Travelling With Oxygen

Topic Overview

Travelling while you are on oxygen therapy usually is possible if you plan ahead.

Start by seeing your doctor several weeks to months before your travel date. Ask him or her to:

  • Figure out how much oxygen you will need.
  • Give you the medical forms that are needed for travel.
  • Recommend a doctor in the places where you will travel, in case you need medical care during your trip.

Travel by plane

  • Transport Canada has approved several models of portable oxygen concentrators that can be brought on an airplane. Whether you rent the device or use your own, it must be Transport Canada-approved. Make sure that you bring enough batteries to power your device before, during, and after your flight. And bring extra batteries in case you have travel delays.
  • In Canada, airlines are not required to permit the use of medical oxygen on board planes, but they may choose to either provide a medical oxygen service or let you bring and use your own oxygen tanks. But U.S. regulations forbid the use of passenger-supplied medical oxygen cylinders on board airplanes. If you are on a Canadian flight going into the U.S., you will not be allowed to use your own oxygen tanks after you have entered the U.S. Contact the airline for more information.
  • If you can't use your own oxygen tanks, you may be able to pack empty oxygen tanks in your checked luggage. You can get these filled at your destination. The airline may charge you for any oxygen it supplies during the flight. You will likely have to pay for oxygen for each leg of a trip. And airlines usually do not supply oxygen during layovers, so try to book a direct flight.
  • At least two weeks before your flight, notify the airline that you will need oxygen. You will need a medical release from your doctor stating that you are able to fly. You will also need a prescription that lists the flow rate and amount of oxygen you use. If you use a portable oxygen concentrator, you will need to be able to respond to any alarms on the device.
  • If you need oxygen during a layover, you should arrange for your oxygen supplier to bring tanks to the airport.
  • Think about asking a friend or relative to travel with you. He or she can help you with all the details.

Travel by cruise ship

  • You can take your own oxygen tanks or concentrator on a cruise ship. Or you can arrange for a supplier to deliver oxygen to the ship before it leaves the dock. You should take enough oxygen to last the entire cruise.
  • About 2 to 3 weeks before you travel, notify the cruise line about your oxygen needs. Bring a medical release from your doctor stating that you are able to take a cruise. You will also need a prescription that lists the flow rate and amount of oxygen you use.
  • If you plan to leave the ship to go sightseeing, you may want to have an oxygen supplier bring a tank for you to use while you are onshore.
  • If you need to have a supplier deliver oxygen for your cruise, it is best to leave from and return to the same city. If you don't, you may have to pay to ship the oxygen equipment back to the city where the ship originally departed.

Travel by train or bus

  • You can take your own oxygen equipment on a bus or train. But there may be a limit on the number, size, or weight of tanks you can carry on. Be sure you learn the rules before you travel.
  • If you take a concentrator on a train, it is strongly recommended that you travel in a cabin for one or cabin for two to ensure that there is an electrical outlet. Or bring a battery backup with you.
  • Notify the train or bus company that you will be travelling with oxygen. Bring a medical release from your doctor stating that you are able to travel. You may also need a prescription that lists the flow rate and amount of oxygen you use.
  • Make sure that the train or bus stops at cities where you can get your tanks refilled, if needed.

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Current as of: February 24, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Ken Y. Yoneda MD - Pulmonology
Hasmeena Kathuria MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine

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