Rules for Traveling With Oxygen on Airplanes

Tips for COPD Patients Who Need In-Flight Supplemental Oxygen

travelers going through TSA before entering airport terminal
Alex Wong/Getty Images

If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and are planning air travel, you may need to have supplemental oxygen on an airplane, even if you don't use it at home.

Rules for Supplemental Oxygen on Airplanes

In the past, passengers who needed oxygen were met with many obstacles when they tried traveling with oxygen on an airplane. Thanks to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), however, traveling with oxygen by airplane has never been easier.

According to the DOT final rule “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel,” which became effective in May of 2009 and regulates the use of respiratory assistive devices on flight, oxygen-dependent passengers may now carry their own Federal Aviation Administration-approved, battery-powered portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) onboard U.S. domestic and international flights with more than 19 passenger seats beginning or ending in the United States.

In addition to POCs, respiratory assistive devices also include nebulizers, respirators, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. Compressed oxygen tanks and liquid oxygen are not allowed on airplanes.

FAA-Approved Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POCs)

Portable oxygen concentrators must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). To date, there are 21 POCs approved by the FAA to carry on board your flight.

They include:

  • AirSep Focus
  • AirSep FreeStyle
  • AirSep FreeStyle 5
  • AirSep LifeStyle
  • (Caire) SeQual eQuinox / Oxywell (model 4000)
  • Delphi RS-00400 / Oxus RS-00400
  • DeVilbiss Healthcare iGo
  • Inogen One
  • Inogen One G2
  • Inogen One G3
  • Inova Labs LifeChoice Activox
  • International Biophysics LifeChoice / Inova Labs LifeChoice
  • Invacare XPO2 / XPO100
  • Invacare Solo2
  • Oxylife Independence Oxygen Concentrator
  • Precision Medical EasyPulse
  • Respironics EverGo
  • Respironics Simply Go
  • Sequal Eclipse
  • SeQual SAROS
  • VBox Trooper

Tips for Planning a Flight With Oxygen

If you're planning a trip and are oxygen dependent, keep these tips in mind when traveling with oxygen:

  • Every airline is different. When making an airline reservation, ask about specific regulations and restrictions that may apply when carrying oxygen onboard your flight. Not all airlines allow POCs and some airlines may even provide you with oxygen. 
  • Always schedule a pre-trip medical exam before traveling. Discuss traveling with oxygen with your doctor.
  • Don't forget to obtain a letter of medical necessity from your doctor during your pre-trip medical exam. This must be carried with you and presented to the airline before you board your plane. Remember, the letter should include your oxygen flow-rate. You may want to make an extra copy and tuck it away in your luggage, in the event you lose your in-hand copy before your return home. You can ask the airline for specifics on this as each one has a different policy.
  • Consider renting your POC from an oxygen supply company if you don't typically need oxygen, but make sure it's one of the above-listed FAA-approved kinds. 
  • Remember that altitude may increase your oxygen requirement. Your prescription for oxygen should reflect this.
  • Don't forget to carry your medications in your carry-on luggage and to carry an adequate supply of COPD rescue inhalers when you travel. It's wise to keep any medications in their original containers.

For more information about FAA requirements for traveling with oxygen by airplane, visit the FAA website

Sources

Federal Aviation Administration. FAA Approved Portable Oxygen Concentrators - Positive Testing Results.

Stoller, JK.  Patient education: Supplemental oxygen on commercial airlines (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate. 

Transporation Security Administration. Disabilities and Medical Conditions: Respiratory Equipment

Continue Reading