Flying with Oxygen

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Flying with Oxygen

Read our guide for those travelling on a plane with Oxygen. This guide is complete with FAQ’s, tips to prepare before a flight and prevent issues from arising when flying with oxygen.

Why do people fly with oxygen?

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The air we breathe is made up of about 21% oxygen. However, this changes when the amount of oxygen in the air becomes less the higher up we go, for example, you may feel out of breath when climbing up a mountain or flying on a plane. In order to ensure that there's enough oxygen for passengers to breath in onboard, airlines are therefore built to keep the oxygen levels inside the plane at the right pressure.

However, the level of oxygen is only at this level up to 8,000 feet in the air. Higher than this will mean the amount of oxygen in the air drops to about 15% and therefore there'll be lower levels of oxygen in your blood. If you don't have a lung condition, the drop in oxygen won't make a big difference. However, if you do have a lung condition, your oxygen levels may already be low at this point, or your lungs may not be able to function normally in order to keep the amount of oxygen in your blood at a safe level.

Having low levels of oxygen in your blood may make you feel unwell or it could even be harmful to you on or after your flight. Additional oxygen such as Portable oxygen concentrator (POC) keeps the oxygen levels in your blood at a comfortable level and keeps you safe.

How to prepare when flying with oxygen

In order to have a smooth and trouble-free journey when you fly, follow these simple guidelines to help you prepare for your flight.

Get tested by your Doctor

Your doctor will test you to see your current health, the Hypoxic Challenge also known as 'Fit to Fly', recreates the oxygen levels on an aircraft and measures how your body responds. The test will involve you breathing in air containing less oxygen than normal and seeing how it affects you in a controlled environment. The results of the test will show if you need additional oxygen when you fly.

Inform your airline

If you feel your oxygen levels may be low in the air or a doctor has already tested you and advised in taking a POC. You need to now speak to your airline about their policy in taking one onboard and also you can ask if they emergency provide in-flight oxygen, which you will often have to pay for. If you aren't sure whether an airline allows oxygen onboard, click here for some examples, or contact Alternative Airlines and we can give you all the information you need before you make the final booking.

Check your insurance

We recommend that you look at your current level of medical insurance in regards to your health. If you are not fully covered, it is then important for you to look into upgrading in order to cover yourself in the case of any event.

Take with you a POC

It's important to remember to take with you a fully charged POC whether you own or on rent in order to last you through your journey. Also, remember to take with you a bag that stores your POC and that it is easily available for inspection by the airport security officers. Airlines recommend taking extra batteries for your POC in case your flight is delayed and you have access to oxygen. Also, we recommend taking with you a spare POC in your hold luggage so that you there's no worry about a POC being lost or broken.

Flying with oxygen

What happens to my body if there's less oxygen in the plane?

The air pressure within the cabin of an aircraft in the air is not the same as the air pressure on earth, meaning that when you fly, oxygen will not enter your body as easily as it normally would. You may feel breathless and your chest may feel a little tight, especially on long-haul flights. But, fewer people face issues when travelling with the correct medical advice and precautions.

Can I fly with an oxygen tank?

No, not with an oxygen tank as for safety reasons liquid oxygen and oxygen tanks are prohibited onboard any commercial aircraft. In order to fly with oxygen, most airlines accept a portable oxygen concentrator, just remember to charge those batteries before your flight. You should inform your doctor before you fly and the airline you’re flying with in regards to their policy on this.

Inform Alternative Airlines that you need to carry oxygen on your flight in advance an well before your day of departure. You should state that you intend to use your own POC during the flight and clearly specify the approved manufacturer and model.

Do I need to take a prescription or doctor's note?

If you require additional oxygen onboard your plane, some airlines may ask you to show them a prescription or doctor's note at the airport. These documents show that you are healthy enough to fly. If you do not have the satisfactory documentation, the airline is prohibited from allowing you to board. A copy of your prescription and doctor's note are required for you to fly with oxygen. Some airlines have a pre-made form you can print and have your doctor complete. You must carry your concentrator with you and show it to the airline employees as required.

The FAA doesn't require passengers travelling with POCs to who a prescription or doctor's note, however, some airlines still want you to provide one, and others want you to also show before boarding that you can respond to your POCs alarms and use it correctly. Passengers using POCs must not sit in exit rows, and POCs shouldn't block another passenger's access to seats or to the cabin aisles. Some airlines such as Southwest Airlines, are more specific and require passengers with a POC to sit in a window seat. If you're flying with the following airlines Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines make sure to check their websites as they update their rules quite often.

Do I need to keep smoke away from my equipment?

Absolutely, when you're carrying your POC to and from the airport, there shouldn't be any smoking near the equipment. Oxygen is flammable and can cause fatal injuries.

What do I need to consider when buying or renting a POC?

You must carry an FAA-approved POC. The label must have the following in red text: “The manufacturer of this portable oxygen concentrator has determined this device conforms to all applicable FAA requirements for portable oxygen concentrator carriage and use onboard aircraft.” Airline staff can look for this label to decide whether or not the POC may be used on the plane.

How much POC battery life should I fly with?

The FAA on nearly all domestic flights wants you to have 150% of your flight time in battery life which includes time spent on the aircraft, as well as at the gate, take-off, in-air, landing and other delays. Most airlines want you to have enough batteries to power your POC for flight time plus three hours. Other airlines don't need to let you connect your POC into an electrical system on the aircraft.

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