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.”

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


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



Frommer’s on CARES

Arthur Frommer, of Frommers Travel Guides fame, recently included the CARES in his article “10 travel tips, including why you should go to China”.

Read the full article here.

CARES is available at Little Gulliver

Excerpt “10. Finally, among unusual new travel products is something called “CARES” (Child Aviation Restraint System), a harness-like seat belt for children under the age of 3 who also weigh less than 40 pounds. It’s an alternative to the child seat, and weighs only 1 pound.”

Arthur Frommer is the pioneering founder of the Frommer’s Travel Guide book series. He co-hosts the radio program, The Travel Show, with his travel correspondent daughter Pauline Frommer. Find more destinations online and read Arthur Frommer’s blog at

© 2011 by Arthur Frommer

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

Kids Fly Safe with the CARES Harness

The Cares Kids Fly Safe Harness seemed like the perfect solution to my concerns about flying for the first time with my four-year-old son.

This article was written by US parent Bostonmom for

A link can be found here cares review.

The CARES harness (A$99.95 at Little Gulliver) seemed like the perfect solution to my concerns about flying for the first time with my four-year-old son.  While my son loves riding in the car and has never complained about sitting in his car seat (thankfully!),this would be the first time he would spend several hours on a plane. In particular, I was nervous about whether he would sit still with just a lap belt restraining him.

Installing the harness was easy, but required an awkward moment of asking the person behind us to move her tray table down while we installed the wrap-around strap.  If my son had been seated on the aisle, this may have been an easier installation, but he insisted on sitting by the window.  Installing the Cares Harness while kneeling on the middle seat and trying not to hit my head on the overhead bins was tricky. If there were some way for the system to work without having to bother another passenger, that would make it better.

Once that part was done, though, strapping in our son was a breeze.  From that point on, the 4-point harness made my son feel like he was in his car seat at home rather than in an airplane.  Well, apart from the clouds passing by the window to show we were in the air.  My son really does enjoy being in his car seat, so we did not experience any problems with him getting antsy from being restrained by the Cares Harness.  It also may have helped that this was his first flight and he knew no other way of flying.  I would imagine that children who do not like being strapped in a car seat or who are used to flying with fewer physical restrictions may not appreciate this product in quite the same manner.

For the two-plus hour flight from Orlando to Boston, I was not interrupted by my son complaining about being buckled in, and he was much more contented than other children I witnessed climbing all over the aircraft without any seat belt being used except for takeoff and landing.  I was actually very close to offering up the harness to the family aside of us who probably could have gotten much better use out of it than we did!

The belts used to create this harness are very similar to those used for the lap belts, so the system looks like it belongs on the plane.  One might almost wonder why the airlines do not make these available to all families flyingJason_compressed photo with younger children.  It is a great concept that keeps kids safer than just using a lap belt.  We chose not to bring our car seat with us on the vacation and this product allowed us to keep our son safe without the hassle of lugging onboard a car seat.  We saw one family with twins carrying their car seats onto the plane, installing them, and then having to carry them out of the plane with them.  It looked like way too much for anyone to handle at the airport.

The only problem I encountered with the harness was my husband and his unwillingness to let me use it on the flight down to Florida, as he did not want to let me ask the person behind me if I could move his tray table to install the straps.

For families that travel frequently with young children over age two (or under age two and using an individual seat), this is a great product if you’re willing to bother the person behind you for a moment to install the Cares Harness. The price of $US 69.70 for the CARES harness is a little steep if you were planning to only use it once. With no visible expiration date, it certainly looks like it is made to last for a long time.

Here’s a quick summary:


  • Only FAA certified alternative to a car seat
  • 4-point harness that’s identical to your child’s car seat configuration
  • Durable material that’s made by the same company who makes airplane safety belts
  • Light (500 grams / 1 pound) and portable
  • You can check-in your 50 pound car seat instead of lugging it on board


  • Simple to install, but requires an awkward moment when you ask the passenger behind your child to put their tray table down.
  • No straps between the legs (the 5th safety point), so the straps have to be very snug or else smaller kids may slide down or wiggle out
  • Red strap sometimes doesn’t align flush for curved back seats
  • A big price tag if you don’t fly often

This article was written by US parent Bostonmom for 

A link can be found here cares review.