Travel Tips with Portable Oxygen

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Patient Story

Travelling with Oxygen, by Megan Rushton

My friend, Alicia, (not her real name) decided last year to take a 9 hour Qantas flight overseas from Sydney. Alicia has COPD which has reduced her lung capacity and she needs oxygen 24/7 provided by an oxygen concentrator. The concentrator is powered by a battery with an approximate 8 hour life.
She approached Qantas with a medical clearance for the concentrator well before her departure date. This was approved by them and on her departure she was met at the plane door by a technician who was expecting her. He asked for the concentrator’s charger to plug into the plane’s electricity supply but therein lay the problem. Alicia’s doctor had told her that the concentrator could run off a neat little lead plugged into the cigarette lighter in the seat’s arm rest. She produced that, saying that the charger was in her checked-in luggage!

The technician shook his head sadly, pointing out that smoking had been banned on planes for the best part of 20 years hence no lighters in seat arms any more. Nonetheless, he would speak with the Captain to see if Alicia could use the plane’s oxygen. This was agreed but Alicia remarked she could probably get by with just using the concentrator sparingly since she would not be exerting herself much during the journey. Her journey was completed with no problems.

Forewarned was forearmed. Alicia travelled with the charger in her hand luggage on the return flight to Sydney and since then she has had several domestic and overseas flights without incident. She has, of course, enlightened her doctor about the absence of cigarette lighters on planes!

Travel with an oxygen concentrator is not a problem. Airlines are used to them but on booking a flight one must have a medical clearance. On departure make sure the charger is accessible in carry-on luggage. Even a spare battery as well as carrying the concentrator manual might be useful in the event of a technical problem. The cabin crew on two different airlines with which Alicia has travelled have been extremely helpful and supportive. Remember also that if travelling overseas, a power adapter is essential so that the concentrator’s charger can be used wherever you are.

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Has this ever happened to you? Travelling with portable oxygen can become a nightmare if you don’t do a little preparation before hand?  If you are prepared you can enjoy your trip with little to worry about.

Download the fact sheet here:

Portable Oxygen Travel Tips (257 KB)

Some useful travel tips

  •  Always check with your doctor first that you are fit to travel
  • Check with your oxygen supplier that they are happy for you to take your oxygen with you.  If your oxygen is subsidised some suppliers allow you to travel freely within the state as long as you notify them
  • Cylinders must be positioned upright with proper securing devices i.e. wall chain, cylinder base or trolle
  • Make sure you have a battery/batteries with you for your concentrator in case plug in power is not available and be quite sure about how long your battery will last.  Various brands of portable concentrators have varying longevity when it comes to batteries
  • When travelling overseas, ensure you have the correct power adaptors with you to fit foreign power outlets.

Useful links:

  • Click here for very general information for travelling with oxygen in Australia
  • The following is an Australian website regarding air travel, click here.
  • This is the Inogen website which is an American website but has a lot of useful information for all forms of travel
  • Click here for a very helpful general guide to travelling with oxygen in Australia.
  • Most of these websites are in relation to travelling with portable oxygen concentrators, which has become the easiest way to travel
  • Portable oxygen concentrators can be hired for a short period of time which can make travel easier.

Travelling by car

  •  When travelling by car and using oxygen therapy always ensure that you have a window open.  If using air conditioning, ensure that it is on fresh and not recycled as it is best not to get a build up of concentrated oxygen in the car
  • If using a portable concentrator make sure it is secured and check with the manufacturer’s specific instructions
  • If using cylinders, ensure that they are secured either upright in the appropriate device such as a carrier or lying down behind the passenger’s seat.  Once again please check with the manufacturer’s or supplier’s instructions as these may vary.

If you are a driver with a medical condition, your local state transport authority may need you to report your condition. Please refer to the following websites for further information in your state:

 Travelling by bus

  •  Most bus lines will allow you to travel with oxygen – it is advisable to contact them directly.

 Travelling by rail

  • Most Train lines will allow you to travel with oxygen – it is advisable to contact them directly
  • Some train lines won’t guarantee power to recharge your oxygen concentrator, but if they do some portable oxygen concentrators can run on power from the train –it is best to check first
  • Some train services will require you to notify them in advance of your needs
  • If travelling on international train services you may require your doctor’s letter noting your prescription.
  • Some train lines have restrictions on cylinder sizes and number of cylinders and may require you to provide a strap to secure the cylinder to your seat.

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Travelling by plane


Most flight carriers are happy for you to travel with a portable oxygen concentrator, but may have restrictions to bottled oxygen.  It is best to contact the airline direct to identify what is required.

If you need oxygen on the other end of the flight you may need to organise with a supplier at the other end to arrange oxygen there.


If requiring oxygen during an international flight all airlines have specific policies including a medical clearance to fly.


Most large cruise lines are happy to accommodate your need to use oxygen.  It is always wise to check with each specific cruise line their requirements in the transportation of oxygen.

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Patient Story

Travelling with Oxygen, by Ian Mills

We travelled over by liner and used my concentrator all the way without problems. I organised an account with BOC Gases (who were not the local supplier here in Tasmania at that time) and arranged to pick up a cylinder in Auckland when we disembarked. We travelled throughout both islands, topping up at local depots as we travelled. We handed in the cylinder at the BOC depot at Christchurch and returned home without any real problems.

I would make one point clearly – carry the account paperwork with you every time you pick up or drop off a cylinder and copy the account number onto each docket as you go. Carry all the invoices home with you if possible with the signature of the counter clerk or whoever you changed over with. It is surprising how easy a cylinder can be mislaid in one of those depots. It took us 6 months to sort out one cylinder. It turned up under the counter where a clerk had placed it. Apart from that one instance, we had little trouble. The airlines were another story although I am confident they have improved greatly since then.


Preparation is the key to successful travel with oxygen.

    • Plan your trip well ahead
    • Clearance and written medical advice from your doctor is essential
    • Check with all the services that you are going to travel with regarding their specific requirements
    • Carry all emergency contact details for all your services with you
    • Take a copy of your oxygen prescription
    • Check with your travel insurance that the oxygen is included and covered
    • If going overseas, check that you can recharge/fill up your oxygen appliance in the countries you will be visiting
    • Research the details of the nearest hospital to where you will be staying
    • Make sure the people you are travelling with are familiar with your oxygen appliance
    • Carry spare nasal prongs and tubing
    • Have a contingency plan should your appliance breakdown/run out


Home Oxygen Booklet

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The Home Oxygen Booklet has been developed by Lung Foundation Australia as a resource for those with a chronic lung condition, who have recently been prescribed home oxygen therapy, or may be prescribed it in the near future.

Click here to view the Home Oxygen Booklet. 

Patient Story

Travelling with Oxygen, by John Ruttle

My wife and I decided to take a holiday to Geraldton W.A to visit family.

We decided this time that we would go by The Indian Pacific Train and fly back.

On boarding the train at Central Station in Sydney we advised the staff that I would be using an oxygen concentrator and would it be alright to plug into the power that was available on the train. The staff informed me that I would need to use a surge protector as the power supply can fluctuate
As I hadn’t even thought of obtaining a surge protector, one of the staff loaned one to me until we reached Adelaide. On arrival in Adelaide the crew changed and we had to give back the surge protector to her as it actually belonged to her. Luckily we had and off train excursion which allowed us to purchase our own from Coles for about $10.00. So they are not expensive and have now decided that this plug stays with the concentrator all the time.

When we were flying back from Perth I made sure that the battery was fully charged so I did not have to worry about and additional power source.

I still use the surge protector adaptor when I need to charge or use the concentrator as you never know when a power surge may happen.

My recommendation to all users of oxygen concentrators to always use a surge protector adaptor when using or charging your concentrators at home or anywhere else.



The COPD National Program receives unrestricted sponsorship towards the development of training and resources from the following companies:

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GlaxoSmithKline sponsorship is specific to the following activities:  $7,000 CPAG (website, patient stories, support group); $8,800 Review, redesign and reprinting of patient resources (COPD DL brochure; Oxygen Booklet and Save Your Breath booklet); $44,200 Lungs in Action program.