Traveling With Supplemental Oxygen

Planning ahead when you need to take oxygen on a trip

In This Article

If you have a condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and are planning to travel, you may need to take supplemental oxygen with you. When you are traveling on an airplane, by train, on a bus, or staying in a hotel, there are some considerations you need to be aware of when traveling with oxygen.

As you prepare for a trip with supplemental oxygen, you need to check that your equipment and devices are permitted for use during your travel and at your destination. It is also important to check and ask whether you will have space and accommodations to use your device.

You need to be prepared with batteries or chargers to power your equipment. Keep in mind that international destinations and cruise ships may utilize outlets that do not match the plugs and outlets you are used to.

Before Your Trip

When you are traveling with oxygen, it is important to plan ahead. It is a good idea to schedule a pre-trip medical examination, especially if you will be traveling on an airplane, hiking, staying at a high elevation (such as on a mountain), leaving for an international destination, or going away for a long period of time.

Don't forget to obtain a letter of medical necessity from your doctor during your pre-trip medical exam. You may need to present it when you go through airport security, board your plane, go through customs, and/or at your hotel if you need to stay in a special room.

Don't forget to put your medications in your carry-on luggage and, if needed, to carry an adequate supply of COPD rescue inhalers with you wherever you go throughout your trip.

It's always a good idea to keep any medications in their original containers so that you will get the right treatment in case of an emergency.

Altitude and Oxygen Needs

A high altitude may change the oxygen pressure around you—essentially increasing your oxygen requirement. This doesn't have a significant effect on most people, but when you have a pulmonary disease, a slight change in oxygen pressure can make you feel short of breath.

Your doctor may change your prescription for oxygen supplementation if you are staying at a high elevation or taking a flight. In fact, some people who do not regularly need to use supplemental oxygen might need to use it only in these circumstances.

Supplemental Oxygen on Airplanes: Regulations

When making an airline reservation, be sure to ask about specific regulations and restrictions that may apply when carrying oxygen onboard your flight. 

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel Act, oxygen-dependent passengers may now carry their own Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved, battery-powered portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) onboard U.S. domestic and international flights (beginning or ending in the United States) with more than 19 passenger seats.

The policy states that:

  • Airlines must permit a passenger to use his/her POC during the flight if it is labeled as FAA-approved.
  • Airlines may not charge for providing accommodations required by the rule, such as hazardous materials packaging for batteries.
  • Airlines may charge for optional services such as providing oxygen.

Assistive devices do not count against any limit on the number of pieces of carry-on baggage.

In addition to POCs, respiratory assistive devices also include nebulizers, respirators, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.

Compressed oxygen tanks and liquid oxygen are not allowed on airplanes.

FAA-Approved Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POCs)

POCs are only permitted on flights if they are approved by the FAA. Consider renting your POC if you don't typically need oxygen, or if the device you regularly use is not FAA-approved.

According to the FAA, the following devices are approved to carry on board your flight:

For more information about FAA requirements for traveling with oxygen by airplane, visit the FAA website

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