How to Travel With Oxygen

If you need to travel with oxygen, let your airline know at the time you book your ticket.

5 min read
In this article
  • Your cystic fibrosis care team can help you know if you need oxygen in flight with a high-altitude test
  • Check with your airline before your flight, so you know what their in-flight oxygen policies are. 
  • If you are traveling internationally, learn the voltage to ensure your oxygen portable oxygen concentrator. 

Air pressure and oxygen concentration are lower at high altitudes than on the ground. This can make it harder to breathe, especially for people with cystic fibrosis who have decreased lung function. If you need oxygen at home, you will need more when in flight. If you are close to needing oxygen at home, you will probably need it in flight. Because oxygen levels can drop at high altitudes, it is possible that you may need oxygen in flight, even if you do not require supplemental oxygen at home. Your CF team will determine whether you need oxygen in flight during the high-altitude test.

If you need to travel with oxygen, let your airline know at the time you book your ticket. It is always a good idea to let them know again before beginning your trip. If you also need oxygen at your destination or at connecting airports during layovers, you must make arrangements with a local oxygen company.

Oxygen While Flying

Every airline has its own policy for in-flight oxygen use. Most airlines, but not all, require people who need supplemental oxygen to carry a prescription. And only some require their own medical form your doctor must complete. Because the policies vary, it's best to check on specific requirements at the time you book your ticket. You may want to ask the following questions:

  • What documentation do I need for in-flight oxygen?
  • Do you offer in-flight oxygen?
  • Which portable concentrators are allowed to be used in flight?
  • How much advance notice is required to arrange for oxygen?
  • What is the charge for oxygen?
  • What assistance is available during transit?

Compressed Oxygen

Federal regulations prohibit airlines from allowing passengers to bring their own oxygen canisters aboard to use during the flight. Some airlines provide oxygen for free. Other airlines provide oxygen for an additional cost depending on the flight route. A separate charge usually applies for each leg of the trip; that means that non-direct flights may result in two or more charges for oxygen. Be sure to check with your insurance company to determine if or how oxygen costs will be covered while traveling.

Portable Oxygen Concentrators

Only certain portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are allowed to be used in flight. The following POCs are approved by the FAA as of Oct. 7, 2015:

  • The AirSep Freestyle, manufactured by the AirSep Corporation
  • The AirSep Freestyle 5, manufactured by the AirSep Corporation
  • The AirSep Lifestyle, manufactured by the AirSep Corporation
  • The AirSep Focus, manufactured by the AirSep Corporation
  • Caire Model 4000, manufactured by Caire Inc.
  • Delphi RS-00400/Oxus RS-00400, manufactured by Delphi Medical Systems
  • DeVilbiss Healthcare iGo, manufactured by DeVilbiss
  • Inogen One, manufactured by Inogen Corporation
  • Inogen One G2, manufactured by Inogen Corporation
  • Inogen One G3, manufactured by Inogen Corporation
  • Inova Labs LifeChoice Activox, manufactured by Inova Labs
  • International Biophysics LifeChoice, manufactured by Inova Labs
  • Invacare XPO2, manufactured by Invacare Corporation
  • Invacare SOLO2, manufactured by Invacare Corporation
  • OxLife Independence Oxygen Concentrator, manufactured by OxLife Inc.
  • Precision Medical EasyPulse, manufactured by Precision Medical
  • Respironics EverGo, manufactured by Respironics Inc.
  • Respironics SimplyGo, manufactured by Respironics Inc.
  • SeQual Eclipse, manufactured by SeQual Technologies Inc.
  • SeQual SAROS, manufactured by SeQual Technologies Inc.
  • Trooper, manufactured by VBOX Inc.

Other POC brands and models may be carried in the cabin with the batteries removed but cannot not be used during flight. POCs do not count toward carry-on limits, whether or not they are used on board. However, they must be able to fit underneath the seat or in an overhead compartment.

If you are traveling with a POC, let the airline know at least 48 hours in advance. Airline staff will confirm whether the device you are planning to use is on the list of current, approved devices and will help provide guidance on the number of batteries you will need for your flight. You will also need a medical certificate from your doctor that confirms your need for a POC during flight and the required flow rate in liters per minute.

If you need to use the POC in flight, make sure you have enough battery power to cover any travel delays as well. Most airlines suggest you have an ample supply of fully charged batteries, plus three hours of extra battery time for the flight. In-seat electrical power is only available on a limited number of aircraft, so there is no guarantee that in-seat power will be available.

Using a POC while Traveling Internationally

If you use a POC and are traveling internationally, you will need to know what type of voltage is used in the country you're traveling to and what type of adapter or plug is needed to charge your POC. You can purchase converters and sets of adapter plugs at most travel or luggage stores and at electronic stores.

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