Tips for Seniors Traveling With Oxygen

Find practical information for older adults who are traveling via an airline while using oxygen as well as helpful links.

Many seniors who enjoy traveling may think that their traveling days are over if they must use oxygen due to medical reasons. However, newer equipment and recent legislation regarding airline travel with oxygen have enabled more seniors who use oxygen to enjoy traveling once again. Learn helpful tips for planning air travel with oxygen to ensure that the trip is safe and how to avoid common problems.

According to the National Home Oxygen Patient’s Association, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has approved the use of several oxygen concentrators that are portable for use for travelers who require in-flight oxygen in the United States since September 2009. Portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) are small, non-pressurized devices that deliver oxygen. They may run on electricity or battery.

Examples of POCs approved by the FAA for air travel at this time include:

  • Airsep Lifestyle
  • Respironics EverGO
  • Airsep Freestyle
  • Inogen One
  • SeQual Eclipse (pulse and continuous options)

Additional approved emergency oxygen generating devices include:

  • Oxysure
  • Ox-Gen

How to Prepare for Air Travel With Oxygen

Seniors who plan to travel should check with their physicians first and ensure that proper paperwork is completed. Travelers should carry and have readily available a physician’s order for oxygen. Respiratory and other medications should be kept with the person and not checked with baggage.

The physician should be able to help determine whether or not a POC will provide enough oxygen delivery to maintain a proper oxygen saturation for seniors who use another form of delivery at home. This may require a trial test on POC equipment. This can also give the senior the opportunity to learn how to use and carry the POC as well as practice with changing the battery. Check with the insurance company regarding coverage of a POC.

Many airlines have a specific form regarding special medical needs, so seniors should contact the airline to determine the requirements for traveling with oxygen and get the forms completed in advance, ensuring that the equipment will meet requirements of the airline security. If the senior normally uses an oxygen tank that is filled with compressed gas or liquid, ask whether or not the airline allows an empty tank to travel and how the tank should be prepared in order to be accepted if applicable. Contact the airline at least 48 hours prior to the flight to ensure that all requirements have been met.

Contact the oxygen provider to check if they can manage to provide an approved POC for travel. Other options include renting or purchasing a POC with battery power that is sufficient, taking into consideration the extra one to two hours pre-flight, time scheduled in the air, and after-flight activities. Direct or non-stop flights avoid layovers that may increase the amount of oxygen use on the POC. Plan for unexpected delays by ensuring that battery life exceeds anticipated time by at least 50%. Check the Department of Transportation guidelines for traveling with batteries.

Senior travelers should also check accommodations at the planned destination regarding oxygen use policies with arrangements for oxygen delivery if devices will not be necessary for flight. If oxygen is taken in the airport but not used in flight, arrange to have someone remove the equipment from the airport upon departure.

It is helpful to write down all conversations, including the date and time and with whom the person spoke in case any question arises while traveling.

Airline Travel with Oxygen for Seniors

Seniors who require oxygen use may find that a portable oxygen concentrator may enable him or her to travel safely via airplane. By carefully planning and communicating with the physician, airline, oxygen provider, insurance company, and destination, air travel with oxygen may be coordinated safely and effectively.