Oxygen and International Travel
Tips and suggestions for traveling with oxygen
In This Tipsheet
One of the easiest ways to travel with oxygen is by car or bus. If traveling by car with liquid oxygen, it is important that the tanks be kept upright and stored in the passenger area of the car as the air temperature in the trunk may be significantly higher than in any other area of the car. Use the air conditioner or travel during early morning and/or evening hours. Always crack a window (regardless of the weather) since oxygen containers release small amounts of gas periodically. Check with an oxygen supplier for special base clamps and fill adapters that make it easier to transport liquid oxygen containers.
Many railroads will allow you to travel with your own supply of oxygen with some restrictions. See below for guidelines on traveling with oxygen on Amtrak. Note: It is a good idea to travel with at least a 12-hour backup supply of oxygen that does not require onboard electrical power since power interruptions may occur. If necessary, you can arrange for oxygen supply companies to re-supply you at stations.
Contact local train authorities for more information:
60 Massachusetts Ave. N.E.
Washington, DC 20002-4225
Tel: (800) USA-RAIL, ask for Special Service Desk
Amtrak allows oxygen equipment (e.g., bottled oxygen, oxygen concentrators and nebulizers) onboard Amtrak trains with certain restrictions. Passengers must give at least 12 hours notice in advance of the train’s boarding time of the need to bring oxygen equipment aboard and make reservations in advance. Note: Oxygen equipment transport is prohibited on trains except by those passengers who require the use of supplemental oxygen for medical reasons.
Portable oxygen equipment must meet the following requirements:
- Power Source: Oxygen equipment, including oxygen concentrators, cannot rely solely on train-provided electrical power. Any device brought on a train must be able to operate a minimum of four hours without available onboard electrical power.
- UL or FM Listed: Oxygen equipment must be Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) listed.
- Weight Limits: The total weight of all tanks may not exceed 120 lbs [54 kg]. Within this limit, Amtrak allows: No more than two 50 lb (22.7 kg) tanks, or No more than six 20 lb (9 kg) tanks, or No limit on the number of tanks that weigh less than 20 lb (9 kg) each.
Rail Europe assists travelers with reservations on more than 35 European railroads. Rail Europe representatives are available 6 days a week: Monday - Friday, 9:00am to 7:30pm and Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm Eastern Time. Call 1-800-622-8600 in the USA, 1-800-361-RAIL (7245) in Canada.
Air travel is possible for individuals who require in-flight supplemental oxygen and can be arranged with advance planning. As of May 13, 2009, the Air Carrier Access Act requires all US airlines operating flights on aircraft with 19 or more seats to allow passengers to bring aboard and operate their Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POCs). The law also applies to foreign carriers operating flights to or from the US, on aircraft with 19 or more seats.
It is important to note that the law only applies to FAA approved models. The manufacturer is responsible for obtaining this approval, and once a model is approved it must bear a "FAA approved" label. Any passenger traveling with a POC is exclusively responsible for traveling with a sufficient supply of batteries to last the entire journey, per his or her oxygen requirements, including the duration of the flight, all ground time (before and after flight and during connections) and for unexpected delays (150% battery supply). Airline reservation agents can assist you in determining the total anticipated travel time.
Passengers are not permitted to use any other personal oxygen systems onboard an aircraft. Filled oxygen tanks (liquid or compressed gas) cannot be checked as baggage on any airline. While a few airlines continue to provide oxygen for passengers, many do not. Some airlines will allow empty oxygen equipment to be stowed in baggage but it must be verified as empty and the regulator removed. Check with the airline ahead of time to see if they will allow empty systems/tanks as stowed or checked baggage.
Passengers are responsible for making arrangements for supplemental oxygen in-flight and during scheduled layovers with:
- The airline(s) for supplemental oxygen onboard the aircraft.
- Local providers for oxygen use during any layover stop(s) and at the final destination.
- The airline, friends, relatives or a local supplier for removal of the canister from the originating airport's gate area immediately after you leave the gate area to board the aircraft.
See the procedures outlined below for details. For more information on airline accommodations for oxygen users, contact the National Home Oxygen Patient’s Association (NHOPA). NHOPA provides detailed information on Airline Travel With Oxygen including a list of airlines that do and do not provide in-flight supplemental oxygen.
Many major airlines also provide information online about their policies and procedures with regard to in-flight oxygen, including:
When you make a reservation:
- Notify the carrier that you will need to use supplemental oxygen onboard the aircraft(s). Most carriers require 48-72 hours advance notice, but one month’s notice is recommended.
- Ask about the airline's policies on the use of supplemental oxygen onboard. The FAA requires that oxygen on airplanes be dispensed from approved containers available through the airline only. With the exception of FAA approved POCs, federal regulations prohibit airlines from allowing passengers to bring their own personal oxygen systems aboard for use during a flight, including units which contain compressed or liquid oxygen. Some airlines do provide in-flight medical oxygen for a fee. Policies vary from carrier to carrier, so be sure to check with your airline well in advance.
- Airlines are authorized to dispense oxygen during flight only. If you require oxygen at the airport before departure, during your connection or at your destination, you will need to make separate arrangements (see below for more information).
- Keep in mind that not all airlines offer supplemental oxygen service, or may not offer it aboard all of their aircraft. Questions to ask include:
- Do you provide oxygen service? If so, is it available on the specific flight I wish to take?
- What do you charge for oxygen during the flight?
- Do you provide masks or cannula or can I bring my own?
- What equipment is available on the flight? What is the liter flow?
- Can I ship empty tanks or equipment as baggage?
- Is there an extra charge to ship them? Do you have a special procedure for ensuring that the tanks are empty?
- What documentation do you require (i.e. – doctor’s paperwork)?
- What procedure should I follow at the airport?
- Is gate assistance available (wheelchairs and an assistant) and what is the process of arranging that service?
Airport Security Screening Procedures:
Supplemental personal medical oxygen and other respiratory-related equipment and devices (e.g. nebulizer, respirator) are permitted through the screening checkpoint at US airports once they have undergone screening.
Any respiratory equipment that cannot be cleared during the inspection process will not be permitted beyond the screening checkpoint.
For passengers connected to oxygen:
- Inform the Security Officer if your oxygen supply or other respiratory-related equipment cannot be safely disconnected.
- Only you can disconnect yourself to allow for your oxygen canister/system to be X-rayed.
- Check with your doctor prior to coming to the checkpoint to ensure disconnection can be done safely.
- If your doctor has indicated that you cannot be disconnected or if you are concerned, ask the Security Officer for an alternate inspection process while you remain connected to your oxygen source.
- Infants will remain connected to their apnea monitors throughout the screening process. Apnea monitors will be screened while remaining connected to the infant.
- Oxygen equipment will either undergo X-ray screening (only disconnected oxygen equipment) or physical inspection, and explosive trace detection inspection.
For oxygen suppliers or persons carrying oxygen supply:
- An oxygen supplier or personal assistant may accompany you to the gate or meet you at the gate once they have obtained a valid gate pass from the appropriate aircraft operator.
- Persons carrying a passenger’s supply must have a valid boarding pass or valid gate pass to proceed through the security checkpoint.
- Oxygen being carried by the supplier or person will undergo X-ray screening and explosive trace detection sampling.
For more information on the security screening process and passengers with disabilities, see TSA: Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions.
Arranging for supplemental oxygen during layovers or at your destination:
- Notify the carrier(s) you are traveling with that you will need oxygen at the airport(s). Ask about their policy for allowing oxygen suppliers to meet you at a layover airport and/or at your destination gate.
- Contact your oxygen supplier and request that they make arrangements for your oxygen at the city or cities you'll require. The supplier will need to know the airline(s) you'll be using, departure and arrival dates and time, departure and arrival gates, flight number(s), arrival time(s), and the equipment you will need. Make all these arrangements as soon as possible.
- If a representative from the oxygen-providing company is going to meet your flight with an oxygen canister, arrange for your flight(s) to arrive during the supplier's normal business hours, if possible. Also, have a local phone number and a contact person in the event of any unforeseen situation(s), such as if their representative is not at the arrival gate when you get there.
- To locate an oxygen supplier in your layover or destination city:
- Start by contacting your local supplier for information. National chains usually can assist by contacting their other offices to make the arrangements. Many local dealers belong to a network of oxygen providers and can also assist with arrangements.
- Check with your local hospital or respiratory care unit.
- Check with a travel agent as he/she may be able to assist you with information on suppliers in the destination city.
The following companies provide oxygen and durable medical equipment for travelers during scheduled layovers at US connecting and most international airport locations:
16555 White Orchid Lane
Delray Beach, Florida 33446
Tel: (800) 778-7953
Office Tel: (561) 921-0496
PO Box 891101
Temecula, CA 92589-1101
Tel: (800) 391-2041 (U.S. and Canada)
Tel: (951) 723-1251
Another good resource, Breathin' Easy: A Guide for Travelers with Pulmonary Disabilities, provides contact information for oxygen providers in over 1,700 cities worldwide and is produced and updated 12 times annually. For order information, contact:
Tel: (925) 891-5017
Additional Considerations for Air Travel:
- Before you make a reservation, confirm with your physician that it is safe for you to travel.
- Note that less oxygen is available in the aircraft cabin during flight and cabin air may be drier.
- Airlines are authorized to dispense oxygen during flight only. If possible, consider a non-stop flight or even one with an extra stop, but no plane change, to avoid having to arrange for oxygen in layover airports.
- All airlines charge for oxygen, but the charges vary. Some charge per canister, but most charge per flight segment. The charges generally range between $50.00 – $150.00 per flight segment in the United States.
- Confirm all arrangements 48 hours prior to your flight.
When traveling internationally, you may need electrical converters/adaptors for respiratory equipment. The power platform in the USA, Canada and Mexico is 110-220V (Volts), 60 Hz (Hertz). In foreign countries it is 220-240V, 50 Hz. Find out more information about adaptors by visiting NCDE’s Power Wheelchairs and Other Electrical Devices for International Travel resource on this subject.
347 Fifth Ave., Suite 605
New York, NY 10016
Tel: (212) 447-7284 / Fax: (212) 447-1928
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
PO Box 1796
Wheat Ridge, CO 80034
Tel: (303) 232-2979 / Fax: (303) 239-8486
1301 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20004
Tel: (202) 785-3355
This information was gathered from the Transportation Security Administration, the National Home Oxygen Patient’s Association (NHOPA) and Access-able Travel Source.
Although efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, MIUSA/NCDE cannot be held liable for inaccuracy, misinterpretation or complaints arising from these listings. Mention of an organization, company, service or resource should not be construed as an endorsement by MIUSA/NCDE. Please advise NCDE of any inaccuracies you may find.