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Airplane Travel

Thinking about travelling with your child? Here are some things to consider.
We know planning to travel can be an overwhelming experience; there are many things to consider before travelling with your child. Below is some information to assist you in the travel planning process as well as links to resources for further information.

Below you will find information on the following topics:

General Air Travel Information

Ensuring you are prepared to travel is one of the most essential steps to airplane travel with you child. If your child requires a special accommodation related to air travel it is important to ensure the following two measures are taken prior to travelling:
  • Inform the airline carrier of specific needed accommodations
  • Provide adequate notice of the need for accommodations 
Know that you are not alone! There are a number of resources available to assist you with planning your airplane travel. A travel guide was created by the Canadian Transportation Agency titled Take Charge of Your Travel. This guide provides basic information regarding travelling with your child; it may assist in answering some preliminary questions you have about travelling with a child that requires special accommodations. Within this resource is a reservation checklist, which is a step-by-step guide that is available to help you plan your travel.

Travelling with Food 

Formula, breast milk, juice and baby food (in small containers) is permitted in carry-on baggage. These items should be brought in a small cooler to keep them at the desired temperature – staff cannot be responsible for storing these items on the airplane. 
If other specialized feeding accommodations are required it is important to contact the airline you will be travelling with to understand their specific rules and regulations.


Specialized Airplane Seating Equipment

If your child requires specialized seating equipment within the aircraft there are some important considerations to keep in mind. To begin, if you are bringing a seating device onto the aircraft you must ensure it is Federal Aviation Administration Approved (FAA) to avoid any unwanted surprises. Unfortunately, within Canada there are limited specialized equipment options for airplane seating. However, airlines must allow a child who is under the age of 18 to use an FAA approved Child Restraint System (CRS) that is a) properly labeled and b) appropriate for the child's weight (these specifications are listed below). Some companies manufacture CRS’s approved for use on aircrafts that are specifically designed for larger children who require special accommodations – ask your therapist for more information about this!
Two options for child restraint systems that are currently available within Canada include:
  • Car seats that meet Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards
  • CARES – Child Aviation Restraint System
Car Seats
When using an infant car seat on an aircraft the car seat must meet the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). For car seats manufactured in Canada to meet CMVSS, a statement of compliance label must be affixed to the car seat indicating compliance with CMVSS.
If the car seat was manufactured in the United States, the following text must be on the label: 

“This child restraint system conforms to all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards” and This Restraint is Certified for Use in Motor Vehicles and Aircraftin red lettering.
Approved Restraint Systems and Seating Devices:

Transport Canada has published an Advisory Circular on Child Restraint Systems and Other Seating Devices; this is a 21-page document that discusses some of the regulations surrounding child restraint systems on aircrafts. Page 16 and 17 of this document provides examples of restraint systems and assistive seating devices that have been approved for use in an aircraft. Below is the link to this document for specific examples of approved seating devices as well as more information surrounding Child Restraint Systems:

Transport Canada Advisory Circular: Child Restraint Systems and Other Seating Devices

CARES – Child Aviation Restraint System
CARES is an airplane safety harness for children, this device uses the existing aircraft passenger seatbelt and holds the upper torso of the child against the aircraft seatback. CARES is the only Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved safety harness that is able to be used on Canadian Aircrafts.
The CARES harness is designed for:
  • Children ages 1 to 4
  • Weighing between 22-44 lbs
  • Up to 40’’ tall
Additionally, the Special CARES is available for children:
  • Over 5 ft. tall
Important Note: If the child using the CARES or Special CARES is taller than 40 inches and over 44 pounds, an exemption letter must be obtained from the FAA. 

For more information about CARES and information regarding the exemption letter visit: http://kidsflysafe.com/instructions/cares-for-special-needs-flyers/

Devices that are not approved for use as a restraint system in an aircraft include:
  • Infant carriers, which are devices that typically consist of a pouch which holds the infant close to the wearer’s body. Brand name examples include:
    • BabyHawk
    • BabyBjorn
    • Ergo
    • Snugli
  • “Belly” or “loop” belt, a belt for infant use that is attached to an adults safety belt 
  • Booster seat
Different airlines have differing policies therefore it is important to contact the airline you will be traveling with to ask their specific policies surrounding seating devices and child restraint systems.

Travelling with Mobility Aids

If your child requires the use of a mobility aid, ensure you are aware of their rights with regards to the use of this device.

According to Air Transport Regulations, carriers must: 
  • allow passengers to remain in their mobility aid up to the boarding gate, the aircraft door, or their seat on board the aircraft, where possible and where facilities permit;
  • carry mobility aids at no extra charge in addition to the regular baggage allowance, as priority checked baggage when stored in the cargo hold, and in the aircraft cabin or at the passenger's seat where space permits;
  • assemble and disassemble mobility aids as required;
  • return mobility aids to passengers promptly upon arrival in the same condition as when they checked in; and
  • repair, replace or refund damaged, delayed or lost mobility aids
It is important to note that an aircraft with fewer than 60 seats is not required to carry electric wheelchairs, scooters or manually operated rigid-frame wheelchairs. These aircrafts are responsible for informing passengers about other arrangements that are available to transport the mobility aid.
For more information about travelling with a mobility aid visit: https://www.otc-cta.gc.ca/eng/travelling-with-a-mobility-aid

Travelling with a Service Animal

Your child may travel with a service animal if:
  • They are a person with a disability;
  • It provides assistance they need;
  • It is certified as having been trained to assist a person with a disability by a professional service animal institution;
  • It is properly harnessed; and
  • It remains on the floor at their seat, under their control.
If your child is travelling with a service animal the animal may not occupy seats where the presence of the animal would impede or obstruct any person’s access to an emergency exit or interfere with the ability of a crew member to carry out their assigned duties during an emergency.
For more information on travelling with a service animal visit: https://www.otc-cta.gc.ca/eng/service-animals

Medical Approval to Travel

Each Canadian Airline has a medical form that must be completed by your child’s physician to determine their stability for air travel. Each airline has a medical doctor who will review this form and make a determination regarding ability to travel. To access medical forms, you must go to the website of the airline you plan to travel with, as each airline has their own form.

An example of an Air Canada Fitness to Travel form can be found here: https://beta.aircanada.com/content/dam/aircanada/portal/documents/PDF/en/fft.pdf
Many medical conditions require advance notice and medical approval to travel. It is best to contact the airline you are traveling with as requirements may differ.  A list of conditions that require advanced notice from Air Canada can be found in the link below:

You must provide at least 48 hours advanced notice prior to travelling

Long-term medical approval can be provided on a case-by-case basis for customers with a permanent, stable disability. With long-term medical approval, you do not need to request medical approval every time you fly. If you have obtained long-term medical approval, you must contact the medical assistance desk once you have booked your flight and provide the long-term medical approval number that will have been assigned to you when you got your medical approval.

Accessible Transportation Complaints

Everyone has the right to enjoy the same access to travel. If you experience a situation where you feel your child has experienced an undue obstacle, the Canadian Transportation Agency has a complaint process in place. This process is available to ensure problems can be eliminated to allow greater access to travel for all.

If you have experienced an undue obstacle through an airline service provider, you must contact that service provider first. If the issue remains unresolved, the next step is to contact the Canadian Transportation Agency.

For more information regarding the complaint process: https://www.otc-cta.gc.ca/eng/publication/accessible-transportation-complaints-pwd


Flying with a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Ontario offers the following link to assist with planning and traveling with a child on the Autistic spectrum:

This link contains videos as well as an information booklet to help ease the process of travelling with your child.

Did you know?

Did you know that babies are most alert four to six hours after birth?  That is when communication should begin.

Read about Infant Hearing Services
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