Everything you need to know about flying with oxygen

Wing of a plane over clouds and blue sky

Flying with oxygen or any medical device can be a hassle. Keeping track of all the different airlines’ policies, following them, and remembering to bring everything you need can be confusing and add unneeded stress. That’s why we put together this post. It includes our top tips for flying with a portable oxygen concentrator and information about over 30 airline oxygen policies.

The information on this page was last updated September 2019.

Important note: the information on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended or implied to a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional before undertaking in new activities such as air travel.

Our experience flying with oxygen

Sarah has a chronic lung disease and must use a portable oxygen concentrator (POC) on flights. She has been flying with a POC for since 2010. In the beginning, flying with a lung disease was scary. And all the extra things we had to do and think about didn’t help. But now, over nine years later, Sarah has flown with a portable oxygen concentrator many times on many airlines around the world. She’s used a few different devices, and now travels with the Inogen One G3. From the big behemoths to budget carriers, from the United States to Europe to Southeast Asia, we’ve got a lot of experience doing this.

We’ve seen things change for the better over the years. These days most airlines allow passengers to fly with their own portable oxygen concentrators. Some airlines provide oxygen canisters to passengers (for a fee), but this is becoming less common. Most importantly, so much more information about flying with oxygen specifically and about accessible travel in general is easily available on airlines’ websites. And more airline staff have experience dealing with people who fly with oxygen.

Tips for flying with a portable oxygen concentrator

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to flying with oxygen. And full disclosure, we’ve definitely messed some stuff up over the years. We’ve forgotten to contact an airline until the day before our flight. We’ve realized at the airport we forgot Sarah’s cannulas (and had to send Justin on a mad rush to get them). We’ve left the apartment without the actual POC (although that time we realized we were missing something halfway down the hall). So our main advice to you: be more organized than us!

To help you do that, we’ve put together a checklist of the ten things you’ll likely need to do when you’re flying with a portable oxygen concentrator (POC).

1. Research and plan early

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to fly by the seat your pants when you’re flying with oxygen. It adds extra steps and often extra time to your travel planning. Contacting and hearing back from airlines can take time. And many airlines require a pre-approval period for passengers with medical conditions. So we recommend starting your research and making your travel plans sooner rather than later.

2. Make sure you have a POC (that works)

If you have your own device, great! If you don’t, arrange renting or borrowing one as early in the process as possible. If you’re renting a POC, test it right when you get it in case there’s a problem. If you have your own but don’t use it often, it’s probably a good idea to test it a couple weeks before you leave.

3. Figure out how many batteries you’ll need for your flight

The FAA requires that people who fly with a portable oxygen concentrator have enough batteries for 150% of the flight time. For example, for a flight that’s listed at four hours, your batteries should last at least six hours. We have never had anyone check this at the airport, but we always try to comply since you never know when a flight will take a little longer than planned. You might need to buy or rent an extra battery for your trip, so it’s best to figure that out sooner rather than too late.

4. Work with your doctor to obtain medical approvals

The majority of the airlines we fly require written doctor’s approval to use a portable oxygen concentrator. And many of them have time frames within which you need to get the forms or letters signed, dated, and submitted. Since we’d rather our doctors spend time helping patients than filling out airline forms, we try to make the process as easy and quick for them as possible.

First, we created a template for a fit-to-fly letter that can easily be adjusted to each flight and put on our doctor’s letterhead. Note, official letterhead can serve in place of a stamp, which is sometimes requested.

Second, we fill out all the non-medical information that’s required for MEDIFs (passenger name, make and model of POC, etc.) before sending them to Sarah’s doctor.

5. Learn a little bit of the local language

If you’re flying internationally, learn the words to talk about your medical device and your disease in the local language. We always learn the words for “oxygen,” “oxygen machine,” and “lung disease.” We usually also write them down in (the likely) case our pronunciation is off. This is especially helpful at security.

6. Charge your batteries and double check your supplies the day before you leave

Make sure all your batteries are charged – it can take a while. Double check you’ve packed all your supplies including extra batteries, AC adapter, and cannulas.

7. Organize your airline approvals and medical forms

Save all the approvals you get from the airlines and print them out or have them easily accessible for when you go to the airport. If you’re bringing digital copies, make sure they’re available offline (or take screenshots) because the flight attendants may ask to see them on the plane (this has happened to us more than a few times).

8. Get to the airport early

Long lines at check-in, explaining to the check-in attendant what a portable oxygen concentrator is, going through extra security screening, not being able to walk so fast – these are all reasons why you might need more time at the airport than your average traveler. We know, airports aren’t the greatest places to hang out for hours, but given the various delays we’ve faced flying with oxygen, it gives us peace of mind to get to the airport extra early.

9. Take advantage of airlines’ other special assistance offerings

If you need to use oxygen all the time, it might be helpful to request a wheelchair at the airport. That way you don’t have to worry about all your luggage and getting where you need to go in the airport. And pre-boarding is helpful if you want to get yourself, your luggage, and your POC situated on the plane before everyone else gets on. Just don’t feel embarrassed or like a burden asking for assistance. Do what’s right for you to make your trip easier and more manageable.

10. Try not to freak out when things go awry

Over the years flying with oxygen, more than a few things have gone awry. From customer service representatives telling us contradictory information, to check-in staff telling us forms were filled out incorrectly, to flight attendants needing to check with the captain (in-flight!) that use of the POC was ok – we’ve had a ton of potential freak-out moments. But everything has always worked out. We’ve always figured out if there was going to be a major hurdle flying a particular airline well before it disrupted our travel plans, and we’ve never not been allowed to board a plane. So if (and most likely when) something goes a bit awry, just keep calm and keep smiling and trust that if you followed the process, things will work out for you too.

Airline oxygen policies

Here’s a list of all the airlines that we’ve flown with a portable oxygen concentrator, including information about their oxygen policies. We only felt comfortable including airlines we’ve actually flown, but there are certainly more that accept passengers flying with oxygen.

If a policy is what we’d consider clear and straightforward, we’ve simply provided the link to the policy on the airline’s website. If a link to a policy does not exist, or if the policy is unclear, or if we just have a good story about figuring it all out, we’ve provided more information.

We update and check the information on this page every time we fly a new airline. But airlines can (and do) update their policies at any time. If you notice a broken link or policy change, please us know.

Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus’ oxygen policy and special assistance information.

Air Asia

Air Asia does not have a formal page with their POC policy, but you can use POCs on board their flights. We found this information here, as the answer to a question on the Air Asia support website. We then followed up with questions by direct messaging them on Twitter. One representative asked to see pictures of the device, which we provided. Then they just followed up with exactly the same information as what was on the webpage above. We advised the representative at check-in, and she had to check her policy book and speak with a manager, but everything was approved and fine.

Air Baltic

Air Baltic does not have specific information on their website about flying with oxygen. We contacted them through this form on their special assistance page. Someone got back to us promptly and asked Sarah to provide additional information about the POC Sarah flies with including a photograph of the battery. They approved that Sarah could bring the POC on board in her hand luggage, but Sarah then had to reply and specify that she wanted to use it in-flight. Sarah then had to complete a MEDIF with her doctor and email it back to them. Upon receipt of the completed MEDIF, they approved Sarah’s use of the POC in-flight within 48 hours.

Air China

Air China allows passengers to use POCs on board their airline, but as indicated on the page with their POC policy, they require passengers to submit an application. This can be found on their website at the link above. However, Sarah submitted the application form and got an auto-reply that it didn’t go through. So she emailed the European desk and it did. But she never heard back. So she called the Air China US desk to ask what to do. The US desk advised that she actually didn’t need to do anything further and to just bring the application form and a physician’s statement to the airport. Wonderful!

Flash forward a month and we are in Shanghai two days before our flight and the European desk finally writes back. They tell Sarah she must go to an Air China office in person to obtain approval. After calling (or asking our Chinese-speaking hotel staff to call) to confirm, we trekked back out to the airport POC and forms in hand. The staff there looked a little befuddled, but after ten minutes of reviewing all the paperwork advised everything was in order and there was no reason for us to have come. We would still need to show the representative at the check-in desk all the forms and machine the day of our flight. So, lesson learned: we should have asked for written confirmation from that US desk. Had we been in a country where we spoke the language and could have called the Air China office ourselves, we may have sorted it out without having to go to the airport. But alls well that ends well. And everything at check in and at the gate went smoothly. On the flight, Sarah had to switch seats because passengers flying with POCs must sit in the window seat.

Air France

Air France’s policies and information for passengers with respiratory difficulties.

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand’s policy regarding portable oxygen concentrators and other medical equipment.

American Airlines

American Airline’s oxygen policy and information about other medical and mobility devices.

Atlantic Airways

Atlantic Airways has information about using oxygen on the reduced mobility section of their booking page. However, they do not mention portable oxygen concentrators, so we contacted them. We were instructed to email them here with the necessary information about her flight reservation, the type of POC, and requirements. They responded in ~24 hours with an approval letter to be printed and brought to the airport/check-in agent. Everything went smoothly.

Austrian Airways

Austrian Airways’ portable oxygen concentrator policy and information about flying with medical conditions.

Our most recent experience flying Austrian Airlines (via a United booking) was July 2019. We discovered they use Lufthansa’s MEDIF and medical desk and ran into a small issue regarding a test they wanted Sarah to take. See below entry on Lufthansa for more information. Since this flight was going to the United States, we were able to complete a simpler form and Sarah did not have to take the test. The Special Assistance representatives were very friendly and helpful and a pleasure to deal with.

Bangkok Airways

The information on the Bangkok Airways website was a bit confusing, and at first we thought Sarah couldn’t fly them. But it was going to cause major problems with our itinerary plan so we emailed them here to inquire. They responded quickly and Sarah had to provide them with the make and model of the POC to obtain approval. They sent MEDIFs to be completed by Sarah and her doctor. We emailed them back for approval once we made the flight reservation and received approval within a couple days.

Delta

Delta’s policy regarding portable oxygen concentrators, other medical devices, and medication.

Easy Jet

Easy Jet’s policy regarding portable oxygen concentrators isn’t the most straightforward, but it is in fact pretty easy. You can find some basic information on their medical conditions page. But we also contacted them before our flight to confirm the requirements. Passengers must bring a medical certificate or letter from their doctor stating their illness and confirming their need to use the device. This does not need to be submitted to the airline in advance. One important note is that the POC must fit in your allowed cabin baggage, so pack accordingly or purchase extra baggage allowance.

Emirates

Emirates’ oxygen policy and special assistance information.

Finnair

Finnair’s oxygen policy and information about flying with medical conditions.

HK Express

HK Express’ portable oxygen concentrator policy and special assistance information.

Iberia Express

There is no information about flying with oxygen on the Iberia Express website. So we called before we booked our flight. We were advised Sarah could bring and use her POC on board and to call back after booking. We did so and were advised to email our booking information, the POC specifications, and a letter from my doctor verifying my needs to a specific address. We did and were advised that the use of a POC does not require authorization by the airline and can be carried as hand luggage. No one at the airport or on the plane asked about the device. We still recommend contacting the airline if you want to fly with them because you never know if their policy might change. If you have other needs, Iberia Express does have other special assistance information here.

Icelandair

Icelandair notes the portable oxygen concentrators they allow on their aircrafts on their special assistance page. It doesn’t explicitly state that you need to contact them to obtain approval to bring one, but we would recommend doing so just to be safe.

Jet2

Jet2’s portable oxygen concentrator policy and special assistance information.

Jet2’s policy states they only accept a small number of POCs on board. So we called Jet2 special assistance before booking our flight to ensure they accepted the Inogen One G3. They do (as do all the other airlines we’ve flown). The representative was extremely helpful and also emailed us the forms we would need to ask Sarah’s doctor to complete. As per his instruction, we called back after making our booking so that it could be noted in our reservation. We emailed the necessary forms when they were ready and got written approval within 24 hours.

Jet Blue

Jet Blue’s oxygen policy and special assistance information.

Jetstar

Jetstar’s oxygen policy.

POCs are only allowed on certain Jetstar flights, which is well laid out in their oxygen policy. We were sad that we could not fly Jetstar in Southeast Asia because their flights are super cheap! But we were able to fly them in New Zealand. At the airport, we were required to board the plane first and the flight attendant strapped the POC to the seat. It was something we’d never experienced before!

KLM

KLM’s oxygen policy.

It’s not 100% clear in the policy, but all we had to do is call KLM in advance of the flight and tell them the make/model of the POC. There were no other requirements and everything went smoothly at the airport and on the plane.

Lufthansa

Lufthansa’s portable oxygen concentrator policy can be found on their dangerous goods page. More general information about Lufthansa’s accessible travel policies can be found here.

Lufthansa recently changed their policy and on certain routes now requires people needing to use supplemental oxygen on flights to submit results of an arterial blood gas test. This is not the case for routes including flights originating in or departing from the United States, but is for other routes. After numerous emails, Sarah received an exception from the airline as this test has never been medically required from her physicians.

Norwegian

Norwegian’s portable oxygen concentrator policy and information about flying with medical conditions.

Ryanair

Ryanair’s policy about oxygen and carrying other medical items onboard.

SAS

SAS’ oxygen policy and special assistance information.

Scoot

Scoot’s portable oxygen concentrator policy and special assistance information.

Note they have different requirements for flights originating from different countries.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines’ portable oxygen concentrator policy and information about flying with medical conditions.

Singapore Airlines allows POCs on-board, but guidance around necessary approvals and forms is a little confusing. On a recent flight, we had to ask Sarah’s physician to complete a MEDIF anytime prior to the flight and then bring a fit-to-fly letter dated within 10 days of the flight to the airport. We also had to specify the make/model of the POC via email. Everything has always gone smoothly flying them, but most recently the approval process took several weeks via many emails, so we recommend contacting them once you’ve booked your flight to confirm everything.

Swiss International Air Lines

Swiss International Air Lines’ oxygen policy and information about flying with medical conditions.

TAP Air Portugal

TAP Air Portugal’s oxygen policy and special assistance information.

Thai Airways

The information on the Thai Airways website is confusing, so Sarah emailed every address she could find. The Thai Airways US desk got back to her. They sent MEDIFs for Sarah and her doctor to complete and send back to them to handle with the airline. One needs to do this 7 business days prior to one’s flight. Everything was approved and there were no issues on the flight.

Transavia

Transavia’s oxygen policy.

Ukrainian International Airlines

Ukrainian International Airlines’ portable oxygen concentrator policy and special assistance information.

Note, it is necessary to bring a completed MEDIF to the airport, but the link on the website is broken. Here is the link to the MEDIF.

United Airlines

United Airline’s onboard medical oxygen policy.

United Airline’s portable oxygen concentrator policy.

Vietnam Airlines

The Vietnam Airlines website only has information about arranging oxygen through the airline, which costs a fee. As such, Sarah emailed them here to ask if she could fly with a POC before making a reservation. They asked for a photograph of the POC as well as its dimensions. After that, they quickly responded advising it was okay and asked her to bring a physician’s statement. We recommend contacting them before booking.

Wizz Air

Wizz Air’s oxygen policy and special assistance information.

Note, Wizz Air has recently updated their baggage policy, but we’ve been informed that the POC does not count towards one’s baggage allowance.

We know all of this can be overwhelming. So if you have any questions about a specific airline or flying with oxygen in general, please feel free to ask in the comments or contact us.

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22 thoughts on “Everything you need to know about flying with oxygen

  1. Maria Teniente says:

    Easy to read and understand. Perfectly worded and so thorough.
    On my trips, since I have to call ahead so that my machine is waiting at a hotel, I’ve experienced the following:
    1. I’ve called a few days before, just to verify all information, and end up receiving TWO machines! So now, I only call once.
    This happened 3 times!
    2. Many, many times, they will forget a part…small parts. So, I keep a list to review with them, when I call to order. Additionally, I always keep and carry extra parts small parts with me. (those inch long “connectors” and the tubing that go from water tank to machine)…

  2. Anne says:

    Very useful because of variety of individual airline requirements often in flux. I like to recharge my POC while waiting for my flight in the gate area to maximize my battery life. Having a power strip is helpful. If electrical outlets are all taken by cell phone rechargers, airport and airlines staff can help with access to outlet because medical needs have priority over phone. Another practice I have is to always take my POC to the toilet. Ventilation is often very poor, air fresheners and movement in the very small space can lead to shortness of breath.

    • Sarah and Justin says:

      Thanks for sharing your great tips! That’s especially interesting and good to know about airports prioritizing outlet use for medical situations.

  3. Andrea McGowan says:

    Thank you so much for this post! My husband and I are planning on flying with our son in October for the first time. He’s on continuous oxygen for his heart/lung condition. Can you share your template for a fit-to-fly letter?

    Thanks!

  4. LuAnn Booker says:

    Thank you for the helpful information. Could you please share your template for a fit-to-fly letter with me also? Thank you!

  5. Susan hessian says:

    I am 70 have asthma and Bronchiectasis as well as only one lung. Very nervous of flying not sure I should but booked for SPAIN with jet 2 in July. Would appreciate the template please., on oxygen for exercise at moment. Thank you for your info.

    • Sarah and Justin says:

      Hi Susan, we will gladly send you the template. Did you speak to your doctor about flying? We recommend getting input/approval from a physician before undertaking any air travel.

  6. Alison says:

    Thank you for this fantastic blog and for the detailed information about each airline too.

    We are just starting down our own journey of needing oxygen soon (my husband), but are keen travellers like yourselves and he likely needs to travel regularly for medical check ups (we live in Hanoi, Vietnam and he will need to travel to Bangkok), so finding this page was such a relief, compared to reading the individual airline pages. The Vietnam Airlines guidance also says he would have to travel with a medical professional assistant to use their oxygen, so it was so useful to hear about your own experiences.

    Thanks again for sharing this so clearly!

    Please do share your fit to fly template with me too.

  7. Eduardo says:

    Hi
    Thanks for this very nice and useful compilation.
    My wife also uses an Inogen One G3 and 1* 8 cell plus 1* 16 cell battery was always enough for our flights. We’ve flown a longer flight with Emirates from Lisbon to Maldives via Dubai and chosen to use their oxygen bottles instead of POC because batteries weren’t enough for the flight and because (with MEDIF) providng oxygen is complimentary. But we’re now planning to fly to America (both Brazil and USA) which the batteries we have are insufficient and find it difficult to find (in Europe) where to rent POC+batteries or simply Batteries. Any idea or advice ?

    • Sarah and Justin says:

      Thanks for the comment. We’re glad you found the post helpful. Unfortunately, no. We’ve had to buy more batteries ourselves for our longest flights. If you’re in Europe, the Inogen international website can connect you to purveyors.

  8. Nancy Warren says:

    So blessed I can travel! Really enjoyed all the comments. I have traveled with POCs since 2014. Some problematic and some easy people on the phones and at the airports. I thought the FAA rules had the last word but I guess the airline can over rule! I’m hoping for the day when there is one universal form For all airlines that is good for years – Call FAA TSA and your airlines ! Nancy.

  9. Fred says:

    Would you please share your template with us? Fabulous website; very encouraging.
    We’re on a 31 day fly around the world trip, northern hemisphere, 5 airlines. Departure on 16 October, 2019.
    Judy has IPF and was prescribed oxygen 6 weeks ago. We are flying business class, thanks to Aeroplan points!
    Fred & Judy, Winnipeg

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