the aircraft.
BVD's are available at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter on the day of travel. In order to complete your BVD the customer service agent will need to verify that your infant has not reached his or her second birthday, so be sure to bring along a copy of your baby's birth certificate.
Are strollers or infant carriers permitted beyond security?
You may choose to bring your infant to the departure gate in their stroller or infant carrier.
Most infant carriers are designed simply to provide convenience in carrying babies. With the exception of a few recently manufactured automobile safety seats that convert to carriers, they do not provide sufficient protection to qualify as CRD's. While you may carry your baby on and off the aircraft in an infant carrier (provided it does not exceed the size limitations for carryon items), it must be properly stowed either underneath a seat or in an overhead bin for taxi, takeoff, and landing.
If the stroller or infant carrier exceeds the size limitations for carryon items, the customer service agent will "gate-check" the item (at no additional charge) to your final destination and the item will be placed in the cargo hold for transportation. When you reach your destination the item will be returned to you at the arrival gate.
What type of CRD is best?
The FAA recommends that children under 20 pounds be restrained in an approved rear-facing child safety seat. Children weighing 20-40 pounds should use an approved forward-facing safety seat. Children over 40 pounds should use the standard seatbelt that is attached to all aircraft seats. It is important never to place a child in a CRD designed for a smaller child. Be sure that the shoulder straps come out of the CRD seat back above the child's shoulders. Also be sure to check the width of your CRD. Although the width of aircraft seats varies, a safety seat wider than 16 inches is unlikely to fit, even if the armrests of the aircraft seats are moved out of the way. An ill-fitting safety seat will not provide adequate protection for your child.
How should a CRD be used?
Once onboard the aircraft, your CRD must be placed in a forward-facing seat that is not in an exit row. It is best to place the CRD in a window seat so it will not block access to the aircraft aisle. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for securing the CRD to the seat, fastening the aircraft seatbelt around the CRD as tightly as possible.
What is an appropriate CRD?
Many child safety seats that are designed for use in automobiles are also appropriate for use on aircraft. Appropriate CRDs should have hard sides and backs, include integrated shoulder straps, and secure to a passenger seat via channels through which the seatbelt is threaded and attached. Many of these carry the FMVSS.213 insignia and/or language indicating that they are "approved for use in motor vehicles and on aircraft."
Although one might think that any type of restraint device would provide at least some degree of flight safety enhancement, this is not the case. Some child restraints may do a good job of protecting children in automobiles or in other situations, but are not appropriate for aviation use. Recent testing and research have led the FAA to ban the use on aircraft of certain types of child restraints that may be harmful to a child in the event of an aviation emergency. These include booster seats, safety belt extensions (commonly referred to as "belly belts"), and vest or harness devices that attach to an adult or to the seatbelt of the child's own seat. Although some were manufactured before the FAA's ban may carry an insignia and/or language indicating they are approved for aircraft use, please understand that they are no longer permitted.
Want to know more?
For a list of FAA safety recommendations for air travel with children, call the agency's consumer information hotline at 1-800-322-7873 (1-800-FAA-SURE).