Traveling for oxygen patients can seem impossible or daunting. However, with portable oxygen concentrators, taking a vacation or enjoying a new adventure is incredibly feasible. This article offers tips for oxygen patients who are looking to travel via airplane. We hope that patients can utilize this article to create a check list so that their next flight is as hassle free as possible.
1. Ensure your portable solution is FAA approved. Tanks, liquid oxygen, and other forms of stored compressed oxygen are not FAA approved. If you have a portable oxygen concentrator make sure it is on the list of FAA approved concentrators. All portable oxygen concentrators offered by Oxygen Butler for sale or rental are FAA approved for in flight use.
2. Contact the airline at least 48 hours prior to your flight to make sure all special arrangements are in order for you to make it to your gate and onto your plane. This can include setting up wheelchair assistance, obtaining special documentation for oxygen use onboard, and checking flight status. The earlier you contact your airline the more time you have to make all necessary arrangements for your flight.
3. Speak with your pulmonologist or primary care physician! Let them know that you are traveling soon and that you will be flying. Airplanes are pressurized to 9000 ft and can change how your body processes oxygen significantly. Your doctor will let you know if you need to increase your flow rate for the duration of the flight to account for the altitude change.
4. Carry a copy of your prescription while you travel. While not necessary we advise patients bring a copy with them as a safety precaution just in case you are questioned regarding your oxygen use or you need proof of your need while traveling.
5. Bring your pulse oximeter. This should be a standard for ALL oxygen patients regardless of travel or not. It is very important to be able to monitor your oxygen saturation levels at any time. On an airplane if you notice your saturation changing you want to know so that you can increase/decrease your flow rate as needed.
6. Know the FAA guidelines regarding use of a portable concentrator onboard. The primary rule you will want to know is that all airlines require AT LEAST 150% battery life to the length of the flight. For example, a 4 hour flight would require at least 6 hours of battery life. If you want to know how long your concentrator will last contact us and we can provide tell you how long your battery will last, we just need to know what setting you will run the machine at!
7. Find a travel buddy! Having someone to travel with and help you with anything that may arise can help reduce stress levels and make your trip more enjoyable. It does not matter if they are a friend, family member, or even a friendly stranger an extra set of hands to help change batteries or place luggage above is always an added benefit.
8. Utilize the AC/DC charging capabilities of your portable oxygen concentrator. While traveling to and from the airport plug your concentrator into the cigarette lighter to keep your machine charged. When you reach your gate find a nearby wall outlet and plug in to help conserve & charge your battery prior to the flight.
9. Familiarize yourself with the portable oxygen concentrator. If you are renting the POC and this is the first time you are using the device try to make sure you have 24 hours with the unit before your flight. It is important to know how to fully operate the unit including turning the machine on and off, charging the batteries, changing the flow rate, and swapping out extra batteries.
10. Plan ahead! Try to give yourself a couple weeks of planning before your trip. While Oxygen Butler can provide a POC within 24 hours of notice many other providers may need up to three weeks to provide a unit. In addition, many airlines require advanced notice for traveling with oxygen. To make your life easier try to give yourself 3-4 weeks to accumulate everything you need so that your trip is as easy and carefree as possible!
Below is a list of some of the major airlines with links to their policies regarding portable oxygen concentrators:
American Airlines – 1-800-222-2377
American Airlines Travel Information
Delta Airlines Travel Information
Frontier Airlines – 1-800-432-1359
Frontier Airlines Travel Information
Southwest – 214-792-4847
Southwest Airlines Travel Information
United Airlines – 1-800-864-8331
United Airlines Travel Information
Virgin America – 1-877-359-8474
Virgin American Airlines Travel Information