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The month of May, 2008 marked a long awaited victory for the COPD community when the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) advised airlines that they must allow passengers to carry on their own portable oxygen concentrators. The only restriction -- all concentrators must be approved by the DOT.

In an effort to help ease accessibility to oxygen for passengers who must travel with it, the Airline Council of America (AOCA) has been a leader in trying to revise policies that may have impeded air travel for oxygen-dependent patients.

The new rule takes effect May 13, 2009. Until then, airlines have the last say as to whether or not they will allow portable oxygen concentrators on board during the transition. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports that, to date, 50 airlines are already making the allowance. And the good thing...the new rule will apply to U.S. airlines worldwide and to foreign flights that either begin or end in the United States.

Currently, five portable oxygen concentrators have been approved to carry on board an airplane: AirSep Freestyle, AirSep Lifestyle, Inogen One, Respironics EverGo and Sequal Eclipse. The revised rule, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters, "expands the protections people with disabilities will enjoy while traveling by air".

In spite of the revised ruling, a decision has not been made as to whether or not an airline will be required to supply medical oxygen to passengers. The decision of mandatory medical oxygen aboard planes is pending further investigation into associated costs.

In lieu of the new rule, passengers who plan to carry oxygen aboard a plane will have to meet certain pre-boarding conditions. This will include advance check-ins (before the general public), fully charged batteries for 150% of the flight time, a doctor's statement of medical necessity and extra batteries that are properly packaged.

The text of the final rule is available online at www.regulations.gov, docket number DOT-OST-2004-19482.

What do you think about this new ruling? Will it make you more likely to travel by air? Please take the poll and leave a comment.

Read more about living with COPD and air travel:

Learning to Adjust: Living with COPD


COPD Digest. Volume 4, No. 2. 2008.

September 25, 2008 at 12:47 pm
(1) Jenn says:

I think this is fantastic! A coworker had to get off a plane last year (on the way to a business meeting) because they objected to the battery pack she used. Grrrr.

I think this is a wonderful development. Most chronically ill people cannot tolerate being in the car for days on end, but they can tolerate a four hour flight. It is insane to me that someone ever thought it was acceptable to ban their oxygen from a plane. Knee jerk reaction to security concerns means ill Americans suffer, certainly not terrorists.

I hope this information gets out to the oxygen dependent patients quickly. They deserve a trip to California or a Disney vacation just like the rest of us.

A victory for patient’s rights!

September 25, 2008 at 12:56 pm
(2) copd says:

What a great story to share with the readers. I think that the more steps the airlines can take to help those who must travel with oxygen, the better. I can’t imagine the airlines not accomodating your friend. That is a shame and is almost like discrimination.

September 25, 2008 at 1:22 pm
(3) Kathleen, Asthma Guide says:

My mother has COPD and is on continuous oxygen for the last 3 years. When it happened, she believed she might never be able to see her other daughter and granddaughters again as they refuse to fly and live 4000 miles away. Now Mom is testing the waters with a short 2-hour flight to visit a nephew with her sister. Perhaps next she’ll be able to visit my sister. This new ruling has given her renewed hope for the future, in terms of quality of life.

October 1, 2008 at 9:53 pm
(4) copd says:

I am so happy for your mom. Sounds like this new ruling was made just for her.
Thanks for you comment,

October 2, 2008 at 10:26 am
(5) diane says:

I have COPD and I looked into the airline supplying me with oxygen while flying with them and they wanted $200. for every leg of my fight. That meant that every time they touched down I would have had to pay another $200. My trip had 3 touch downs, so it was $600. one way. I am so happy that they will not be able to rob us any more. I did not use oxygen while I was flying. I could not afford it. The sad thing is that they had it on the plane… all planes have it in case of a crash.

October 3, 2008 at 12:46 am
(6) copd says:

I think that the airlines should be ashamed of themselves robbing people like that. I just can’t believe that they could get away with that. Thank God for this ruling for everyone’s sake and thank you for your comment


October 9, 2008 at 7:18 pm
(7) Hose nose says:

Thanks to the new ruling my wife and I are off to China for four weeks of sight seeing and some hands on research for my novel. This trip, though technically feasible, would have been too expensive under the old system of airline provided 02 at a price. I think the only time a COPD patient really loses is when he/she quits trying.

October 11, 2008 at 9:46 am
(8) copd says:

Wow, that is some great news about your ability to go to China. I hope you and your wife have a wonderful time. Congrats and thanks for your comment.

January 12, 2009 at 11:48 pm
(9) Brenda says:

My husband was diagnosed with lung cancer this
past year. After surgery he became oxygen dependent. He wants so much to take a trip this spring with our three children. I am so worried about how we can fly with him on o2.
Hoping this ruling will make it easier for us.
He is only 56.

January 13, 2009 at 12:03 am
(10) copd says:

Hi Brenda,
I am sorry to hear about your husband. I hope that the news of the ruling helps. Might I suggest you visit our Lung Cancer Guidesite at http://www.lungcancer.about.com. It is run by a very good guide and I think you will find alot of great information. Thanks for posting.

August 24, 2009 at 11:35 pm
(11) Mina says:

My mom had COPD. She recently tried to fly and they wanted to charge her over $500 to fly to Hawaii to visit me. Which was actually more than her ticket. They said there was new policy changes, but did not tell her she could bring her own. We were not aware of this either. She chose not to fly with air. She passed away very shortly after returning home, from complications from her COPD. I found this site afterward trying to understand what happened. I hope this truly helps other people, and the airlines should have not tried to cash in on her not knowing she could bring her own so they could go on charging their own ridiculous fees.

January 21, 2010 at 8:24 pm
(12) Mark says:

The ruling is not enough. All portable concentrators I know of can run off the cigarette lighter power outlet in your car. Most planes have these power outlets on many of their seats. I think airlines should have to supply power for people with POC first before laptops and change the rule about enough batteries for 150% of the time it takes to make the trip . Maybe enough power for 150% of the longest leg as backup power. I am trying to take my mother to Thailand, and it is rediculous the number of $400 batteries they want me to carry.

February 26, 2011 at 11:09 am
(13) georgina johnson says:

i have got COPD and need oxygen on board aircraft, i do wish UK airlines supplied free oxygen as for a 2hour flight i have to pay 100 each way, therefore my holidays are limited due to cost of insurance and oxygen, this can be as much as 1/2 the cost of a holiday again,

June 25, 2012 at 11:06 pm
(14) Rick says:

I came upon this article and thought maybe what I had found would be of some help. When I went to travel to New York and needed oxygen I rented one of these personal oxygen concentrators and got one of the little ones that let me sleep with it and use it on the plane. For what it’s worth it all worked for me. I rented it from http://www.viennamedical.com/portable-oxygen-concentrator.html

They wanted me to have 150% of my flight time in batteries but you have to remember that if you have a layover and need to keep using your oxygen then you need to make sure you have the right amount of batteries. Portable Oxygen Concentrators are abroad now and there are a lot of choices.

Good luck to all traveling. So glad we can fly with less hassle.

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