What to do if the airline loses your car seat

Dec 26, 2021

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You’ve gotten to the airport early, checked your family’s bags, safely entertained your kids in the terminal, washed their hands 13 times, survived the flight without any meltdowns and you are now — finally — at baggage claim ready to grab your stuff and really start the vacation. Only, after all the bags come out, it’s clear your kid’s car seat didn’t make it.

We’ve been there, more than once. But before you worry that you are indefinitely stuck at the airport without a car seat to safely drive your kiddo, know there’s often an easy fix. Here’s what to do if your child’s car seat doesn’t land at the airport when you do.

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First, check the oversized area

Your family’s car seat may not be with all the other bags. Sometimes car seats are set out in the oversized area of baggage claim with the skis, surf boards and golf club-sized items. Be sure to check there first.

Also, if you gate-checked your car seat when boarding the aircraft, then forgot to grab it when you got off the plane, it is likely still waiting for you back on the jet bridge. If you’re already at the baggage claim when you realize this, however, it’s too late to go back and get it. Your best best is reaching out to someone in baggage services to tell them what’s happened so they can help you retrieve it.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Head to baggage services

How this works exactly will depend a bit on where you are and what time of the day it is, but often, the airline will have an open baggage service office where you can head for help if it becomes clear that your car seat is missing in action.

This is where you can ask for help in locating your car seat. They can determine if it is at the airport but set somewhere hard to spot, or if it’s on a vacation of its own.

You may even be able to track your checked bags within the airline’s app, so you might be able to determine the bag’s location before you ever talk to anyone in the baggage office.

Related: What to do when an airline loses or delays your bag

Ask for a loaner car seat

If you have established that the car seat didn’t make the flight and won’t arrive in the immediate future, politely ask for a loaner car seat from the airline’s baggage office. The issue is common enough that baggage offices often have spares on hand for you to borrow while you await the arrival of your car seat. Sometimes the loaners are brand-new car seats and sometimes they aren’t, but generally they are a better option than sitting around stuck.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The baggage office may say they don’t need a “loaner” car seat back, in which case you can consider donating it to someone who needs it once your car seats finally are found. The airport may arrange for the baggage delivery service that delivers your delayed car seat to retrieve the loaned seat. In some cases, they may just ask you just to return the loaner car seat to the baggage office when you are back at the airport for your departing flight.

If all else fails

Asking for a loaner car seat should solve the immediate problem the majority of the time when an airline loses your car seat or delays its arrival. Most airlines are prepared for these kinds of situations. However, if that doesn’t work, here are some other options.

If you are renting a car, know that car rental companies often have car seats available for rent. Some, like Silvercar, don’t even charge extra for them. Whether you actually get a car seat is “based on availability.” The quality of these car seats can vary from amazing with Silvercar to less than amazing from some rental companies, but a rental car company’s seat is better than being stuck. You could always use it temporarily to drive from the airport directly to Target or Walmart to buy a better one, then turn the bill for the replacement in to the airline or use your credit card’s built-in baggage delay protection coverage to cover the cost.

Should you be in a situation where there isn’t a single car seat to rent or borrow in the entirety of the airport, a last-ditch option is to have one adult drive or take a cab or car service ride to purchase one (assuming more than one adult is in the group). That person could then come back and pick up the rest of the family.

Again, save your receipt since either the airline or your card’s trip-delay protection should cover the cost in many cases.

Bottom line

It’s massively annoying when something as mission-critical to a family trip as a car seat doesn’t make the flight.

Hopefully, it won’t ever happen to you, as most bags make the flight just fine.

One way to reduce the odds of issues is to actually use the car seat on the flight if you have purchased a separate seat for your child (make sure the car seat is FAA approved, with the sticker to prove it). For a larger child, there are some travel-friendly car seats that are small enough to pack in a carry-on such as the collapsable WAYB Pico, the Mifold or even an inflatable Bubble Bum Booster seat.

WAYB Pico Car Seat. (Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)

But if your car seat ultimately does miss the flight, don’t panic. In most cases, you can head to the baggage claim office and ask to borrow a loaner car seat until yours arrives on a later flight and is delivered to your destination.

Featured image by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images.

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