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A few years ago, a mom of young twins had her stroller taken from her on an American Airlines flight from San Francisco to Dallas. This set off a chain reaction that resulted in a yelling flight attendant, a mom in tears, a viral video and lots of news stories. Some might say the mom should have known better than to bring a stroller on the plane in the first place, but that begs the question of how one parent could possibly manage to carry twin toddlers and all their stuff on the plane without some type of contraption or assistance. (Here are TPG‘s favorite single and double strollers.)
In the United States the overwhelming majority of airlines do not officially permit strollers to go beyond the boarding door. The common policy is that strollers may be used to transport little ones and their gear as far as the gate, at which point the stroller must be given up and stowed as checked luggage. There’s usually no cost to check a stroller at the gate; even fee-happy airlines like Spirit allow them to be checked at the ticket counter or gate at no extra charge. This leaves the family to board the aircraft without the stroller and also necessitates waiting around on the jet bridge after the plane lands (hoping the stroller is still in one piece).
I know from my own travels that occasionally small collapsible umbrella strollers or newer fully-collapsable models do make it into the overhead bins of US airlines, but that has often been the exception and not the rule. Notably, this may be changing a bit as United Airlines does now permit small strollers onboard as carry-ons at no extra charge.
Outside the United States, additional air carriers do allow strollers to be treated as carry-on baggage. This shouldn’t be too surprising as non-US airlines are more child-friendly than US airlines in almost every category, offering things like airport family rooms, onboard nannies, in-flight baby food, child-friendly meals, milk and even diapers. In fact, several of the international airlines that don’t permit strollers on board actually provide free strollers to be used in the airports.
Because policies vary airline to airline, it is tough to know all the rules when it comes to strollers and airlines. Here’s a rundown of the latest stroller policies of 20 airlines around the world. Some allow onboard strollers and some don’t. Of course, policies can change at any point, so please double-check with your carrier of choice before travel if you need additional clarification on current stroller rules.
Airlines That Allow Onboard Strollers
- One infant and stroller permitted per adult without a seat or baggage allowance.
- In the event that an adult passenger is traveling with more than one infant, each will be charged the minimum fare for that route. In this case, the infant will be assigned a seat and baggage allowance.
- On international flights, the applicable reduced fare applies.
You can transport a foldable stroller and car seat in the hold at no extra charge. Some strollers may be accepted in the cabin, subject to space availability. Depending on the type of stroller, the following size limits apply.
- Small foldable stroller: dimensions cannot exceed 15 x 30 x 100 centimeters / 5.9 x 11.8 x 39.4 inches.
- Other foldable stroller: This replaces the hand baggage allowance for infants and its dimensions cannot exceed: 55 x 35 x 25 cm / 21.7 x 13.8 x 9.8 inches.
Note: Strollers must be packed in a carrying case that covers the stroller fully. In addition, for security reasons, some airports may have to deny access to strollers inside the boarding areas.
- Parents can take their infants or child’s stroller and/or car seat for no extra charge in addition to any other allowances, even if their fare does not include checked baggage.
- Single strollers with a completely collapsible frame and seat will normally fit in the overhead locker on 777-300, 777-200, 787-9 and A320 domestic aircraft only. On other aircraft, they must be checked because there is limited locker space. If the flight you are traveling on is full, airport staff may request that your stroller is checked.
- Prams, three-wheeled jogger-style buggies and larger strollers do not fit in the overhead locker and must be checked on all aircraft.
If you have a small, fully collapsible and lightweight pushchair/stroller (with maximum dimensions of 117 x 38 x 38 centimers/46 x 15 x 15 inches when the pushchair is collapsed), you will qualify to take this right to the aircraft door and collect at the aircraft door at most airports.
Pushchairs that fold down into a carry bag, such as the Yo-Yo Zen and are within the maximum hand baggage dimensions, can be taken on board in place of, but not in addition to, your larger cabin bag. As with all larger cabin bags, this is not guaranteed to travel in the cabin, but our staff will make every effort to accommodate it so long as space is available.
All other, larger pushchairs, including double and multi-piece pushchairs can be taken to the departure gate, however, on arrival you must pick up these larger pushchairs at the baggage carousel in the baggage hall.
The bag allowance for infants includes an approved car safety seat, a small bag of food (for consumption on the flight), diapers and an umbrella-type collapsible stroller or any type of foldable stroller within the standard cabin bag size and weight after folding (if cabin stowage is available).
Passengers traveling with infants in any class of service are permitted one handbag for infant food (weight must not exceed 5 kilograms/11 pounds) and other inflight necessities, and one fully collapsible stroller or carry-cot, as a carry-on item if cabin space is available and you are not bringing a child seat. If no space is available in the cabin, the stroller/carry-cot must be transported as checked baggage in the hold.
Some special items are not suitable as check baggage and [you may] request permission to carry in the cabin. Such baggage should be stored in the closed overhead bin or under the seat. If it cannot be placed in these locations, it will be treated as cabin baggage and [you will be charged] for an extra seat. Rules for baby baggage include:
- One infant’s carrying basket or fully collapsible stroller, pushchair, car seat or CARES harness that can be carried into the cabin.
- Small fully collapsible stroller that can be stored in the overhead bin if there is space available.
- Large stroller must be accepted as checked baggage only. Before the stroller is checked, please remove the stroller accessories to avoid loss.
When traveling with a lap child, the items listed below are accepted as carry-on or checked baggage, exempt from baggage fees, when checked in by an accompanying ticketed adult. However, your stroller must be checked if it is noncollapsible and/or weighs more than 50 pounds. If you prefer, you may check your stroller at the gate.
- Car seats
- Infant carrying seats
You may use your baby stroller up to the boarding gate at some airports. Inquire with airport personnel if this is possible when you check-in.
Space on board is limited, so checking-in your stroller is strongly encouraged (though it does not say required). Checked strollers will be returned to you as quickly as possible upon arrival. Please use the free baby stroller service provided by your departure airport at Narita International, Kansai International, Chubu Centrair International, Frankfurt International (Germany) and London Heathrow (UK).
Umbrella strollers (max. 15 x 30 x 100 cm / 6 x 12 x 39 inches) may be taken into the cabin, if space allows for it. If it does not fit underneath the seat or in the overhead baggage compartment, we will take it into the hold at no extra charge. Larger buggies must always be checked in. If facilities allow it, you may wheel your child in the tagged buggy to the departure gate. At the gate, the buggy must be handed in for loading. The buggy may be covered with a protective cover, but this cannot contain any other items.
A car seat, folding buggy or pram, or a baby seat may be transported as carry-on baggage free of charge.
Further information on this is available on the Carry-on Baggage page, where the airline states that the stroller counts as the passenger’s one allowed piece of carry-on baggage.
You have two options for stroller check-in:
- Option 1: You may check the stroller at the check-in counter.
- Option 2: You may hand over the baby stroller at the aircraft door.
Because storage space is limited in the aircraft cabin, the acceptance of baby prams/strollers as cabin items will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Once the storage space is taken up, these items will need to be loaded in the aircraft hold.
You may carry on board any type of compact foldable lightweight stroller only if it meets the following requirements:
- The stroller must meet SIA’s standard cabin bag dimensions (up to 7 kilograms/15 pounds and the sum of length, width and height should not exceed 115 centimeters/45 inches) and must be able to be stored in the cabin overhead compartment.
- The stroller will be counted toward your cabin baggage allowance for your class of travel (i.e., your compact foldable lightweight stroller will be counted as one cabin bag).
- The stroller must be folded and packed into its carrier bag prior to boarding.
- The stroller must not be opened and used in the aircraft cabin.
Compact foldable lightweight strollers will be checked if there is no space in the cabin. Strollers that do not meet the above requirements will also have to be checked. These strollers, when checked, will not be counted as part of your checked baggage allowance.
In Switzerland, a folding pushchair (one-piece) may be taken up to the aircraft door. For the applicable rules in other countries, please visit the website of the respective airport. So-called “pocket buggies” are only allowed on board as part of your free hand baggage allowance if they are packed accordingly and are no longer recognizable as pushchairs.
On SWISS flights, your folding pushchair will be delivered to the aircraft door on arrival, with the exception of the following destinations, where it will be delivered on the baggage carousel: Stockholm, Copenhagen, Catania, Dar es Salaam, Dresden, Rome, Hannover, London Heathrow, Nice, Olbia, Palermo, Berlin and Valencia.
Strollers may be checked to your final destination without a fee, in addition to your normal baggage allowance. Feel free to use your child’s stroller throughout the airport, but please keep in mind that most strollers must be checked at the gate. If you have a compact folding stroller, you can bring it on board in addition to your carry-on bag and personal item. These strollers can be stored either in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. You’ll need to collapse your compact folding stroller before boarding the aircraft and won’t be able to open it while on board.
If your child’s stroller can’t fit on the aircraft, you can check it at the gate and we’ll give it to you at the aircraft door at your connecting city or destination. Large, non-collapsible strollers or non-folding wagons cannot be checked at the gate, so please see a United representative at the airport check-in counter to check these items. United is not responsible for damage that occurs to strollers that are not packed in a box and checked at the check-in counter.
Airlines That Require You to Check Strollers
Each ticketed customer is allowed one stroller and one car seat to be checked free of charge. Strollers over 9 kilograms/20 pounds must be checked at the ticket counter. All other strollers should be checked at the gate before boarding. If you have a stroller and a car seat, only one can be checked at the gate.
Children’s strollers and seat restraints are not counted as part of the standard baggage and therefore can easily be checked for free. For your convenience, these items may be checked at curbside, the ticket counter or at the gate.
During the check-in process, Etihad will place luggage tags on any push chairs or strollers. You will still be able to use these within the airport. They will be placed in the aircraft hold at the departure gate shortly before boarding. Guests arriving in Abu Dhabi are welcome to use one of the airline’s complimentary strollers, which are available in the terminal, close to the gate. They’re bright orange. On arrival at your destination, you can collect your pushchair or stroller at the luggage carousel. Please ask the check-in or arrival staff for information about your flight.
Frontier Airlines has made many family-friendly changes in the last year, but onboard strollers are not one of them. Frontier states that if you bring a stroller, it can be brought to the gate, but then checked from there.
Most mainline Australian airports have strollers available for you to use once you have checked your own personal stroller. Staff will be on hand at the boarding gate ready to collect the stroller and to assist you further with pre-boarding the aircraft.
- Customers traveling with children will be allowed to check one stroller and one Child Restraint System (CRS) or car seat per child without charge. This is in addition to the regular free baggage allowance.
- The stroller and CRS or car seat allowance applies to any type of stroller (umbrella, full size, jogging stroller, etc.) and CRS or car seat.
- The customer may check the stroller and CRS or car seat at the curb, ticket counter or gate.
- Southwest Airlines will not assume liability for damage to strollers, CRSs or car seats. (An optional Southwest-branded reusable car seat/stroller bag is available for purchase at any Southwest Airlines ticket counter for a $17 one-time fee.)
The number of rules and policies that affect flying families is pretty overwhelming, especially when you factor in how dramatically the rules can vary from carrier to carrier and country to country. Any parent who has braved air travel with one or more little ones in tow can easily identify with the stress travel can cause. What has been your experience when traveling the world with your stroller?
Be sure to check out these other articles that might help both novice and travel-savvy families:
- The 8 Best Strollers for Travel
- 8 Great Double Strollers That Go the Distance for Family Travel
- Meet the Car Seat That Converts Into a Stroller in Seconds: The Doona
- WATCH: We Review the Ultimate Travel Stroller
- Flying With a Baby Checklist
- Getting Ready for Your Child’s First Flight: A Survival Guide
- How to Plan Award Travel With an Infant or Lap Child
- The Best Airline Seats, Suites, Lactation Rooms and Lounges When Breastfeeding
- How to Fly With Breast Milk in the United States
- Flying With a Lap Infant? Here’s 6 Things to Know.
Featured image by Orbon Alija / Getty Images
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