FAA Allows Passengers to Use Certain Medical Oxygen Units Aboard Aircraft

WASHINGTON, DC—Passengers will be able to use two different kinds of portable oxygen concentrator units onboard commercial aircraft under a new regulation published by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The two devices, manufactured by AirSep Corporation and Inogen, Inc., do not use compressed oxygen, which the government classifies as a hazardous material. They work by filtering nitrogen from the air and delivering oxygen in concentrated form 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. "If the equipment doesn't pose a safety hazard, there's no reason passengers shouldn't be able to use it aboard their flight."

The new regulation gives air carriers the ability to let passengers use the two types of portable oxygen concentrators during all phases of a flight, including taxiing on the airport, takeoff and landing. It also lets passengers operate their units while moving about the cabin whenever the captain turns off the "Fasten Seat Belt" sign. However, before any passenger may use a portable oxygen concentrator device, carriers must first ensure the model does not cause interference with the electrical, navigation or communication equipment on the aircraft.

Other safety-related conditions must be met in order for these oxygen devices to be allowed onboard aircraft. For example, passengers must ensure the unit is in good working order and they must be able to act in response to the unit's warning alarms. They also must protect extra batteries in carry-on baggage from short circuits and physical damage.

The new rule marks the first time passengers will be able to use their own medical oxygen devices aboard an airliner. The only other way for passengers to use medical oxygen is to have the air carrier provide the equipment, which many do at a charge to the passenger, although Department of Transportation rules do not require it. The Department soon will issue a related notice of proposed rulemaking to further address the carriage and use of oxygen devices by passengers on commercial flights.