Tuesday travel tip: What to do if the airline loses your car seat
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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 come out in the oversized area of baggage claim with the skis and golf club-sized items. Check there before deciding the car seat is truly missing in action.
Also know that if you gate-checked your car seat when boarding the aircraft, it is likely still waiting for you back on the jetbridge.
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 a baggage service office where you can head for help as it becomes clear that your car seat didn’t make it.
You can sometimes track where you checked bags within the airline’s app, so you may know the bag’s location before you ever talk to anyone in the baggage office.
This is where you can ask for help in locating your car seat. They will know if it is floating around the airport somewhere hard to spot, or if it’s on a vacation of its own.
Ask for a loaner car seat
If the car seat is truly missing, ask for a loaner.
Once it has been 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 in the airline’s baggage office. It’s common enough for car seats to miss fights 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 they are a better option than sitting around stuck.
Once loaned, the baggage office may say they don’t need the extra car seat back, or they may arrange for the baggage delivery service who delivers your delayed car seat to ultimately retrieve the loaned seat.
If all else fails
Asking for a loaner car seat should do the trick the majority of the time when an airline loses or delays your car seat’s arrival. 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 the car seats. The quality of these car seats can vary from amazing with Silvercar to less than amazing from some rental companies, but it’s better than being stuck. You can always drive from the airport directly to Target or Walmart to buy a new one and turn the bill into 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 and you can’t drive without it, the last 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 and either the airline or your card’s trip-delay protection should cover the cost in many cases.
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. But, a way to reduce the odds of issues is to actually use the car seat on the flight, at least while your child is young. As your child grows, 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.
But, if your car seat ultimately does miss the flight, don’t panic. Just head to the baggage claim office and ask to borrow a loaner car seat until yours can arrive on a later flight and be hand-delivered to your final destination.
Featured image by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images
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