Enabling air travel with oxygen in Europe

Are/have you experiencing difficulties booking your ticket and flying with your oxygen treatment? We can guide you through the process. We are collecting passengers’ experiences to change the situation and enable air travel with oxygen. Leave us your questions and testimonies

The Experiences

I travel for vacation and to visit my sons because they do not live in my city anymore. I do it about two or three times per year as a result of the problems I have flying with the concentrator…

Some companies do not allow me to use the oxygen from my own concentrator during the flight and instead impose large fees in order so that I must rent one of their company’s - sometimes even the exact same model I own myself! In some airlines where I am permitted to use my own, the cabin crew does not know what it is for and ask me for documents that I have already presented with the airline authorities, at the check in at the airport and in the security lines… it seems they are powerless and shocked by something completely new, checking with the pilot of the plane to make sure they do not object to the equipment’s use during the flight. It should be apparent that there is great disorder to travel with these “methods” and lack of information for the professionals of the aviation sector.

I would like all companies to have the same criteria, that when you purchase your ticket you can indicate your problem immediately, inform them that you will bring your concentrator or will need them to make one available for you, and that it is not an odyssey to achieve any of this. I would like to bring my own concentrator with pertinent document and to be a normal passenger.

Consuelo P.,  Madrid, Spain


I [travelled with an airline] from London to Dublin, and [had suddenly] been informed (less than 36 hours before my flight) that I will be required to pay fees of 400€ for oxy gen to be provided on a flight that cost £203.This cost was not mentioned on [their] website. According to [the] website reasons to fly… include [the] airline being friendly with award winning customer service and being transparent with no hidden fees. Booking oxygen with [this] airline has been a time consuming, stressful and incredibly frustrating experience. All but one of [the] customer service representatives have been unknowledgeable, rude, unhelpful and unable to understand that needing oxygen on a flight might be the cause of some stress. So far I have had to make at least five phone calls to [their] 0871 number. During the latest of which I was told that I can either pay for the oxygen or cancel my flight and get a £60 refund, meaning I would not only miss my trip but lose £140. I am not a rich woman - I booked with [the airline] because on the one occasion I have used them before the oxygen was free and their customer service was competent. Last time I flew I simply emailed [them], faxed my forms and the oxygen was provided free of charge.

This time I called to book and request oxygen and spoke to someone who didn’t know if [they] provided that service. So I decided to book online, and then phone to request the oxygen. I booked and called again - the next representative told me to fill in the forms provided on [a partner airline’s] website, then send them via the website. I filled in the forms and sent them to the email, as there is no email address attached to any of the forms or web pages about respiratory illness as far as I could see. Due to the nature of my illness I needed a new test to see how much oxygen I require, and I received the required form filled in by the doctor and sent it on to [them]… one week before travel, well within [the] 72 hour notice window. I received a reply [the next day] saying I could not use that address because I did not hold a… card (despite the website saying the… phone number can be used by non-card holders - I don’t see why the email address should be different).

There was no mention of a charge for the service in that email, nor was the correct email to send the forms to supplied - rather I was directed to the ‘wheelchair assistance form’ online (?! how is that relevant) and given the 0871 customer service number again .I called it and was assured I would be contacted [at the beginning of the week] to book the Oxygen. I was not. The [following day] I was left a message stating that they were sorting it out, and would phone me to confirm and take payment. I thought that was a mistake and then this morning was left another message stating I needed to pay the 400 Euro today. I have just phoned [the] 0871 number again, and was told I could not contact anyone… directly as they did not have the contact details. Apparently I must either pay or cancel. The supervisor of the person I spoke to refused to talk to me..

Sandra M., St Albans, United Kingdom


…the steward on the plane wanted me to turn off my machine on take-off and landing. I explained to her that it was not oxygen but a concentrator so she had to ask the pilot if that was ok as she did not know what I was talking about but he seemed to know about it so everything was ok… When I travelled back from Brussels the steward said I should have booked a ticket for the machine. I thought he was joking but no he was serious.

Betty S., Bray, Ireland


I have already booked a flight to San Miguel in the Azores [on an European airline]. They told me that my Father can’t bring his portable O2 machine that is FAA approved but could use their O2 for an additional fee. They have quoted me 80 Euro per bottle and per his doctor’s request he would need 5 bottles on the way there and 6 bottles on the way back. I have already rented a portable device for the week that he can’t use on the plane. [The airline] wants to charge me over 1,000 EUR for the round trip flight. I don’t think this sounds right and I am so upset about this. This was supposed to be a wonderful family vacation and it sounds like they are taking advantage of a health care situation.

Sandra W., Swansea, United States


Coming home from Cyprus… we got to the airport and checked in and were told there would be no oxygen on board. Eventually, they said it was there, we went through to the boarding gate and my name is asked to come to the gate. I go to the desk they said we do not have the oxygen on board and they asked if I would be able to fly home without it. I said NOWAY! After holding the flight home for 30 mins they eventually got some oxygen off another planeforme. By this time I am stressed and crying.

So now every time I want to be able to fly to continental Europe it is a head ache and very stressful for me. I have to pay for oxygen abroad in Cyprus, as it was £150 for a week for a concentrator. I find it is so stressful for us, people who need oxygen for flying, and do not see why we should not be able to go without any fuss or hassle. It is the airports and airlines that cause us to become upset. They never apologize though and that is what makes me so cross because I know I am not the only person who has experienced this because a few of my friends who got the same illness as me get the hassle.

Karen F., Laindon, United Kingdom


At the age of 60 years old, I was diagnosed with COPD... and my pulmonologist … prescribed me oxygen therapy. In addition, as I informed him of an arranged trip… to Maurice Island, he then advised me to obtain oxygen for use in the airplane.

So I contacted the company… who then asked me for 380 EUR as a supplementary fee to each flight. My trip was arranged in advance for more than a year because it was organized with an association. At this moment a choice was required from me: pay the extra… fees and spend 10 days at the hotel because my budget would be consumed by the supplementary fees or to go on the trip without oxygen. I made the choice to go without oxygen.

This year, I have planned a trip to Martinique where my son lives currently. My calculation is once again quickly realized: I cannot pay for the trip AND an oxygen tank. In addition, I will leave with a group and I wonder how I can combine the group and the requirements of the airline. So, my decision in the end was that I could not go on the trip. Currently, as I am truly dependent upon my oxygen for physical activities, I wish for a life as normal as possible during my retirement. I currently am a volunteer in a nursing home, help various associations, and keep myself busy in my garden but I am condemned to “stand down” and never go on a plane, kept waiting until the next occasion my son will return to France to visit.

Betty M., Portieux, France


On an international flight with an European airline, as patient with LAM, from Spain to Argentina it was required to pay 900 EUR for the return trip. The company allowed the carriage of a personal concentrator but it was not possible to obtain the necessary batteries to allow for its use for 150% of the duration of the flight. As a result, it was necessary to pay this high fee.

After not travelling for almost 10 years because of the medical condition, this year I would like to travel again but I have had many bad experiences with airlines, like the above, who do not accept me without added costs or complications since I must use oxygen for the whole flights. The cabin crews, even if they are very cooperative, did not seem to know how to use the equipment and as a result my daughter must come with me to attend to my needs.

I think oxygen use in flights should be complementary for passengers and all airline companies should have identical policies for all airline companies to make travel with oxygen easier.

Susanna M., Spain


Last June I travelled from London to Zurich and back... I informed the airline in advance but when I arrived at Heathrow to check-in I was treated just like any [healthy] passenger. The security staff did pass my Airsep Focus concentrator round the security scanner, but otherwise the departure was like all others. I even walked the long walk to the plane.

The return trip was much better. I was asked if I needed help to get to the departure gate, which I didn’t. When I got to the departure gate I was given pre-boarding so that I wouldn’t be jostled by everybody else. In all [the return was] a very pleasant experience.

Malcolm W., Bucks, United Kingdom


At 81 years old, oxygen has been prescribed as a requirement 24 hours day. For travels to Tunisia, my child prepared and assembled all the forms necessary for the airline company: the medical certificate, the clearance contract for the use of a personal oxygen concentrator…

In actuality, I used the concentrator throughout my time in the airport until boarding, which was also distant from other passengers. Then, once in the plane, the company put oxygen to my disposal as a service to be charged because in the end they did not accept the use of my portable oxygen concentrator.

Ahmed L., Alpes Maritimes, France


I have Pulmonary Hypertension and need oxygen for flying. I think it is disgusting that airlines get away with charging ridiculous sums of money for on board oxygen. I try to fly with the airlines that provide it free when I can.

I was flying with some friends from Murcia in Spain to Bournemouth UK, which I had done many times before with [this particular airline]. I had booked my oxygen and paid my £100 prior to the flight and had faxed my Fit to Fly Letter to them. We got to the airport and at the desk all was fine, they confirmed my oxygen. My friends boarded first as normal, as disabled, I waited until last. They then said I had to wait as they were refuelling?? Eventually they let me through but no one accompanied me. I ended up getting on the wrong plane so had to climb up another flight of steps to get to mine, with my hand luggage. I got on the plane and was told by the steward that I couldn’t fly because they had no oxygen, I showed him my letter and my receipt and he argued like mad with me.

By then I am sobbing, my friends came down the plane to assist and others said how they had flown with me the week before and all was fine. The Captain then appeared and told me I would have to get off the plane, I said but I am fit to fly he said no you’re not without oxygen and we haven’t any! I was the chucked off the plane and my friend came with me leaving her husband on board. My suitcase was ready and waiting at the bottom of the stairs. She had nothing. No one came to help us and I was beside myself. Out of breath and helpless, we walked back through customs and the Spanish guy was so shocked no plane had landed and couldn’t figure out where we came from! The… staff were hopeless and offered no help but got us on another flight the next day. Not once did they ask where we would stay or how we would get there. Luckily my husband came and got us. On my return to UK I wrote a long complaint letter to [the airline] and heard nothing... I was treated appalling by the staff on board the plane and can literally say I was traumatised.

Jane T., Berks, United Kingdom


My name is Luísa Soares Branco, I am 60 years old and I am retired. In my capacity of President of RESPIRA’s board I often receive invitations to speak in different meetings with GP and specialists. Four years ago I received an invitation from a hospital in the island of Azores (SATA airlines) and three years ago I have been also in a General meeting of EFA in Rome (TAP airlines).

For both of them I needed a certificate from my doctor: “Medical information for fitness to travel” (MEDIF) and I had to wait around a month, in order to receive permission to travel. In both cases I had to pay for the oxygen more than the ticket’s price.

In both cases I experiment long and painful delays in Portela airport Lisbon, Ponta Delgada airport and in Rome Fiumicino either because security reasons - the staff from the oxygen company had to be cleared by the police, or because I was treated like a disable person taken in and out the airplane in an ambulance.

During the flights I noticed that the staff was not used to deal with a passenger with oxygen needs. Sometimes they looked frightened, sometimes they look bored, like “Oh not again!”.

I would like to recommend to:

EASA to harmonize rules for travelling with oxygen.

The authorities that are managing the airports to promote special security rules for people with oxygen needs and their companions.

To airline companies: sites more user friendly and readable and suitable training of their staff.

Luisa S. B., Lisboa, Portugal


I am 64 years old and require oxygen 24 hours a day. For vacation, I travel often in France and my medical care provider brings my oxygen to the resorts. This year, my son married and we gave notice of our trip to Italy for the ceremony. My son was very busy making arrangements with the company. My medical care provider for oxygen put us in the disposition of portable oxygen concentrator for the airline with its certificate for my clearance. During boarding, I was not assisted. To the contrary, when I arrived the care provider seemed to have forgotten to mention my situation requiring me to change seats in the plane. The use of my portable oxygen concentrator during the flight was not a problem. My suggestion: the concentrator is considered a piece of hand luggage and as a result it was necessary to burden my husband with its extra batteries so they could be brought on board as well.

Marie-Josée D., Le Petit Quevilly, France


I have idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. This is a condition where the pressure in my lungs is so great that it is destroying my heart. It is a terminal condition. Holidays are important to us as we want to create memories for the ones we leave behind, plus, of course, to enjoy ourselves.

My first disaster was when I travelled with Monarch. We have to pay on this airline the sum of one hundred pounds each way for a flight to any part of Europe. My oxygen failed, THREE times, in the end the steward bought me the small canister with a full face mask. The trouble is this delivers oxygen at twice the amount I required. Fortunately no damage was done. We sent a letter of complaint to the airline and they apologised and returned my fee for this service but the consequences could have been very serious.

My second story occurred when… the beginning of the flight was a bit bumpy so rightly so the stewardesses had to stay in their seats longer than I would have liked as I needed the oxygen fetching sooner rather than later. Eventually when they could leave their seats they were more concerned with selling lottery tickets than getting my oxygen, this even though my husband had specifically told them on getting seated that it was very important I receive the oxygen once above the level the airline would allow it. I was getting more and more distressed as we watched the stewardesses discussing lottery tickets and drinks. In the end my husband asked them to get oxygen. It was obvious they had forgotten and a stewardess was dispatched to the back of the plane to collect it. On her return she was alarmed when she saw my very red face. She connected the oxygen to the cannula and gave it to me and said it was all set up. She then asked if she should inform the crew of my condition as I looked so bad. I said no, I will be ok when I have enough oxygen. Three minutes later I was distressed as I could tell there was no oxygen and thought the bottle was empty. My husband looked and she had not even turned it on!

All in all the stewardesses need more training in using oxygen and the bottles MUST be checked properly as a faulty one for me could have had dire consequences.

Carole A., Halifax, United Kingdom

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