Traveling with O2 concentrator

This item appears on page 31 of the May 2010 issue.

My husband has COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and uses a personal oxygen concentrator on domestic flights. These concentrators do not involve oxygen tanks but use the surrounding air. For people with disabilities, the FAA approves the devices on flights, and most airlines allow them with an approved doctor’s statement, which must be renewed annually.

(This is not a CPAP machine, which is used to treat sleep apnea and also does not involve an oxygen tank. Several airlines do not allow CPAP machines on flights.)

We would like to be able to travel overseas, but the maximum battery life for an oxygen concentrator is three hours. With my husband’s three batteries, that translates into eight to nine hours on a plane — not enough to get us over the pond! The lithium-ion batteries weigh 1½ pounds each and cost about $250 each.

We understand some aircraft now offer power ports that can be utilized by these devices as well as by laptops. However, the airlines I contacted told me they are available only in business and first class. We are budget travelers and cannot afford those seats.

Also, we have found that some airport screeners are not familiar with the oxygen concentrators, even here in the US, so we are concerned about screeners overseas, even though, according to the FAA, many overseas carriers allow the machines on their planes.

We would like to hear of other travelers’ experiences using personal oxygen concentrators for foreign travel. What sort of problems have you encountered at airport security checks and on overseas flights? Have you had to rely solely on batteries or were there power ports available for use (other than in first class)? What other tips can you offer?


Henderson, NV

Those of you with info for Ione, write to Oxygen Concentrators, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail