Over the years we have accumulated lots of experience when it comes to travelling with oxygen needs. Since I started travelling with oxygen we have been flying all over Europe, to North Africa, and a few months ago also across the Atlantic to the US. Being able to make such a long journey was fantastic, as I years ago had given up the thoughts of making such a long flight. However, with the right equipment and preparations, it all went like a dream.
All airlines are obliged to follow IATA rules when it comes to assisting their passengers, and they are not allowed to discriminate us based on our illness. But they all have slight variations in their procedures, and we have also experienced huge differences in the quality of service provided.
But here is a list of what we have learned over the years:
- Contact your airline as early as possible to report your need for oxygen. If you are bringing your own device they will most likely want to know make/model. They may also require a medical form to be signed by your doctor, declaring you “Fit to fly”. This can all take a little time, so don’t wait until last moment.If you don’t have an oxygen concentrator that you can use on the plane, the airline is also able to provide you with liquid oxygen for the flight, but expect to pay for this.
- If you want to travel with your own oxygen concentrator, you must have one that is FAA-approved for use in-flight. Also, the airlines will require you to have sufficient battery to not only last you through the planned flight, but also some extra in case of unforeseen situations. Airlines have different rules for this, but as a rule of thumb you will need battery for the duration of the flight x 2. Airlines will not allow you to bring your own liquid oxygen.
- Make use of disability assistance on the airports. This speeds up your check-in, gets you through security much faster, and leaves you with more energy left before your flight starts. This service will need to be ordered in advance, normally at least 48 hours prior to departure. So far, we have never been charged for this service.
- If you have any allergies that can be affected by the air around you – i.e. perfumes, citrus, nuts etc – do not hesitate to let the flight attendants know as soon as you board the plane. Don’t rely on this information being passed on even if you have informed the airline already. When they know about your situation, all flight attendants we have met have been incredibly helpful.
- When going through security you will be asked to send your oxygen concentrator through the x-ray machine. Make the staff aware of your need to get the machine back as quick as possible, as you require it to maintain your oxygen levels. But for hygiene reasons, keep your nose hose with/on yourself. After all, you’re going to put it back in your nose! It is made from silicone, and will not spring any alarms when you go through the scan.
- Consider bringing a mask to protect yourself from dust and/or fumes in the air. It may well be a bit uncomfortable, but better than getting ill.