**UPDATE: FEBRUARY 2016**
Sad to say that KLM backtracked on their commitment to allow car seats be installed rear facing. Their website states that car seats must be turned forward facing during cruising altitude so as not to interfere with the recline of the seat in front. Because they are a European carrier, they are not beholden to FAA regulations that state definitively state that car seat safety is more important than recline. There are several examples of poorly-treated passengers in the comments below, and Petra has detailed her extremely unpleasant experience HERE.
Have Baby Will Travel has been online for over five years, and while we’ve helped thousands of parents and family members with tips about flying with a baby, it’s always been via navigating existing policies regarding kids on planes. As much as I would love it if airlines would consult with traveling parents on what would actually make their lives easier, it never occurred to me that they would actually listen.
Then, last summer, Laurel booked a seat for her (then) 1-year-old son, H., on a KLM AMS-YYZ return flight. On the leg home, she was asked by the flight attendants to remove his car seat, since it interfered with the recline of the seat in front. After an exchange with KLM’s president that Laurel deemed unsatisfactory, she wrote to me, and I wrote a post detailing her ordeal, and wondered why KLM seemed to value a passenger’s comfort more than an infant’s safety. Ultimately Laurel was refunded the amount of baby H’s one-way airfare, which she felt was fair.
Then, in July, a Have Baby Will Travel Facebook friend pointed out that the KLM car seat policy had changed and directed me to a link on their website. The policy used to read online as:
If a seat has been reserved for your child, you may bring your own car/child seat aboard on the condition that it fits between the armrests of the aircraft seat (42 cm/16.5 inches). Only child seats that display no defects and that carry a visible seal of approval awarded by the European Union or an official government agency may be taken aboard.
Then it was changed to (emphasis mine):
If a seat has been reserved for your child, we recommend that you bring your own car/child seat (child restraint device) aboard on the condition that it fits between the armrests of the aircraft seat (42 cm/16.5 inches). Only forward facing child seats that display no defects and that carry a visible seal of approval awarded by the European Union or an official government agency may be taken aboard.
I wrote about KLM’s change to their car seat policy, and took that change to mean they were trying to avoid another incident such as Laurel’s – and I like to toot my own horn in thinking I had something to do with that. One problem, though, such a forward facing child seat simply does not exist for infants under a certain age and weight. And it’s not recommended to put a rear-facing car seat in a forward facing position – regardless if it’s on an aircraft.
Then something happened that surprised me. KLM responded via Twitter, and said that they would comply with car seat recommendations, and would change their policy accordingly.
Now all of this happened happened back in July. And there were times I thought that maybe KLM was just giving lip service to get me off their back. But yesterday I checked the website, and here is
what it now says used to say (see ed. note above) as KLM’s Car Seat Policy:
If you have reserved a seat for your child, we recommend that you bring your own car/child seat (child restraint device) on board.
- The car/child seat must be able to fit between the armrests of the aircraft seat (42 cm/16.5 inches).
- Your child and the child seat need to be secured according to the seat manufacturer’s instructions.
- A child seats may show no defects and must carry a visible seal of approval for use on board an aircraft by the European Union or an official government agency.
- The use of a car/child seat must be reserved in advance. Please contact KLM Telephone Reservations or your local KLM ticket office.
Now, the fact that the use of a car seat has to be reserved may make work for the KLM staff, but what it does do is ensures the car seat can be used, and properly, and that the seat in front of the car seat will likely have the recline restricted, so not to book someone paying a premium end up there.
Seriously, in my opinion, WIN/WIN.
@hvbabywilltrvl At least, for now, you have an update on this. Thank you for helping us to improve our services 🙂
— Royal Dutch Airlines (@KLM) July 10, 2012
Rarely am I surprised. This surprised me. I’m also really proud that I, and my little website, had a hand in getting a major airline take a look at, and then revise their airline policies. I’ve never flown KLM, but now I wouldn’t hesitate to give them a try.
This was one small step for KLM, but one giant leap for traveling parents everywhere! (NOPE. See ed. note above. Boo, KLM).