Booking Your Flight
If you have connecting flights, make sure when booking you allow enough time to make your way to the connection without being rushed. Arriving at a departure gate in a stressed state and gasping for breath can result in you being assessed to see if you’re still able to fly.
It is reasonably easy to power your device when traveling domestically, as three to four batteries will suffice if on-board power is not available on many flights. However, when traveling on an international flight, things can become a little tricky.
Most international airlines offer power outlets on their flights; however, some airlines provide power outlets in all seating, while some airlines only have power available in their premium economy, business and first class seats.
If the airline you choose does not have power available in the economy seats, you will be paying significantly more for a powered seat. This, to me, seems discriminatory as surely all seats on international flights should have power outlets for medical devices.
When I flew from Australia to the U.S. I had to take four batteries to ensure enough power for the flight. However, the U.S law required me to carry 150 percent of my travel time, which would mean carrying six batteries. Australian law states you can only take two spare batteries with you, which is three in total. So I can’t legally fly to the U.S. unless I pay for an upgraded seat, which in this case was an extra $2,000 each.
Thankfully, our airline provided a free upgrade once my wife alerted them to our predicament. This is an issue that remains unresolved, but the airline is working with us to resolve these issues so in the future oxygen patients can fly without the problems we experienced. Needless to say it’s important to check which airlines offer the best options for your oxygen requirements.
Time to Fly
Before you leave home, double check you have everything relating to your oxygen requirements: your device, batteries, power cords, nasal cannula, pulse oximeter and relevant paper work the airline should already have a copy of. Make sure all your device settings are programmed, as you don’t want to be doing this on the aircraft. Allow yourself time to allow for any problems you may encounter, either in transit to the airport or with checking in.
Be prepared to be delayed through security. In my experience, most staff do not know what a continuous flow portable oxygen concentrator is — some suspect it’s an explosive device. Most security staff pull it off the scanning conveyor belt and have it tested for explosive residue.
Once you’re checked in and arrived at your departure gate, it’s advisable to make yourself known to the boarding staff and ask if you can board early. This will allow you time to set up your device and position it in a place that doesn’t interfere with other passengers. I try to book a window seat where possible, as there is more room to position the device.
It’s Worth It
While my wife and I have had many stressful days organizing flights and portable oxygen machines, we have also enjoyed our travels and met some great fellow COPD patients. So don’t let red tape spoil your holiday plans — allow plenty of time to plan and book your holiday.
Make sure the airline you use has all the documentation they need well before your departure date. Hopefully our experience will make your trip a little easier to organize.