CPAP Travel: Flying with a CPAP Machine

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Are you looking to fly with your continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine but worried about the process of getting it through airport security and onto the plane?  The process is smoother than you might expect!  Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents have plenty of experience handling CPAP machines, as well as other medical devices, efficiently and safely. Here is Health Sqyre’s list of what you need to know to get you flying through security and flying with your CPAP.

Health Sqyre has organized a chronological list of everything you need to know about traveling with a CPAP:

1. CPAP travel tips before the airport
2. Carrying vs. checking a CPAP machine
3. Getting through security
4. Using your CPAP on the plane

After reading this guide, you will be flying through security and flying with your CPAP without any worries!

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CPAP Travel Tips Before the Airport

How to make your life more enjoyable and less stressful while away from home: Make sure that you take time to plan for the trip!

Before going to the airport…

1. First of all, if you don’t have one already, you may want to consider investing in a CPAP machine specifically designed for traveling.

2. Bring a copy of your CPAP prescription in case TSA asks you for additional information.


Pro Tip: Take a picture of your prescription with your
smartphone so that you have it where ever you go.


3. Remember to bring all necessary adapters and plugs

  • If you are travelling internationally, don’t forget to carry a power plug adapter, which will allow the US plug to fit into a foreign socket. The voltage level might be different in another country, but most of the newer CPAP machines can adapt to various voltages.

4. Bring any other accessories, such as back-up batteries and extra masks and mask cushions (in case they are lost or broken during travel).

5. Empty out the humidifier chamber to prevent spillage!

6. Each airline has a different policy for in-flight use of your device, so know your airline’s protocol.  Check below:

Domestic Airline CPAP Machine Policies

o   Federal Aviation Administration (“The FAA encourages airlines to include M-PEDs in their carry-on baggage programs and/or personal items policies in order to increase accessibility in air travel for people with disabilities”)

o    Alaska Airlines (“We no longer require advance notice to use a personal ventilator, respirator, or CPAP machine while onboard”)

o   Allegiant Air (“CPAP machines that can be stowed in compliance with FAA safety regulations, will not be counted toward your one carry-on plus one personal item limit. If an assistive device cannot be stored safely in the cabin, we will tag your device and transport it in the cargo compartment.”)

o    American Airlines (“A 48-hour notice is required to approve electronic medical devices for use during a flight….All approved medical devices must be battery operated”)

o    Delta Airlines (Located under special concerns–>assistive devices; There is a list of approved devices, but “all other C-PAP, Bi-PAP, and V-PAP machines may be carried on, but may not be used during flight”)

o    Frontier Airlines (“must not exceed allowable carry-on dimensions”)

o   Hawaiian Airlines (“Allows the use of a respiratory assistive device (e.g. BiPAP, CPAP, respirator and ventilator) that bears a label stating the device has been approved by the FAA for use inflight.”)  Hawaiian Airlines has a list of Pre-Approved Respiratory Assist Devices.  If your device is not listed or if you have questions or concerns, you can contact their Reservations Department or complete their Contact Us Form (select Special Services).

Note: If you want to use the device on your Hawaiian Airlines flight you need to get signed-documentation from your doctor.  Just print out the Hawaiian Airlines Respiratory Assist Device and CPAP Use Form and take it to your physician.

o    Jet Blue Airlines (“CPAP and BiPAP machines approved by the FAA may be carried and used on board JetBlue”)

o   Southwest Airlines (“CPAP machines that can be stowed in compliance with FAA safety regulations, will be given priority onboard stowage, and will not be counted toward your one carryon plus one personal item limit.”)

o   Spirit Airlines (“CPAP supplies do not count towards your baggage allowance and can be brought on board free of charge.”)  However, if there are any personal items in a bag along with your CPAP then you will be charged for a bag.  Spirit Airlines also requires that the device fits in the overhead compartment and doesn’t exceed 22 x 18 x 10 inches (56 x 46 x 25 cm).

o   Sun Country (“Mobility devices and medical equipment needed by travelers are not counted as additional carry-ons and must be stored in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Regulations.”)

o    United Airlines (“A forty-eight (48) hour minimum advance notification to the Accessibility Desk (1-800-228-2744) is required”)

o   Virgin America (“Virgin America does accept certain carry-on respiratory assistive devices that assist with an individual’s respiratory functions including CPAPs.”)  However, if you want to use your CPAP on your Virgin America flight you “must inform Virgin America their intent to use the Respiratory Assistive Device in-flight a minimum of forty-eight (48) hours prior to their flight.”  Virgin America’s Care Team Desk will ensure the device you are planning to use in-flight is an approved device.

If you would like to fly on Virgin America with a respiratory assistive device, please print the Respiratory Device Medical Authorization document. It can either be used by your physician to provide the required statement, or provide guidance as to what should be included in such a statement.

To contact a member of the Virgin America Care Team and obtain more information about Respiratory Devices or submit your medical authorization please contact them here.

International Airline CPAP Machine Policies

o   Aeromexico Only has restrictions when the CPAP device is used in conjunction with oxygen.

o   Air Berlin (“Special baggage for medical purposes (ventilators, inhalers, walking aids, etc.) is transported free of charge on presentation of a medical certificate.”)

o   Air Canada (“No medical approval is required for customers travelling with a CPAP or BPAP machine that is required for the treatment of sleep apnea only. However, you must contact Air Canada Reservations if you plan on bringing the machine on board with you, even if you will not be using it.”)

o   Air China (“Passengers who need to bring electronic medical equipment [such as oxygen generators, suction devices, apparatus respirators, etc.] on board because of health conditions must contact our company’s reservation office at least 48 hours before departure to explain the passenger’s condition as well as complete the advanced notification procedure.”)

o   Air France (“Medical clearance delivered by Air France’s Medical Service is mandatory only in the following case: You need oxygen therapy at a rate exceeding 2 liters/minute.”) So, you can use your PAP device without prior medical clearance, as long as supplemental oxygen is not required.

o   British Airways (“Medical clearance is not required to travel with or use a CPAP Machine for sleep apnea. The device can be carried in your hand-luggage, and forms part of your two-piece hand baggage allowance. If using your CPAP machine on-board (and you have the appropriate battery, or access to in-seat power) this can be carried in the cabin in addition to your two-piece hand baggage allowance. If you won’t be using your machine, and want to carry it on-board then it forms part of your two-piece hand baggage allowance.”)

o   Cathay Pacific (“Passengers who intend to use medical devices inflight should submit medical clearance (MEDA) to ensure they are fit to fly. Exception: Passengers who only require the use of a CPAP or BIPAP machine inflight do not need medical clearance.”)

o   China Southern Airlines China Southern considers a PED (Personal Electronic Device) an unsuitable item for a checked baggage and restricts the on-boarding limitation of lithium batteries to 2 pieces per traveler.

o   China Eastern Airlines China Eastern does not specify regulations regarding the use and/or travel with medical equipment (unless it is used with oxygen) and recommends, (“If you need special assistance due to age, health, a disability or other reasons, we recommend that you contact our local Reservation office 72 hours before departure so that we can make special arrangements for your flight and arrange assistance with connecting flights.”)

o   EasyJet (“You can take any medicines and medical equipment that you need to have with you. This includes gel packs or cooler bags to maintain the temperature of your medication, food and specialist devices such as dialysis machines (subject to size regulations), CPAP machines and nebulisers.”)

o   Emirates (“Approved CPAP/PAP devices are permitted onboard for use during your flight and do not count towards your carry-on baggage limit. In accordance with UAE General Civil Aviation Authority regulations, if you wish to use a CPAP/PAP device on board your flight, you must submit a physician’s statement to an Emirates reservations agent at least 48 hours prior to travel.”)

o   Interjet (“Passengers in need may carry and use their respiratory support system in the cabin area, provided that the equipment is certified by the FAA and fits under the seat in front of the traveling passenger.”)

o   Japan Airlines (“The customer does not need to prepare a Medical certificate for Japan Airlines. Contact Japan Airlines Priority Guest Center in advance to advise us the name of the CPAP, product and manufacturer, the model number, size and the battery type. Please be aware that not all CPAP is compatible onboard.”)

o   KLM Medical clearance is required if you depend on the use of your CPAP device anytime during the flight. (“You may bring certain pieces of medical equipment or aids with you on board provided that such an item can be stowed under a seat or strapped to an adjoining seat. We can not guarantee power supply on board, therefor you need to bring an adequate number of fully charged batteries onboard.”)

o   LATAM (“Portable electronic medical devices (automatic external defibrillators or AEDs, nebulizers, continuous positive airway pressure machines and other equipment) that contain lithium or lithium-ion batteries can be transported”) The CPAP device can be stowed in your carry-on baggage, checked baggage, or worn onto the plane. It also requires prior approval from LATAM. Call 1-866-435-9526.

o   Lufthansa Your CPAP device must be stowed in your carry-on baggage.

o   Quantas (“Onboard use of Continuous Positive Airways Pressure (CPAP) devices (both battery operated and electric) requires Qantas clearance, however it does not require clearance from a medical practitioner. Simply download and complete the CPAP Travel Clearance form. and fax to +61 (2) 9490 1830 and we’ll review and make the necessary arrangements. This form also lists the current CPAP devices authorized for use on Qantas aircraft. Normal carry on baggage regulations apply to any medical support equipment to be used in flight.”)

o   Ryanair (“CPAP machines are not permitted for use on board. Should you wish to carry an assistive or non-oxygen generating support device such as a respirator, nebulizer, ventilator, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) or BiPap machine in the cabin of the aircraft you must contact our special assistance line.”)

o   SAS (“Medical equipment necessary for life preservation can be taken on board free of charge.”)

o   Singapore (“You don’t need approval to use these devices [continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machines] on board our flights. However, we may not be able to provide inflight power supply on all your flights with us.”)

o   Turkish Airlines (“Certain types of medical equipment that you may need during the flight are kept as standard in the cabin. You can use some types of personal medical equipment during the flight.”) You can call 1-800-778-4838 to speak with a Customer Service Representative.

o   Volaris (“If you are traveling with a CPAP, it is considered as carry-on baggage, therefore it must comply with the weight and measurement policies.”)

o   WestJet PMED (Portable Medical Electronic Devices) are allowed to be stowed in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage. (“Automated External Defibrillators (AED), Nebulizer, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), etc.) containing lithium metal or lithium ion cells or batteries may be carried. The approval of the operator (Westjet) is required.”)

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To Carry-on a CPAP or Check a CPAP?

  • Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a CPAP machine falls under the medical equipment category. Therefore, a CPAP machine inside a travel case does not count as a carry-on bag.
    • Pro Tip: Save money and double check to make sure that the airlines are not charging you extra for your CPAP travel carry-on bag!
    • Label your CPAP travel case with a medical equipment luggage tag.
  • If the flight is long and you are interested in sleeping during it, having your CPAP machine conveniently with you is a major bonus.  On the other hand, checking a CPAP machine runs the risk of being damaged or misplaced as a lost baggage during transit.  
  • Unfortunately, luggage is lost from time to time; losing your CPAP machine would be a hassle to rectify especially during traveling.
  • Due to these dangers, bringing the CPAP on the plane is highly recommended. You may want to keep your contact details inside the CPAP travel bag in case it becomes lost or stolen. 

 

Getting a CPAP through Security

  • TSA agents have been specially trained to identify CPAP machines. They should be able to screen quickly to get you through the security line.
  • Airport security recommends that you take the device out and place it in a plastic bin separately, like you would with a laptop.
    • Pro Tip: These bins are gross. Most airports now offer new plastic bags to put your CPAP in before it is X-rayed.
  • TSA reserves the right to perform an Explosive Trace Detection test, where a small swab is rubbed across the machine and then analyzed in order to maintain security protocol.
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CPAP Use on the Airplane

Now that you got your CPAP through security it’s time for you and your CPAP to get on the plane…

Find those electrical outlets!  

Which Airlines Provide Power Outlets:

  • Virgin America: Virgin offers one standard outlet between each seat (including economy class).
  • Delta: Select Delta aircraft have 110 volt power outlets.
  • US Airways: There are 110V AC ports in some Envoy and First Class seats. The 330-300 aircraft also has 15V DC ports in economy seats, for which you’ll need an adapter.
  • United Airlines: All United international fleet have 110V power available; for their domestic fleet, only certain seats have power available.
  • American Airlines: American has AC power outlets on most of their planes. First and Business Class seats have outlets at every seat, and the economy cabin has outlets between seats on certain rows.
  • Air Canada: Most Air Canada aircraft have a 110V power outlet.
  • JetBlue: JetBlue has power ports accessible from all seats on their Airbus A321 aircraft. Everyone in Mint Experience (premium cabin) and certain A321s will have access to two power ports.
  • Alaska Air: Most Alaska Air aircraft have power outlets at every seat in their main cabin, premium, and first class.
  • Southwest airplanes do not offer power outlets.
  • It’s always a good idea to call and check if your select aircraft has an outlet you can use.
  • Bringing any fully-charged batteries to power your CPAP during the flight and not having to depend on an in-flight power outlet is always a reassuring preparation.

Fill the humidifier with bottled water, NOT bathroom tap water.

Yes, you can use your CPAP machine in-flight.

  • It is prohibited for the flight crew to prevent or hinder your use of a CPAP machine.  You can file a complaint with the Department of Transportation if you have any problems.  Here is their contact information:

Department of Transportation

Email: airconsumer@ost.dot.gov

Mailing address:  Aviation Consumer Protection Division U.S. Department of Transportation Room 4107, C-75 Washington, DC 20590.

If you follow these tips, traveling with your CPAP will be a breeze!  Airlines want what is best for their customers and so does Health Sqyre.  If you are interested in purchasing FAA approved CPAP travel products, click below.

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