Last Updated on 9th May 2021 by Sarah and Justin
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.
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.
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 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 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 New Zealand
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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’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.
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!
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’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.
Note they have different requirements for flights originating from different countries.
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
TAP Air Portugal
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.
Ukrainian International Airlines
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.
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.
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.