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Traveling With Oxygen

Topic Overview

Traveling while you are on oxygen therapy usually is possible if you plan ahead.

Travel by plane

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved several models of portable oxygen concentrators that can be brought on an airplane. If you have a portable oxygen concentrator, make sure it is FAA-approved before you bring it on an airplane.
  • You cannot take your own oxygen tanks on an airplane. You may pack empty oxygen tanks in your checked luggage. You can get these filled at your destination. The airline will supply oxygen while you are in flight but will charge you for it. You will likely have to pay for oxygen for each leg of a trip. And airlines usually do not supply oxygen during layovers, so try to book a direct flight.
  • Several days before your flight, notify the airline that you will need oxygen. You will need a medical release from your doctor stating that you are able to fly. You will also need a prescription that lists the flow rate and amount of oxygen you use. If you use a portable oxygen concentrator, you will need to be able to respond to any alarms on the device.
  • If you need oxygen during a layover, you should arrange for your oxygen supplier to bring tanks to the airport.
  • Some airlines may require a person on oxygen therapy to travel with a companion.

Travel by cruise ship

  • You can take your own oxygen tanks or concentrator on a cruise ship. Or you can arrange for a supplier to deliver oxygen to the ship before it leaves the dock. You should take enough oxygen to last the entire cruise.
  • About 2 to 3 weeks before you travel, notify the cruise line about your oxygen needs. Bring a medical release from your doctor stating that you are able to take a cruise. You will also need a prescription that lists the flow rate and amount of oxygen you use.
  • If you plan to leave the ship to go sightseeing, you may want to have an oxygen supplier bring a tank for you to use while you are onshore.
  • If you need to have a supplier deliver oxygen for your cruise, it is best to leave from and return to the same city. If you don't, you may have to pay to ship the oxygen equipment back to the city where the ship originally departed.

Travel by train or bus

  • You can take your own oxygen tanks or concentrator on a bus or train.
  • Notify the train or bus company that you will be traveling with oxygen. Bring a medical release from your doctor stating that you are able to travel. You may also need a prescription that lists the flow rate and amount of oxygen you use.
  • Make sure that the train or bus stops at cities where you can get your tanks refilled.
  • If you travel by train, you will need to book a nonsmoking car.
  • If you take a concentrator on a train, you may not always have electricity available, so bring a battery backup with you.
  • Train or bus companies may limit the number or weight of tanks you can carry on. Be sure you learn the rules before you travel.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
Last Revised November 29, 2011

Last Revised: November 29, 2011

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