Why should a flight carry additional oxygen?

Flying with Oxygen

10 Jun 2014

When traveling by air, the cabin air pressure is roughly equivalent to the air pressure at an altitude of 2400 meters, which means a drop in oxygen saturation of around 25 percent. A certificate of fitness to fly, which some airlines require from lung patients, is issued by the pulmonologist before the start of the journey. It is important to clarify the oxygen supply in the aircraft and the transport regulations with the airline at an early stage.

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A form for a medical confirmation of fitness to fly, the so-called MEDIF form (MEDIF, Medical Information Form), is available from the respective airline. It must not be older than 14 days at the start of the journey. How much oxygen the patients need at rest and during exercise (Long-term oxygen therapy) must be entered in the oxygen passport (available from German Oxygen League LOT e.V.). You have to submit both to the airline and then have the option of selecting an oxygen source together with the airline and the oxygen supplier.

There are various options for the oxygen supply in the aircraft: You can get a 2 liter oxygen gas cylinder from the airline for a fee or, in the best case, you can take your own cylinder with you, for which you need a confirmation with a serial number from the supplier in advance. A corresponding economy system is recommended, as a 2-liter oxygen gas cylinder is empty within two hours (if 2 liters per minute are required).

An alternative to supplying oxygen in an airplane is an oxygen concentrator that relies on a power source or batteries. In this case, it should be clarified with the airline in advance which device can be taken on board and a serial number must also be available here. Liquid oxygen is strictly forbidden in aircraft.

In any case, it should be noted that more time must be planned for checking baggage and people. A sufficient supply of oxygen should be ensured here and already on arrival at the airport.

additional Information on the subject of air travel with oxygen are at the European Lung Foundation (ELF) available as well as from "Lung Doctors on the Net":
Air travel tips for people with lung disease(Last accessed: June 10, 2014)
Many lung patients require supplemental oxygen when traveling by air(Last accessed: June 10, 2014)


Krause-Michel, B .: Traveling with or in spite of oxygen. In: Lunge, Luft & Leben, 2011, 15 (34): 9-12