Guide to Flying with an Oxygen Concentrator

If you need to use a portable oxygen concentrator for traveling by air, there are some special considerations you’ll want to make.The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) doesn’t allow passengers to bring portable oxygen tanks or liquid oxygen on board, so if you require oxygen during a flight, you’ll have to use a portable oxygen concentrator.

In a continuing effort to educate oxygen users about traveling and flying with oxygen, we’ve created this guide to assist in planning your next flight. By planning well, you can ensure you that you can have an enjoyable and successful trip.

Things to Consider Before Your Flight

There are four essential things to help you have a safe and stress-free flight with your oxygen concentrator, without any unnecessary delays: physician involvement, FAA compliance and approval, and battery requirements.

Guide to Flying with an Oxygen Concentrator - Things to Consider Before Your Flight

1. Physician Involvement

Your physician will play a significant role in your pre-flight preparation. Before your scheduled flight, discuss your oxygen needs with your physician. You’ll also need to get a physician’s statement expressing your medical requirement to use oxygen. Although the FAA doesn’t require you to obtain a physician’s statement, many individual air carriers do require this.

2. FAA Compliance

The FAA has a detailed document that outlines the on-flight compliance requirements for using a portable oxygen concentrator. Click here to view the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Requirements for the use of portable oxygen concentrators (POC) on board aircraft.

3. FAA Approval

For a complete list of concentrators that are FAA approved for in-flight use click HERE.

Be sure to always double check with the airline itself for their individual rules and regulations regarding in-flight oxygen concentrator usage.

4. Battery Requirements

One critical point to remember is having enough battery power for your device. The overall principle to follow is this: Never rely on aircraft electrical power to charge your device during a flight.

Airlines and the FAA require you to bring sufficient batteries to power your device for at least 150% of the expected maximum flight duration. For example, if your flight is supposed to be 10 hours long, your batteries should be charged enough to last 15 hours.

Spare rechargeable batteries carried on board must be individually protected from short circuit by either keeping them in their original package, insulating terminals by taping over the exposed terminals, or by placing each battery in a separate plastic bag. Spare batteries are prohibited from being carried in checked baggage on an aircraft.

Things to Consider During Your Flight

During your flight, there are some special considerations to keep in mind for your safety and the safety of other passengers:

Things to Consider During Your Flight - Guide to Flying with Oxygen
1. Device Storage

The important thing to remember with storage is that your device should allow other passengers to move around the cabin freely without tripping and falling. The best place to put your concentrator is below the seat in front of you so you can see and hear any potential alarms coming from the device. Also, if you have a long cannula, make sure to place your tubing beneath the chair neatly, so no one trips over it.

Also, the air intake filters on your device must remain free from blockage to prevent overheating and system shutdown. Be sure to leave your device open to air and don’t place anything on top of it.

2. Device Manual

Carry the user manual for your device with you on your flight in case you need to troubleshoot a problem. Below is a list of manuals for top rated units that can be downloaded and printed.

Click the following link to view manuals for all units..

3. Cabin Pressure

At cabin pressure, altitudes greater than 8,000–10,000 feet, may prevent your oxygen concentrator from providing sufficient oxygen to meet your needs. Make sure you know how to use the available oxygen masks in case you need to find an alternative solution.

4. Seating Requirements

The FAA prohibits any portable oxygen user from sitting in an exit row; if you notice your seat is in an exit row, please ask your flight attendant if you can change your seating arrangement.

Things to Consider After Your Flight

Once your flight is complete, there are a few more things to keep in mind, especially for your return flight home.

Guide to Flying with an Oxygen Concentrator - Things to Consider After Your Flight

1. Recharge Your Batteries

Before you board your return flight, make sure your batteries are fully charged, so you have maximum power during your flight. Most airport terminals have outlets available in waiting areas, so make sure to plug in your device to a power outlet while waiting for your flight.

2. Keep your Documents in a Safe Place

Keep your physician’s statement, user manual, and any other documentation in a safe place during your trip. You’ll need your documentation for the journey back, so make sure to keep everything organized just in case you need to present it again.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re taking a trip for pleasure or business, making sure you have everything prepared for a safe flight with your portable oxygen concentrator is essential. Following these simple guidelines will help you have a smooth trip with minimal delays.

21 thoughts on “Guide to Flying with an Oxygen Concentrator”

  • Carlton John

    Airlines insist that a POC user needs a window seat. Southwest doesn't require a physician's document

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Carlton. We have found that every airline differs and their policies can change frequently. To ensure you have no hold-ups or mishaps the day of your trip, we suggest always contacting your airline directly and inquiring with them. Additionally, be sure to indicate wether or not you will be using or simply transporting an oxygen concentrator.

      Reply
  • L.A. Malkin

    extremely useful and timely,as my son and I are planning a trip to California.

    Reply
  • Bobbie Jo Sanchez
    Bobbie Jo Sanchez October 18, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    Do you have any forms for flying we can use to take to the provider?

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Bobbie. As we mention in the blog, you will want to reach out to your airline directly and inquire what is needed to utilize an oxygen concentrator during flight. Your doctor, who prescribed you oxygen therapy, should be able to provide you with any forms required for the airline.

      Reply
  • Paul Hellwig

    American Airlines require POC user's to have a window seat. We flew Delta and used isle seats.

    Reply
  • Mandi

    Also, TSA has a program that they will assist you and your POC through the security screening. You just need to call them a few days in advance to arrange it.

    Reply
    • Kris

      Thanks, this is all very helpful. I'm flying with my Mom and her POC to Arizona at Thanksgiving, and trying to get everything in order!

      Reply
      • Danielle Jason

        We are glad to hear it, Kris! Let us know if you have any other questions we can answer or turn into blogs posts/articles!

        Reply
  • Murray

    When changing from depleted battery to fully charged one make sure your settings on the concentrator remain the same, you may have to reset it to your needs. Failure to do so may result in a quickly depleted battery, this is true of some pulse/continuous flow machines. In the cramped environment of an aircraft this is not the easiest task to do.

    Take the time to label your batteries, I just bought some stickers 1 to 4 so if there is a problem battery you can identify it.

    Travel safe folks.

    Reply
  • Michael Arkin

    Does anyone know what the requirements may be for international travel such as coming back from the Middle East ir North Africa ?

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      This will depend on the airline you are flying with. We suggest speaking with your individual airline directly.

      Reply
  • Bill Dingrt

    On my last flight The plane flew higher than my POC was able to help me. I spoke to the stewardess and she brought me a portable oxygen tank which I used until the plan came down in altitude.

    Reply
  • Kathleen Caizzi

    Delta first class has 110 outlets for plug in devices (AC) at the seats. Why can we not use these??

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Kathleen. If Delta has indicated that you can not use an oxygen concentrator on board, you must abide by the individual airlines request. We can not speak to Delta's rules and regulations; you will need to inquire directly with them.

      Reply
  • Jerry

    Flew on American and British Air recently..business class with 110 outlets available. Have a Sequal 5 and outlets would not run concentrator, but would run battery charger. Any explanation why?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Jerry. If you are experiencing your machine charging but not actually running this is because the outlet available does not have enough power to power your machine at the current setting. If you asses your user manual you can find the voltage requirements for running your unit. It is also important to note that most airlines will have a lower amount of power or voltage available on board the aircraft. It is always imperative to contact your airline directly, well before your trip, and indicate you will need to use an oxygen concentrator on board; be sure to indicate if it needs to be physically used or merely travel with you.

      Reply
  • Susan

    I travel with a POC and what do I have to do to contact the TSA to ask about traveling with it. What do I ask them?

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Susan. We suggest contacting your individual airline directly as each airline has their own set of rules and regulations regarding medical equipment on board. When you call be sure to indicate if you will need to use the machine during flight or if you are merely carrying it onboard.

      Reply
  • Dennis Westhoff
    Dennis Westhoff December 6, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Five flights (three different airlines) with my POC. I have never been told that I could not sit in an aisle seat.
    The best advice is talk to the individual airline, they all have different rules and approaches. One additional item, FAA rules do not apply to foreign airlines. On British Airways, I was told that I would not be permitted to use the larger Simply Go large battery (the 8 hour one) (even though it is FAA approved) so I bought four additional 4 hour batteries. At check in and on the plane no one ever looked at the batteries? To date the only airline to inspect my POC batteries prior to boarding was American Airlines.
    As this excellent article suggests...do your home work and talk to the airline prior to travel!

    Reply

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