Customer Reviews: Child Airplane Travel Harness - Cares Safety Restraint System - The Only FAA Approved Child Flying Safety Device
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on June 2, 2008
We just bought the CARES restraint for our flight from Washington to Texas last month. We have the heaviest car seat ever made, I think, and I just wanted to check it, not struggle with it on the plane. The restraint did keep him in his seat, but I had two complaints.

First, I was disappointed that there was no strap between his legs to keep him from sliding down in his seat. I can see how one mother was concerned about strangulation, though I suspect if left to his own devices, my 2-year-old might have just finally managed to wriggle out of it altogether. In our case, I was frequently boosting him back up in his seat and had to keep a hand on him to keep him from wriggling back down during his fussiest moments. Now that I'm familiar with the problem, I may be able to rig a solution before we use it again.

My second concern was that the strap does go around the back of the child's seat, which means either you have to open the tray of the passenger behind you to install the strap, then close the tray back up, or in some cases (according to the instructions,) install the strap around the tray of the passenger behind you, rendering their tray useless and making it impossible to use the strap during the flight when that passenger would need their tray. Since I have this innate fear of annoying people, that would have really bothered me, but fortunately, since we are a family of five, we took up two rows anyway and I was able to make sure the baby was in front of one of us.

I would probably use it again for a four-hour flight like that one to avoid the hassle of maneuvering that car seat through the narrow aisles of a plane, but for longer flights I will probably stick with the car seat both for his sleeping comfort and my peace of mind.

Edited 11-12-10 to add: I never did use it again. I found it much less stressful to just buy the lightest, easiest-to-carry car seat I could find for traveling. We chose the 12.5 lb Cosco Scenera Convertible Car Seat from Target for under $50, and it's been fine - it just needs some extra head support for napping.
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on July 30, 2012
First off, there are really very very few products in this category, which means that your choice is going to be either to purchase this or have a completely different way of transporting your kid ( a car seat perhaps). Since I purchased and returned this product my bias is probably towards the latter.

The product itself is well described and most reviews have accurately reflected the features, but I want to add a couple of important points.

One comment common across many threads here is the lack of a strap between the legs allowing the kid to slide down the seat. I'm not sure if we did something wrong that inadvertently worked or if the others have simply missed this, but there is a strap on the harness through which we threaded the actual seat belt on the flight and held our kid in place. The flight attendant mentioned that she had seen other parents do the same. We also followed the advice of another reviewer on this thread and placed a kitchen-drawer liner underneath our 2-year old and this proved to be a perfect way of holding him in place. We are planning to carry a piece of liner for every flight henceforth, so thanks whoever you are :-)

We tested the harness a couple of times in the house and as most reviewers note, it is pretty easy (a minute or two) to slide it over a seat and secure a child, but there is a huge difference between doing it on a dining chair at home and doing it on a flight with a luggage, wriggling kids, impatient passengers etc (I'm mentioning these so parents don't get over confident about the ease of use). Some of the problems we faced included

1. While it is easy to slip the harness over the seat, it is much harder to swing it around and align it in such a way that the straps align with the kid accurately. You need to either keep the strap really loose before you board which means it will keep slipping up and down the seat as you are also struggling with your kid or if you keep it tighter, it is hard to move it around the seat. This is not a negative against the product itself, but simply a note to remind the reader that you have a very short time to get this right amidst all the bedlam.
2. This is the most annoying feature - depending on the seat configuration, to cinch it tightly, you may need to put it under the tray or simply over the tray itself each of which creates its own problems. If it is under the tray, it is a bit hard to get the tray to shut both physically and without causing some annoyance to the passenger (however accommodating they may be). It is even worse over the tray and makes it completely useless for the passenger behind you. This happened on a leg when the seat back was not "deep" enough to allow for slack and we were forced to go over the tray. Needless to say we did not use it even though the passenger was kind enough to allow us to do so
3. After all this, the top strap still ended up around the shoulder/neck of our son forcing him to sit up and we had to put a pillow behind him to prop his neck

One point about flight attendant's involvement - We used it on a few Delta flights and I'm not sure if other airlines may have a different policy, but we did print the TSA guidelines and carried them with us. No one prevented us from actually using the restraint, but all the attendants flatly refused to help us physically in any way (even though we did not ask for their help, simply their acknowledgement). I suspect this is probably a liability concern and wasn't such a big deal for us, but if you are a single parent traveling with a kid or kids and expecting some assistance from the flight crew, you may want to note this point.
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on August 27, 2012
I fly with my now 2.5 year old son (28lbs) all the time- approx. once a month- so we were surprised to see this product online. I had never seen one used on any child on any flight I have ever been on, and I really hadn't even heard of it. Once of my friends posted a picture of her daughter using one she borrowed and I thought I would look it up and give it a shot. My son is a typical 2.5 year old- we have tried bringing the car seat onboard the flight but it is just too big to lug around and he can reach the seat in front with his legs and kick- which is really annoying for us and the person in front of him. This product was easy to install- took less than a minute- which is important when flying alone with a young child. It didn't impact the tray table of the person behind me- I have flown Southwest and American Airlines with this product so far. I just boarded before the person behind me, lowered their tray table, put the belt around the seat and raised the table back. No one said a word about it. I think my son could relate to the harness since that is what all of his car seats have. It helped me to really drive home the fact that he needed to keep the seat belt fastened, just like everyone else. My only complaint is that their isn;t a harness between his legs, but really, it would be almost impossible to have one comfortably. He did slide down a few times, but I just boosted him back up without issue. He never tried to get out of it by sliding down- which was my main worry before we used it. All and all, I think this product is great- way better than lugging a car seat onboard and way safer than just letting a small child use the lapbelt alone. I felt much better knowing he was safe, and he didn't seem to mind at all.
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on June 29, 2015
I do not like this product. It seemed unsafe. We took our 17 month old on a flight and used this harness with an extra seat for her. The two straps that go down her shoulders kept on becoming loose. Even when she wasn't very squirmy, the straps kept becoming loose. We even had to keep tightening the red strap part that holds onto the headrest of the seat. Luckily there wasn't anyone sitting behind her, where I didn't have to bother anyone. The flight wasn't too turbulent so obviously everything was okay. But I don't know what to think if something did happen and the straps weren't tight... especially because others have said that their kids can slide out from under the straps. I am going to try and get a refund, but I wish there was some other product like this one that actually works! I added a photo of my baby... I'm pretty sure I strapped her in correctly. It was just never secure! :(
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on April 9, 2013
We use these with our 2.5-year-old twins who are not so good at sitting still but need to have the ability to roam/play at points in the flight. They store up so small (we keep two of them in one of the red bags they came with) and take only 2 minutes to install (have yet to find a tray table they didnt' fit under). The kids do "respect" them though there is nothing coming up from the crotch so a good wiggler or tantrum'ing child could slip down and out if the airplane seat belt gets released or is not tight (ahem - bad mommy!). All in all, these are SO MUCH better than lugging their car seats (which we now check) around the airport and through security. LOVE LOVE LOVE THEM!
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VINE VOICEon October 13, 2011
This nifty device takes the place of your FAA approved car seat for those times when you are flying with a tiny passenger. We've used it on a couple of trips now and it really works great. Here are some main points to consider based on our experience:


* Compact and Light: Before getting this device, my wife and I brought along our Britax Marathon carseat Britax Marathon 70 Convertible Car Seat, Onyx (I) onto the plane to secure our daughter, age 2 (at that time). Being the behemoth that it was, we also brought aboard our stroller Maclaren Quest Sport Stroller, Black/Champagne just to hold the carseat. And, of course, the kiddie go bag with toys, books, wipes, etc. All this, and we haven't even gotten to the luggage yet. Laden as we were, we looked for all the world like a Himalayan expedition as we boarded the plane. Enter the CARES system. This little collection of straps weighs about a couple of pounds, stows in its own bag, and easily fits into your carry-on bag. What!? Yes, it's a dream for tiny traveling humans and their parental charges. Most importantly, though, it is...

* Effective: This device is FAA approved but most importantly, it keeps your small loved-one safe. What it does is mimics the harness system found on most carseats: Straps come down over the shoulders, and have a sternum buckle that latches over the chest. The bottom of the straps that come over the shoulders have loops on the bottom to accommodate the airline seat belt straps. For many tiny passengers, this is a huge improvement over wearing a lap belt alone. my little Houdini could wriggle out of her lap belt in about 10 seconds, flat It is adjustable and works well to keep your toddler-sized fellow traveler safe and snug.

* Quality: The materials, from automotive-quality nylon webbing to aircraft-style buckle, are all top notch. The stitching is clean and tight and the whole thing is built to last. Included on the strapping itself are pictogram instructions on how to use it and even a 'belongs to' sticker so it can find its way back to you if you leave it on the plane. A very clear instruction card is also included, which fits into the carry sack along with the strap system. Mine also came with an instructional DVD, which was a super way to orient myself to the system and practice before the craziness of the whole toddler-air-travel thing.

* Value: I think this is reasonably priced. Yes, it could be cheaper, though I don't begrudge the maker a reasonable profit that - given the seeming lack of competing alternatives on the market - doesn't strike me as being overly large.

* Stress Relieving: Yes, I had peace of mind knowing that my daughter was safer in her seat because of this device, but what I am really talking about is not having to wrangle a bulky, heavy carseat onto the plane, attaching and removing it from the cramped coach class cubby that masquerades as a seat, and then hauling it all the way from the plane to baggage claim - all the while keeping track of your overly-excitged toddler. Nightmare. Toddler-traveling-parents, you know what I am talking about. My wife was actually able to travel with my daughter using this harness and didn't need medication after the trip. Priceless!


* Limited Capacity: One downside to this device is that it is limited to a relatively narrow range of toddler: under 40 inches in height and between 22 and 44 pounds. How they came to those numbers is a mystery, but that's what the label says. Also, they need to be able to sit upright on their own. So, within that range, you are set, but depending on how fast your child grows, you may not get a lot of use out of this.

* Challenging to Use: Potentially. Given that you need to strap part of this around the entire seat, you will need at least some understanding, if not cooperation, of the passenger behind your child. Depending on the configuration of the seatback tray, that may be impacted by the strap. My take on this is, if you are already a savvy carseat user, you'll have no problems with this apparatus; if your carseat's straps give you fits, so likely will this.

* Not Universally Perfect: This is not a perfect device. With some airline seats that are made of pleather and have the ergonomic values that a piece of granite would admire, your child will be just as likely to slide inexorably toward the floor as without it: Unlike a carseat, this strap system has no crotch strap. there just isn't any way of making it with one So, depending on the seat, what your child is wearing, and his or her wriggle index, this may be an issue.

Final Thoughts:

While this is not the perfect answer to safe air travel with your toddler, it is a very good and effective effort and should work well for most. Even with its limitations - and assuming my child is still within specs - I consider this a vast improvement from dealing with the carseat. I know my wife does, too. This is the best system I've seen and consider it money well spent. It is well thought-out and executed, instructions for use (labels, instruction card, instructional DVD) are outstanding, it is safe and tested, and it remains the best alternative to a full-size carseat I've come across. Five stars from our personal experience.
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Read all the 1-2 stars first please. There is NO harness between your child's legs like a car DUH any child can slide down the seat and Bam they are out free to roam the cabin. So I have a hard time this being the ONLY APPROVED safety device (other than a car seat) when clearly has this design flaw. Trust me I have 2 toddler boy, tried this from Tokyo to DC...didn't make until take off and they were out = horrible flight experience for everyone.
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on February 16, 2014
We got this the day before our flight (Jet Blue), no chance to practice at home, watched the video (comes with DVD, but on product website there is also a video). This was our first flight with our very squirmy, super active 25 lbs. 34 inches toddler. Easy install on a full flight, fitting around the seat under the tray table, just watch out that it is just above shoulder height, and that the shoulder straps point the right way before you tighten it around the seat. Our toddler accepted the CARES like sitting in a car seat. Without it, I'm sure our toddler would have climbed all over us, and possibly tried to climb into the next row! With it (and some entertainment and snacks) we had a very peaceful flight (despite a lot of turbulence). The only minor issue with this harness is, that you will have to pull up your toddler a few times, because the device creates a four point, not a five point harness. We also found that it helps for the toddler to wear a shirt with a little neck collar so that the shoulder straps don't dig into the neck, and finally; having a dry diaper at all times was the solution to stop any squirming or scooting. On our flight back we put a little blanket on one side (a neck pillow did not work - pushing head to far forward) between shoulder and head, and slightly reclined the seat, and our toddler slept. The CARES comes with a roomy (!) pouch, that is a welcome change from those pouches where you have to fold something just so to fit it in.

Other specs:
-for children between 22 and 44 lbs. (10-20 kg)
-for children with height less than 40 inches (100 cm)
-child has to be able to sit upright alone
-only for use in forward facing seats
-3 metal buckles (one around seat, one on each shoulder), easily adjusted.
-1 plastic buckle (connecting chest straps across breastbone)
-pictorial instructions on device itself
-address label on device itself (did not see this until after the flight, but a great idea, as I can see how you forget to take it with you!)
-parts are from the US and Germany, assembled in China.
-we used it on an Embraer Jet and on an Airbus 320.
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on May 16, 2016
Warning- We flew on a newer American Airlines jet- A321. The lap belts had airbags on the left belt (it looks like a fat seat belt, see the pic). The CARES strap did not fit over that part of the belt so we had to jerry rig it a bit, and we had no idea what the fat belts were until half way through the flight. There is a warning on the inside of the seatbelt stating that you have to request and use a belt extension that inactivates the airbag if you want to use a car seat. Unfortunately a belt extendor would make the lap belt much too big for use on a toddler and with the CARES harness. That was a scary predicament.
Otherwise the product worked as expected and would have been fine in a plane with normal lap belts. My 2 year old is small and wiggly though. He was able to slide under the belt even though we put a non-skid mat under him. I will keep the CARES harness for future use, but will definitely try to find out what kind of belts are on the planes in the future.
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on December 28, 2011
This was waaaayyyy easier than lugging a car seat on our trip with us. So light weight, so easy to just stash in your diaper bag. I was really nervous about disturbing people putting it on and taking it off, but that turned out to be no big deal. As another reviewer pointed out you can take the last seat on the plan or pre-board if you're nervous about this. But I found I could put it on so quickly, no one had time to get bothered or, in one case, even notice me installing it.

The only draw back is the airline seat belt buckle it connects to is far easier for a child to open than a car seat buckle. It only happened to us once but it did result in a little melt down when I buckled her back in. Still, that was far less aggravation then lugging a car seat thru security and around the airport. I will use this now every time.
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