Powering Your POC in the Air: An Overview of Flying with Oxygen

One of the greatest benefits that oxygen concentrators give oxygen therapy patients is the freedom to travel, unlike in the earlier days of oxygen tanks. Standard oxygen tanks are not allowed on airlines according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, restricting the ability for those users to travel.

In May 2009, however, oxygen therapy patients were finally allowed to take off: certain portable oxygen concentrators, approved by the FAA for airline travel, are permitted to be taken on the airplane in the cabin. Not all portable concentrators are permitted, but the list of approved POCs is extensive. Some of our most popular FAA approved portable oxygen concentrators are listed here:

  • Inogen One G2
  • Inogen One G3
  • Inogen One G4
  • Respironics SimplyGo
  • Respironics SimplyGo Mini
  • SeQual Eclipse

We strongly recommend that you check with the FAA to ensure your portable oxygen concentrator is approved.

Any airline flying into the United States is required by the Department of Transportation (DOT), which oversees the FAA, to permit passengers to use portable oxygen concentrators, provided that the unit still has its manufacturer’s label indicating it meets FAA requirements. However, it’s also at the airline’s discretion to permit passengers with POCs lacking a label.

Educate yourself with our Free Oxygen Therapy Guide

Powering Your POC in the Air

While many airlines now feature AC power in individual seats, patients should not rely on these outlets for their portable oxygen concentrators. The power is circulated throughout the plane to the various outlets. Therefore, the power that is provided by these outlets is not enough to charge a portable oxygen concentrator. Airlines are not required to provide power for POCs, so it’s the patient’s responsibility to ensure that the unit has power throughout the flight.

Users must ensure that they bring along enough batteries to power the device for the duration of the flight. In fact, the DOT allows airlines to require users to bring enough batteries to power the oxygen concentrator for at least 150% of the flight duration, although it is best to check with your specific airline as they may have additional battery requirements.

Batteries must be in carry-on baggage, as lithium batteries are not permitted in checked baggage. The regulations further state that spare lithium batteries need to be protected, either in their original packaging or in separate pouches or plastic bags, or at least have the terminals insulated with protective tape.

Flight Length and Concentrator Battery Power Requirement

Other FAA and Airline Requirements for POCs

DOT regulations also allow airlines to have requirements of their own regarding portable oxygen concentrators.

Manuals: Airlines have to allow portable oxygen concentrators, but it’s up to the patients to take care of them. Patients should ensure that they understand how to operate the machine and respond to any warning alarms or alerts that may occur. Bringing along the unit’s manual is recommended.

Medical Certificate: While the FAA doesn’t require a physician’s statement to bring a portable oxygen concentrator on board, the airline may require one. To ensure that you don’t experience any delays at the airport, call the airline before booking your ticket to understand that particular airline’s requirements regarding physician’s statements. In addition, it is always wise to travel with your prescription for oxygen in case it is needed.

Portable oxygen concentrators have opened up a whole new world (literally, for some!) for patients. Flying with a unit has never been easier, especially if you know the rules from top to the bottom.

8 thoughts on “Powering Your POC in the Air: An Overview of Flying with Oxygen”

  • Florence E Caplow
    Florence E Caplow April 23, 2018 at 3:18 am

    I had a horrific time with SwissAir for my mother's POC. They blocked us from flying, forced us to buy their oxygen at $450 per flight segment, fouled up in a thousand ways, and when I said I could bring all the batteries needed for a 9 hour flight, refused to allow it even though paperwork had been completed. Then they didn't actually know how to use their own equipment. Don't fly Swiss air if you need oxygen!! In fact, don't fly Swiss if you have any special needs. Does anyone know how to make a complaint to the FAA?

    Reply
    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman April 23, 2018 at 5:53 am

      I am sorry that you had such a bad experience. Since every airline is different we always recommend before you book your tickets researching the airline's requirements for oxygen. Because rules can change without notice we recommend calling the airline you are looking to fly to obtain all of the requirements. This will hopefully give you the best experience on your trip.

      Reply
  • Susan Schearer
    Susan Schearer April 23, 2018 at 3:47 am

    My Inogen One G-4 is a godsend. I've traveled for three weeks to Morocco and Spain, and another three weeks to Australia, with mine. Filling out the airline permission forms, however, is a real hassle and has to be begun early.

    Reply
  • Rodney Tucay

    Last February, 2018 our family went to Tokyo. Air Canada required prior authorization and medical certificate from my lung specialist because I was using a POC---to which I complied. In fact Air Canada called me and informed me that everything was approved and I don't have anything to worry about. I told myself: "Good job Air Canada!" On our return flight (Air Canada) after passing through Air Canada check-in counter in Tokyo, I and my family boarded the Air Canada flight. Before take-off a flight attendant approached me and quizzed me about my POC asking me if I have approval to bring my POC on board. I just looked at her and told her: "Why don't you check with your airline Air Canada?" I guess she then checked with her airline and got her answer because she never went back to me. So for us, no more Airline Canada.

    Reply
  • Peg Fisher

    How much does a battery weigh? If I have a 4 hour flight and need 6 hours of battery power, how many hours will I get from one battery thus how many batteries will I need? Your above artwork is unclear -- it implies the need for 3 batteries for a 4 hour flight. If a battery weighs one pound and I must have 3 batteries or 3 pounds PLUS the weight of the concentrator, how much weight, i.e., how many pounds of equipment in total must I carry? Please show the total weight for each of the portable oxygen concentrators you list in this article since I know the weight of each one differs, thus the total weight with batteries will differ.

    Reply
    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman April 30, 2018 at 7:58 am

      Thank you for your inquiry. I have passed along your information to a specialist who will reach out regarding your request. For more immediate assistance feel free to give our specialists a call at 888-360-9628 or if you prefer email [email protected]

      Reply
  • Pat Morton

    What are your suggestions for going on a 14 day cruise? We will be on the ship for 5 days before we will hit land and be able to get off the ship. I have an Inogen 4 with a double battery and plan to rent a double battery to take with me. I only use it with exertion or walking a short distance.

    Reply
    • Margaret Goodman

      Make sure you check with your airline for the most updated requirements for flying with oxygen. I would also contact the cruise ship line you are traveling on to see if they have any requirements for passengers who are on oxygen. If you will be getting off the ship make sure that you have enough battery life to cover you during any planned activities. You will also want to make sure that if you need an ac adapter that it is also the correct voltage for charging when off of the ship.

      Reply

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