What do you need to know about air travel?

Although air travel is safe for the majority of people, people with COPD may be at risk due to the decrease in the concentration of oxygen in humidified air.

Some people with COPD may require supplementary oxygen when travelling by air, even though they do not usually need it at home. Your doctor can arrange for a test (High Altitude Simulation Testing) to assess your oxygen requirements when travelling by air.

  • Visit your doctor several weeks or months before travel, to check if you will need oxygen during flight. If you do, check with your airline before you book your flight as not all airlines provide easy access to oxygen facilities.
  • Learn what your oxygen needs will be while flying, and while in terminals. Airlines do not provide oxygen on the ground. Speak with your doctor and other health care team members about arrangements to supply oxygen for each part of the trip. Remember to bring enough batteries and power adaptors, masks, and tubes for use during your trip.
  • Most airlines require a Travel Clearance Form (MEDIF form) or a letter from a doctor outlining your condition, approval for air travel, need for oxygen in-flight, specific information of oxygen flow rate. Bring enough copies for all flights.
  • Make sure you have adequate supply of your usual medicines for the trip.
  • Carry multiple copies of your prescriptions in case luggage is delayed, lost or stolen.
  • If prescribed, carry relievers and puffers in your hand luggage.
  • Oxygen policies and charges can vary depending on the airline. Make sure you check with the airlines about their requirements and available help for travellers with medical conditions.
  • Travellers requiring CPAP may need a letter from the doctor for equipment to travel in cabin as extra hand luggage.
  • Discuss risks and management of potential deep vein thrombosis (DVT or blood clots). This may occur as a result of reduced activity during prolonged travel.