Using a Standard or Special CARES aviation harness in Australia / New Zealand

The Standard CARES is pre-approved by most local airlines for children weighing 10-20kgs and up to 102cm tall and who are capable of sitting upright alone in a forward facing position. It can be used in most seats except Exit rows and where seats have airbags installed.

The Special CARES requires individual approval for use by each airline prior to flights and was designed for larger special needs flyers above 147cm tall.

When looking to use either CARES harness for a flyer above the 10-20kg/102cm range you are effectively requesting an exemption from an Airline’s standard Restraint Devices policy.

This normally starts with talking to the Airline customer service teams and explaining your particular needs and why you’d like to use the CARES harness.  Seek to have the CARES harness usage noted on your booking details.

Users seeking these exemptions should then be seated in the rows immediately in front of a plane bulkhead where no passengers are situated behind them. This allows the CARES to be set up at a taller height without impacting passengers behind.

Key Points:

  • The standard CARES child aviation restraint is FAA approved for children up to 20kgs and approx 102cm tall.
  • The standard CARES has been accepted for use by CASA (Australian aviation authority) and the majority of Australian based airlines. The Airlines reference CARES directly or indirectly on their websites in the Child Restraint Device policies. See our listings here at Little Gulliver Airline Child Travel Policies page
  • The US inventor of CARES has advised us that the standard CARES harness can actually fit a flyer up to 4 foot, 10 inches tall (147cm) and 80lbs (36kgs).
  • For flyers outside these parameters, a Special CARES is also available (on request to Little Gulliver) that has longer shoulder straps to fit adult size flyers taller than 147cm.
  • When using either the standard or special CARES and being above the standard 20kg/102cm parameters, the traveller needs to be seated in the row directly in front of a bulkhead to ensure there is no seat behind theirs. This then allows the CARES main red anchor strap to be set up at the appropriate level for their height and not impact any traveller behind.
  • The main challenge in using either the standard or Special CARES for flyers above 20kgs/102cm will be asking the airline for approval, having this noted on the booking and ensuring an ‘in front of bulkhead’ seat is allocated.

There should be no need for the airline to assist in the setting up of the unit when onboard.

We’ve been told that the CARES harness is a better fitting and less bulky unit than the traditional special needs harness the airlines allocate. The airline units tend to be aimed at adult size flyers.

The customer service team may need to be pointed to their own web policies on the use of certain Child Restraint Devices and this can prove to be frustrating at times. CARES is a unique device, the only harness of its type fully tested and approved for use on aircraft and so they may be unfamiliar with it.

The US CARES manufacturer also states the following on their FAQ page. It is based on US regulations, but may help explain to staff how CARES is being used globally.


Can CARES be used for children with special needs?

CARES has been used successfully by many children with special needs. Parents should check with their physician or physical therapist to determine whether CARES provides sufficient upper body support for their child. If it does, parents need make no special or advance arrangements with the airline– just carry the CARES on board and install it as directed. Abilitations, a comprehensive catalog for equipment for children with special needs now carries CARES in their catalog, see

Can CARES be used for special needs children who are over the 44 lb weight and 40 inch height limitations?

If your special needs child is over the weight/height limitation for which CARES is currently certified, and your child’s medical advisor thinks CARES is an appropriate restraint, you can request an “Exemption” (from current regulations) from the FAA so you can use it. Larger special needs youngsters who are granted this exemption will be seated in the last row of a section of the plane, so no one sits behind the child who might brace against that seat. The FAA exemption will be valid on all US airlines.


Over the years we’ve had a number of Australian customers query the use of CARES for a special needs flyers and reach agreement with their airline that they will use the CARES.

Success appears to come down to how helpful the airline wishes to be and speaking to the right airline staff.

To purchase a Standard CARES please see the Little Gulliver CARES harness listing here

Please note the Special CARES is not available for general purchase.  It’s important to discuss an individual’s needs and ensure the right CARES is matched to your requirements.

Please contact Little Gulliver on 03 9824 6770 or email to discuss further.

CARES harness users

How American Airlines got it wrong…

I read an article this morning on an American consumer affairs blog ‘Consumerist‘. A family have described their recent experience (not) using the CARES Harness on American Airlines with their 2.5 year old. (Local Australian families may also have experience with American Airlines due to their links with Qantas and the Oneworld alliance of airlines).

The article explains that the child was safely secured in their CARES restraint, when support crew decided it was a problem. The family emphasised its FAA approval and noted they had used it on their 11 previous flight legs. Unhelpful crew informed them “the pilot refuses to take off while the child is restrained”. With the only other option of leaving the aircraft, the family felt pressured to hold their child as a lap child during take off and landing.


This story reminds me of the early days with CARES back in 2007, where we were still trying to inform the airlines of the existence of CARES (yes, even though it was approved for use on airlines internationally). Airlines at the time explained to us that the product was being discussed and demonstrated to crew members in their training updates. Slowly, during travel with our kids (we had 3 under 2.5), we were questioned by crew less and less. Back then, we would carry the local CASA certification with us and in those early days, even provided a photocopy with all CARES sales on Little Gulliver. With our youngest now 7 we no longer use the device. However, we are proud of our efforts to inform the airlines of the CARES certifications and can boast that most Australian airlines now mention the CARES directly or mention it as an “FAA approved device” on their websites. We rarely (not in the last few years) hear of any airline push-back from our customers.

Here’s the link to the article which inspired today’s rant;

American Airlines Should Not Have Told Family They Couldn’t Use FAA-Approved Safety Harness


We have always found persistence pays with the big airlines, parents know best. I’ve always said a concerned parent is one of the best researchers on the planet – we know what is safe/approved for our children! And just for good measure -here’s the American Airlines policy for travelling with children (note the reference to FAA approved devices, which includes the CARES).

American Airlines are “continuing to review these allegations.”

‘Should babies and toddlers be required to fly in child safety seats?’

During a difficult first pregnancy I got to thinking about child safety when travelling. I spent a lot of time thinking about car seats and strollers and cots and child carriers and…. Then I started to think about the inevitable plane flights to visit relatives with bub. What about babies and toddlers on planes?

Fortunately I discovered the CARES harness and always travelled with these, finding them a simple alternative to travelling with a car seat.CARES harness in action Like so many families I found myself with a baby and toddler in quick succession. Travelling on my own with them and a car seat + assorted baby paraphernalia as ‘carry on’ was not desirable for me. I got to thinking and after some more thinking during a flight to FNQ, Little Gulliver was born.

Although our children are now over the weight limits for the CARES, it still interests me how difficult it is to come across information for those parents who asked the same questions I did. While as a mum and a business owner I certainly do not want to alarm anyone, I’ll give some links below of an interesting article I have just read. Carrying a CARES or even a car seat on board is an option worth considering.

Please contact us with an questions or comments. We are always happy to hear from our customers!


CARES harness in Qantas Business and Economy Class

Sent: Monday, 14 July 2014 9:47 PM
Name: Fiona

Please can you confirm if this can be used with Business Class seats & do you know if it is approved for use on Qantas flights. Many thanks – Fiona


Hello Fiona,

Thank you for your CARES harness query.

Yes, we have customers using the CARES in both economy and business class with Qantas and most other local and international airlines daily. The type of seat restrictions we have seen in place are typically:

– CARES not to be used in Exit rows and
– no seats that have built in air bags.

The Qantas Child Safety Seat policy stating CARES is pre-approved for use onboard is located here:

If you have any concerns, we always recommend contacting the airline to confirm the seat configuration on your particular flight.

The key with business class seats is being able to access the rear of the seat to install the CARES main red anchor strap.

Qantas Skybed

CARES harness on Emirates

Name = Megan
Sent: Wednesday, 20 November 2013 3:21 PM
Comments = Hi there We are flying to Europe in December on Emirates. I am not clear if the CARES harness is acceptable by them? Can you please advise?


Hello Megan,

Thanks for your CARES harness query.

Yes, CARES is a suitable child restraint device (CRD) for use on Emirates. It is FAA approved and complies with the Emirates requirement:

“Child restraint devices (CRD) approved for use in aircraft only by any Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or Transport Canada may be used, if marked accordingly.”

FAA approval on CARES unit

The FAA approval is stitched onto the CARES unit and it also clearly states that the CARES is approved for use on aircraft. The diagram below shows where the FAA approval is stitched onto the main red anchor strap.

CARES FAA approval

CARES and Air Asia premium flat bed seats

From: Sarah
Sent: Monday, 16 April 2012 8:51 PM
Subject: CARES harness

I was reading about the CARES harness and was wondering if you know if it fits the Air Asia premium flat bed seats?


Hello Sarah,

Thanks for your CARES query, the Air Asia premium flat beds look very comfy!

We’ve not had any specific feedback on CARES being used in these seats but there appears to be no reason why they shouldn’t work.

The CARES is highly adjustable to fit larger and smaller children and different size airline seats including most of the new cocoon type economy and business seats. The key is having enough clear space to place the main anchor strap over the top of the seat and down to an appropriate level just above the child’s shoulders The diagram below appears to show there is clear space to place the CARES main red anchor strap.

Air Asia Premium Flat Bed

CARES installation diagram:

CARES in use diagram

(CARES red anchor strap will be installed approx midway down seat back and loops over the top of the seat.)

In bed formation, the CARES harness should still work and you will most likely need to loosen the shoulder straps to provide the extra length required while a child sleeps. The Air Asia bed format looks like this:

Air Asia Premium Flat Bed - reclined

(Place CARES anchor strap as low down as possible and extend the shoulder straps)

Cares harness flying with air NZ and Aer Lingus

Name: Jude
Sent: Tuesday, 6 December 2011 9:19 AM

Subject: Cares harness flying with air NZ and Aer Lingus
Message: Hi,I just purchased a Cares harness for long haul flight from New Zealand to Ireland with 2 children on my own.

I wanted to avoid lugging the bulky carseat around airports esp as I haven’t got the spare hands! Air NZ specify the cares harness but unsure of Aer lingus, where can I get a letter for crew if I come across any problems? Many thanks.


Hello Jude,

Thanks for your CARES query.

The best approach with Aer Lingus seems to be the approach followed by a customer recently on the USA CARES facebook page. Back in Sept 2011 they said they emailed Aer Lingus saying they were using the CARES and received the following email:

New Aer Lingus statement:
AMSAFE CARES harnesses are permitted on board, but not as the primary restraint. The harness must be used in conjunction with the aircraft seat belt.
Harnesses by other manufacturers such as CRELLING require special Irish Aviation Authority authorisation. This authorisation requires some extra time to arrange, therefore passengers who require such a harness should contact Aer Lingus special assistance; as soon as possible in advance of the flight. The make and model of the harness should be included along with details of any other particular requirements.

The CARES customer then received a further Aer Lingus email:

“And my final follow up-Received an email this morning from aer lingus stating CARES is permitted and that cabin crew have now been made aware and given instruction on how to use it. This is from the Aer Lingus head office in Dublin.”

It’s also worth noting that Aer Lingus are not very clear with their car seat approval process either and seem to leave it at the discretion of the staff on the day. This is from their website:

“Please be advised that with the number and variety of infant car seats available on the market it is not possible for us to guarantee in advance that any particular seat is suitable for use. In the interests of safety, Aer Lingus reserves the right to refuse permission for the use of certain types of car seats on the aircraft or during take off and landing. In these circumstances the infant must be carried on the adult’s lap (under 2 years) or in a seat using the standard lap belt (2 years and over). Safety is always our first consideration.”

We’d recommend taking a copy of our airline list (attached) that shows what our local airlines say on their website about the approved use of CARES. Also, try and have it noted on your booking that you intend to use the CARES harness. Also, show any curious airline staff the tag on the CARES unit that states FAA approval and “Approved for Aircraft Use”.

Hope this helps, have a great trip.

Little Gulliver

CARES Harness on Air Pacific?

Tanya asked; Friday, 22 April 2011 8:30 PM

Hi Ben

I am looking at purchasing a CARES restraint system for use on Air Pacific and would like to confirm that it has attached to it one of the labels below. I know that it does comply with the below but am hoping that it actually has the labels attached too.

Thanks for your help

Air Pacific Header_Logo


The following is copied from Air Pacific website at Flying with Kids on Air Pacific;

“Approved Restraint systems

1. Seats that comply with Australian/New Zealand design standard AS/NZS 1745 for infant car seats which are secured in the aircraft in a manner consistent with the seat design criteria. As this standard requires a 3 point attachment, a top tether, in addition to the fastened lap belt, must be fitted.

2. Child restraint systems accepted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States of America with two labels attached to the child restraint system reading as follows:

    * “This Child restraint system conforms to all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards”.
    * “This restraint system is certified for use in motor vehicles and Aircraft”.?c). FAA approved harness type child restraint system with a label attached to the restraint system reading as follows:

3. Child restraint system that meets the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) 213 or 213.1. A statement of compliance label must be affixed to the restraint system indicating compliance with CMVSS 213 or 213.1.

4. Seats accepted by the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom, guidance on CAR-TYPE SAFETY SEATS and AIRCRAFT-TYPE SAFETY SEATS acceptable for use in aircraft can be found in the CAA Air Navigation Order 2005, General Exemption, No. 598, dated 29 September 2006.

5. Seats meeting European Community requirements of ECE Regulation 44.”

Ben replied; Saturday, 23 April 2011 4:13 PM

Hello Tanya,

Thanks for visiting Little Gulliver and your CARES query.  The airlines can be quite bureaucratic so it’s always worthwhile asking!  Yes, CARES has received both USA FAA approval (the FAA approval code for CARES is 14 CFR 21.305 (d)) and local Australian CASA acceptance.  This satisfies Air Pacific’s requirements and so I’d expect you’d have no trouble.

The CARES unit has the FAA approval stitched onto it as shown in the diagram below:

FAA approval on CARES unit

 Hope this helps.  Have a great trip

Kind regards


Tanya replied; Tuesday, 26 April 2011 2:26 PM

Hi Ben

Sorry to be a pain but would you be able to confirm that the following text is actually contained on the label before I purchase the restraint? I have been talking to the airlines and they are extremely specific in what they require.

Two labels attached to the child restraint system reading as follows:

  1. “This Child restraint system conforms to all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards”.
  2. “This restraint system is certified for use in motor vehicles and Aircraft”.?c).

Or FAA approved harness type child restraint system with a label attached to the restraint system reading as follows:


Many thanks again for your help,

Kind regards,


Ben replied; Tuesday, 26 April 2011 5:43 PM

Hi Tanya, no problem at all.  I’ve taken a closer photo of the approval stamp on the CARES unit (see below).  I’ve also attached it if the email format is unclear.

CARES FAA approval

You will see in the middle of the approval sticker are the words complying with the second part of the Air Pacific paragraph – “FAA approved harness type child restraint system with a label attached to the restraint system reading as follows:   * FAA APPROVED IN ACCORDANCE WITH 14 CFR 21.305(d), APPROVED FOR AIRCRAFT USE ONLY”.

I’m a little confused by the Air Pacific policy paragraphs as they appear to have a formatting issue and mix up Car Seat labelling requirements with requirements for other child harnesses.   Points 1 and 2 of the Air Pacific policy are related to using Car seats (and therefore require the two labels) whereas point c) I expect should be a separate paragraph and is related to harness systems such as CARES (the only one to carry this technical approval).

I hope this provides more specific info for your discussions with Air Pacific customer service.  Happy to help with any further queries they may have.

Kind regards


Can you safely use a seat belt buckle lock, with CARES?

Andrew asks; Tue 13/11/2012 3:10 PM

Hi Donna.

We are travelling quite a bit with our son. We bought a CARE harness from you and it’s been great. However he is starting to become more restless in his seat and has started unclipping his seatbelt. Do you have (or know of) something that we can put over the seatbelt clip to prevent him from undoing his seatbelt?


Donna replied: Tue 13/11/2012 4:55 PM

Hi Andrew,

Glad to hear the CARES is going well for you and that you are getting out and about!

Someone else has asked the same question a while back. There are products that do this, but are manufactured for car seatbelts. One is to stop the seatbelt from coming undone in the car accidentally (and resulting in the car seat becoming untethered), it’s called the
Hurphy Durphy. And the other, the Houdini Stop, is to stop kids from wiggling out of restraints such as car seats and strollers.

However, given the strict regulations on-board aircraft, I don’t believe these would be approved for flying. The CARES harness itself needs to be quick and easy to unbuckle in an emergency situation, while any additional products could hinder this.

I hope this has been of some use to you, but I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.

Kind regards,



CARES on a Cessna bench seat?

Melissa said: March 4 2012 6:16 PM

Hi there. We have a Cessna 172 with a bench seat in the back. We are currently using a car seat but wondering if this will fit around the double seat?


Ben @ Little Gulliver said: March 5 2011 10:26 AM

Hello Melissa,

Thank you for your CARES child aviation restraint query.

We do have CARES being used in many small aircraft but I’ve not had any feedback on it being used on the rear bench seat of a Cessna 172.  Some quick google research suggests the distance from the left of the pilots seat to the right of the co-pilots seat in a typical Cessna is 96 cms.



The CARES stretches comfortably to fit a large padded seat back of 70cm width and may stretch a little more if the seat is not too thick.  On these dimensions, the CARES may not stretch enough to allow the main red anchor strap to correctly install over the bench seat.

I hope this assists, please let me know if you have any further queries.

Kind regards