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.”

Car Travel for Kids in France

Ange said: April 17 2012 11:42 PM


Just wondering if you have any info regarding safe car seats in France? Is Britax the same company as safe n sound and do Australian car seats fit into French Peugeot cars? I think I know the answers to these questions but just don’t know how to go about organizing car seats for our French trip.

Also I am planning on getting the CARES harness for my 2.5 yr old but was wondering what the safest thing would be for my 6 week old?



Donna @ Little Gulliver said: April 20 2011 2:16 PM

Hi Ange,

Hmmm, a trip to France sounds fantastic to me right now! I think you’re at the same place as me, when we first started travelling with our kids…we’re so geared up to keeping them safe at home and suddenly there is this black hole of information and the rules and regulations suddenly disappear (this is how Little Gulliver came about). It makes no sense to me and we’re fairly determined to make things easier and clearer for folks.
I’ve broken your query down into a few points, I hope you find it useful;

* any info regarding safe car seats in France?

I’m sure you’ve already read up on the basic car seat regulations in France, such as;

A child under 10 must sit in the back and “use restraint system appropriate to weight (between 9-15 kg child seat, over 15kg booster seat in conjunction with normal seat belts).” So I guess you’ll need either 2 car seats or a car seat and a booster. More about safe car seats in France later…

* is Britax the same company as safe n sound and do Australian car seats fit into French Peugeot cars

Yes, Britax is the umbrella company which manufactures the Safe n Sound range available here in Australia. But – do they fit in French cars? I wish this was so much easier for us travelling parents to navigate! I cannot say for sure, but my understanding is that while the Australian car seat would likely fit in the car, it wouldn’t be approved for use in Europe. One reason being the safety anchor bolt we use in our cars is not present in European cars. I’m also not aware if the Peugeot has the Isofix system, if it does you would need an Isofix car seat (not yet available in Australia).

Have you seen the Bubble Bum? If you are happy to use a backless booster for your older child and if they meet the requirements etc then it may be worth checking out… (we can’t sell it here because it isn’t approved for use in Australia, but it is approved in France)…

* Also I am planning on getting the CARES harness for my 2.5 yr old but was wondering what the safest thing would be for my 6 week old?

The CARES is perfect for your 2.5 yo. For your baby, there are a few options.

You could try to book an on board bassinet. You generally have to book ahead and may not be able to secure one. Also, some folks don’t like them as the seats in this area often don’t recline. If you know the make of aircraft, maybe check on Seat Guru and see if you can get any more info.

The airline (if it is Australian) will provide you with the “supplementary loop belt” you have probably used before with your toddler. There are other products available you may like to look at, such as the Baby B’Air and the Flye Baby. The Baby B’Air, while it looks like a great product, in my opinion, doesn’t provide a lot more protection than the supplementary loop belt provided here and cannot be used during take off and landing. I do agree that it is smart to have to the child restrained in case of unexpected turbulence. The Flye Baby certainly sounds popular and has recently been made available in Australia. Again, I’m iffy about this one too (again, just my opinion and this is why we don’t stock it at this stage). Note, this is not a safety device and again cannot be used during take off and landing and while the seat belt sign is lit. I can see that it may be handy if you are the only adult travelling with a number of children and a baby. I must stress here though, don’t be afraid to ask the crew for help or accept it when its offered (learnt this the hard way).
Of course, there is also the option of taking a car seat on board. This could be considered the safest option and CASA provide some good tips and info here. Again, look out for red tape and this has to be approved with your airline. If you have an Australian car seat and you are not travelling on an Australian airline, chances are your seat won’t be approved. There is no anchor point on the plane however, so the seat is attached using the seatbelt and again, you may not be able to use the seat in your vehicle in France. (Check out the Go Go Kidz TravelMate if you do consider taking your car seat with you).

I’d love to hear your thoughts and how the rest of your plans go. All the best for your planning and a great trip.


Kind regards,


Information Sources and Handy Links;

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



New Zealand to Ireland with 2 children

Jude said: December 6 2011 9:19 AM


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.

Ben @ Travel Toddler said: December 6 2011 11:07 AM 

Hello Jude,

Thanks for your CARES query and your order, the parcel will be shipped to you today.

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.

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.