The Child Aviation Restraint System goes by the acronym CARES, a good call because the full name sounds a bit like a pint-size straitjacket. The product made a splash a while back when it came on the market, but since then it's seemed to fade away. I can't recall ever seeing anyone using one on a plane.
The CARES harness, designed for kids weighing 22 to 44 pounds and approved by the FAA, serves an obvious purpose. When attached to an airline seat, it holds a child in place with car seat-like over-the-shoulders straps, an arrangement that's much safer and more secure than the standard airline lap belt.
If the CARES is like a car seat, why not just bring an actually car seat onto the plane? Well, doing that is a real pain. You've got to lug the car seat through the airport. And, as anyone who has tried to use a car seat on a plane can tell you, airline seats are not designed to accommodate car seats. By some amount of shoving, strapping, and sweating, you can awkwardly get a car seat fastened into an airline seat. But the fit will be less than ideal, and chances are you'll have a toddler whose feet are pressed up against the seat in front of you. And, as anyone who has been around children a bit can tell you, toddlers have been known to kick, if not angrily than simply to stretch their legs.
So why hasn't the CARES system been adopted across the board? For one thing, it costs $75, and many parents aren't going to be flying all that often while their kids are in the 22- to 44-pound window, and therefore won't get that much use out of it.
But cost can't be the only reason. Have you tried this product? If so, what's your take?
Seeing as this is a safety issue, should airlines have a dozen of these harnesses on each plane and loan them out to parents as needed?