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FAA Allows Air Travelers to Use Medical Oxygen on Commercial Flights

Two portable medical oxygen devices approved under FAA rule


DBP085 Flight attendant with oxygen mask
Jeff Greenberg/Photolibrary/Getty Images
Many air travelers can breathe a little easier now, thanks to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation that allows passengers to use certain types of personal medical oxygen devices on commercial aircraft.

Two Portable Medical Oxygen Devices Approved
Under the FAA rule, passengers can use two different types of portable medical oxygen concentrators during commercial flights. The two medical oxygen devices, manufactured by AirSep Corporation and Inogen, Inc., do not use compressed oxygen, which the government still classifies as a hazardous material and bans from commercial aircraft. Instead, the two approved medical oxygen devices work by filtering nitrogen from the air and delivering concentrated oxygen to the user.

"This final rule addresses a critical need to improve accessibility for people who must travel with medical oxygen," said FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey in an agency press release. "If the equipment doesn't pose a safety hazard, there's no reason passengers shouldn't be able to use it aboard their flight."

Greater Freedom for Medical Oxygen Users
This change is a big step forward for people who need to travel with medical oxygen, because the new rule marks the first time passengers will be able to use their own medical oxygen devices aboard an airliner. Previously, the only other way for commercial air passengers to use medical oxygen was to ask the air carrier to provide the equipment. Not all airlines provide medical oxygen to passengers, and those that do usually charge for the service.

What the FAA Rule on Medical Oxygen Allows[
The new regulation gives air carriers the ability to let passengers use the two types of portable medical oxygen concentrators during all phases of a flight, from taxiing on the runway to takeoff and landing. While the aircraft is in the air, passengers may operate their medical oxygen units whether they are seated or moving about the cabin.

Additional Safety Measures for Medical Oxygen Users
Before passengers are allowed to use a portable medical oxygen concentrator device, however, air carriers must first ensure the model does not cause interference with the electrical, navigation or communication equipment on the aircraft.

For their part, passengers must ensure the medical oxygen unit is in good working order, and they must be able to take appropriate action in response to the unit's warning alarms. Also, if passengers bring along extra batteries for their medical oxygen devices in their carry-on luggage, then the FAA requires them to protect the batteries from short circuits and physical damage.

For more information about FAA regulations concerning medical oxygen and other issues, visit the Federal Aviation Administration website.

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