In this blog, we are going to go over everything you need to know about traveling by airplane with oxygen equipment. Now that travel restrictions and COVID-19 precautious are not as strict as they were before, we want give oxygen patients the tools to travel safely with oxygen and with COVID-19 still being a huge safety concern in our everyday lives.
If you are a respiratory patient, this doesn't mean you do not have the ability to explore or visit destinations around the world, and if you need your oxygen therapy all day everyday, this does not mean you have to be stuck at home or in your hometown for the rest of your life. That being said, traveling during a global pandemic is not something that should be taken lightly!
In today’s world, there is modern technology that allows oxygen patients to fly with their oxygen equipment with zero safety hazard, before portable oxygen concentrators were developed, this was not possible. Of course, in today's day and age, there are also safety hazards when it comes to the spread of Coronavirus and everyone should be aware of these risks while traveling and do their best to mitigate the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
Oxygen Equipment and Airline Regulations
First of all, the Air Carrier Access Act does not require airlines to provide medical oxygen to any eligible respiratory patients during flights, so do not expect to be given oxygen on your flight. Very rarely will airlines provide supplemental medical oxygen on flights for their passengers, and if they do this oxygen service typically costs a fee.
Also liquid oxygen and oxygen gas tanks are considered hazardous material, and these devices are not allowed on aircrafts.
Just because liquid and gas oxygen tanks are not safe to fly with doesn't mean oxygen patients are out of luck. U.S. airlines allow passengers to bring their own portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) onto airplanes.
In the next section we will go over the requirements for POCs and elaborate on what air carriers will require from passengers who need supplemental medical oxygen during their flights.
Approved Portable Oxygen Concentrators for Air Travel
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires POC manufacturers, such as Inogen, ResMed, Philips Respironics, to label their new models of POCs, and these labels explain the devices compliance with FAA requirements. If you have a newer POC that is FAA approved, its label will read: “The manufacturer of this portable oxygen concentrator has determined this device conforms to all applicable FAA requirements for portable oxygen concentrator carriage and use on board aircraft.”
Oftentimes airline personnel can check for this label to see whether or not the POC is approved to be used on the aircraft. With older models that do not have labels, airline personnel can look these devices up to check out its FAA approval status.
There are some POCs that are older and do not have a label, and it can still be used on the plane if it is FAA approved. In these cases, airlines can use the list published in Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) to determine whether or not the POC may be used during a flight.
Here are the POC models that do not have an FAA label but they are FAA approved for in flight-use:
- AirSep Focus
- AirSep FreeStyle
- AirSep FreeStyle 5
- AirSep LifeStyle
- Delphi RS-00400
- DeVilbiss Healthcare iGo
- Inogen One
- Inogen One G2
- Inogen One G3
- Inova Labs LifeChoice
- Inova Labs LifeChoice Activox
- International Biophysics LifeChoiceInvacare Solo2
- Invacare XPO2
- Oxlife Independence Oxygen Concentrator
- Oxus RS-00400
- Precision Medical EasyPulse
- Respironics EverGo
- Respironics SimplyGo
- SeQual Eclipse
- SeQual eQuinox Oxygen System (model 4000)
- SeQual Oxywell Oxygen System (model 4000)
- SeQual SAROS
- VBox Trooper Oxygen Concentrator
On Board with your Inogen Portable Oxygen Concentrator
There are some things you need to know and tasks you must accomplish before you travel with a POC. First of all, be aware that the FAA and the airline you are flying on may have different requirements and you must follow both the FAA and the airline’s regulations.
- The FAA regulations do not require that you tell your air carrier about your POC in advance, however almost every airline will have you notify them that you will be flying with oxygen at least 48 hours before your flight.
- If you are flying on Southwest and JetBlue, these airlines also also ask you to check in for your flight at least one hour before takeoff if you are traveling with oxygen.
- There are some instances when your airline will require a physician's statement
- There are some airlines that will require you to demonstrate how you respond to your POC's alarms before you board the aircraft.
Despite what airline you are flying, check the procedures before your trip. You can find updated rules for oxygen equipment on their website.
Charging your Portable Oxygen Concentrator
Even though some aircrafts have electrical outlets, sometimes they will not let you plug your POC into the airplane's electrical system to charge it during the flight. Therefore, you will need to bring an extra battery to power your POC if your flight is longer than your battery will last.
You should try to practice arriving at your gate early, and charging your device while you are waiting in the terminal for your flight to take off, that way you are beginning the flight with full battery power.
You should also bring an extra battery for traveling because you also have to have enough battery power for the taxi time before taking off, takeoff, in-air time, and landing, and baggage claim. Once you are in your rental car or picked up from the airport, you can plug in your device into the cigarette lighter with the DC charging cable.
Depending on your airline, they will require some kind of reassurance that you have enough battery power, for example, some airlines will check to make sure you have enough battery to power your POC for flight time plus three hours.
You can buy extra batteries for your portable oxygen concentrator on LPTMedical.com or call 1(800)-946-1201.
Because both your POC and extra batteries will be considered medical devices they will not count as your carry-on baggage, but they will be screened by TSA personnel.
Renting Portable Oxygen Concentrators
LPT Medical allows you to rent FAA-approved portable oxygen concentrators.
Flying Internationally with Oxygen
If you are flying internationally with your oxygen device, reach out to your airline and let them know that you will need to bring your portable oxygen concentrators with you on board. They will inform you of any other regulations in place based on the country you are flying to.
Traveling During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As of April 2021, the CDC recommends to delay traveling at this time even if you are vaccinated, and suggests that travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19.
If you are traveling there are recommendations you should follow in order to keep yourself and others around you safe.
If you must travel, take these steps to protect yourself and others:
- If you are eligible, get fully vaccinated for COVID-19
- Before you travel, get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip
- Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public
- Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet from anyone who did not travel with you
- Get tested 3-5 days after your trip and stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if your test is negative. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel
- Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements after travel
Be aware that any air passengers coming into the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States. Other countries have other restrictions.
For respiratory patients, COVID-19 is a very real threat to their longterm health wellbeing and even their lives. Mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and reducing the chances of transmission can help save lives, and therefore avoiding travel or traveling very safely it crucial.
With the current state of the global pandemic, travel should not be high on anyone’s list of priorities. And while travel plans may be delayed until further notice, as an oxygen patient you should feel confident and comfortable traveling with your trusted portable oxygen concentrator and extra batteries.
When it does come time to book your flight, notify your air carrier as soon as possible to they can note that you intend to bring a POC with you.
Fulfill any requirement that airlines ask of you in advance, this way if you need a physician’s statement, you can ask them to write that for you prior to your departure. There are airlines with relatively restrictive rules regarding oxygen on board, so be sure to ask a lot of questions when you are speaking with the airline representative so you get all of the information you need to travel with less hassle.
Lastly, be sure to double check the length of your flight with the airline and then factor in any delays that would impact the battery life of your POC
Pretty much, all you have to do is plan in advance, so that traveling with your POC is a smooth process and less stressful.