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The Ultimate Guide to the CARES Child Aviation Restraint System


Lee Bradley |

CARES Harness: Ensuring Child Safety in the Skies

An Introduction to the CARES Child Aviation Restraint System

Traveling with young children can often bring an added layer of stress, especially when flying. To enhance child safety and give parents peace of mind, the CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System) harness emerges as a standout solution. Developed by AMSAFE, a leader in the aircraft seatbelt industry, the CARES harness is specially designed for children who are big enough to be out of a baby seat but not yet large enough to use standard airplane seat belts comfortably.

Why Choose the CARES Child Aviation Restraint System?


The CARES harness addresses a critical gap in in-flight safety. Most of us are familiar with the stringent car seat requirements for children in vehicles, yet the same level of safety hasn't always been available in aircraft. That's where the CARES harness comes in. Invented by a US grandmother, this innovative system offers enhanced upper torso protection by securely attaching to the aircraft seat, using the standard seat belt to anchor the lower loop.

This system isn't just for keeping children seated; its primary function is to protect them during turbulence or in the unlikely event of an emergency. Notably, it is not suitable for use in cars, being exclusively designed for aviation use.

Special Considerations for the CARES Harness

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

For children or special needs flyers above these standard parameters, the use of CARES requires individual airline approval prior to flights. This process usually involves consulting with the airline's customer service to explain the specific needs and to have the use of the CARES harness noted on your booking details. Flyers needing this exemption are typically seated in rows immediately in front of a bulkhead to avoid obstructing other passengers.

Securing Approval for Special Needs Use

Parents of children with special needs should consult with their physician or physical therapist to determine if the CARES provides sufficient upper body support. If approved, no special arrangements with the airline are typically necessary—just bring the CARES onboard and install it as directed.

Comprehensive Safety Features of the CARES Harness

The CARES harness is not just another travel accessory; it is a vital safety device that has been carefully engineered to provide superior protection for children during flights. Its design is straightforward yet effective, comprising an additional belt that wraps around the airplane seat, creating a shoulder harness for the child. This configuration prevents the child from moving upwards or forwards during sudden stops or turbulence, thus reducing the risk of injury.

The harness is particularly advantageous because it’s light and compact, weighing less than a pound and fitting into a small carry bag. This portability is a significant benefit for traveling families who need to navigate through airports without the added burden of heavy and cumbersome car seats.


Regulatory Approval and Airline Compatibility

One of the key benefits of the CARES harness is its wide acceptance by airlines. It’s certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as well as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in Australia, which underscores its reliability and safety. The harness's approval signifies its compliance with stringent safety standards, making it a trusted choice for parents.

However, despite its general acceptance, it’s crucial for parents to check with individual airlines before travel since policies can vary slightly. Most airlines readily accept the CARES harness for in-flight use, but verifying this in advance can prevent any travel day surprises. This proactive approach ensures that all safety requirements are met, and the flight experience is smooth.

Special Needs Considerations

For families with special needs children, the CARES harness provides an essential service that often goes beyond the capability of standard airline seat belts. The design accommodates a broader range of mobility and stability needs, allowing children who require additional support to travel more comfortably and securely.

Parents and caregivers should consult with healthcare professionals to determine if the CARES harness meets the specific needs of their child. In cases where the child exceeds the standard size limitations of the harness, an exemption may be necessary. This process involves obtaining a special exemption from aviation authorities, ensuring that the child can use the CARES harness safely and legally.

Installation and Usage Tips

Installing the CARES harness is straightforward, designed for quick setup to minimize disruption in the busy cabin environment. Here are some tips for installation and use:

  • Seat Compatibility: Before installing, ensure that the seat type is compatible with the harness. Avoid emergency exit rows and seats with airbags.
  • Setup: Place the harness over the seatback, adjust the height to match the child’s size, and secure the straps according to the instructions. The airplane seatbelt is looped through the lower part of the harness, securing it at the lap.
  • Adjustment: Make sure the harness fits snugly around the child’s torso. Adjustments should ensure that the harness is tight enough to provide security but comfortable enough not to restrict breathing or movement.

The Emotional and Psychological Benefits

Beyond the physical safety benefits, using a CARES harness can also provide psychological comfort for both the child and the parents. Knowing that their child is securely restrained can significantly reduce the stress levels of parents, leading to a more relaxed and enjoyable flight experience for everyone involved.


If your child falls within the recommended weight and height limits, or if you have special requirements exceeding these limits, the CARES harness might be the perfect solution for your next flight. It ensures safety without sacrificing comfort, allowing you and your child a more relaxed journey.

The CARES Child Aviation Restraint System is a testament to innovative design focused on child safety and parental peace of mind. By combining ease of use, rigorous safety standards, and flexibility for special needs, it represents an indispensable solution for family travel. Its approval by major aviation authorities and compatibility with most airline seats makes it an excellent choice for families on the go.

For more information on the CARES Child Aviation Restraint System or to make a purchase, visit Travel Gear. Explore our range of child travel safety products, including those specifically tailored for special needs at Travel Gear Australia.