Using cpap on-board flight

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Old Jan 21, 10, 4:24 pm
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Using cpap on-board flight

I searched the forum and there are a few threads, primarily concerning carrying on cpap units as carry-on luggage. But the threads are very skimpy re actual usage, so a 'duplicate' post here.

I just started cpap for less than 1 month and will eventually be flying to Asia. Depending on my destinations, I could be in CX's non-stop from JFK to HK, or SQ on the non-stop to Singapore, or less appealing, JFK to Seoul on KAL. Since all are at least 15 hrs or longer, I would like to use cpap in-flight.

CX has a website page re using medical devices and I've spoken with the manufacturer of my cpap unit, Resmed. I am curious how many folks have actually used their cpap machine on board - more and more J and F class has direct AC power. On CX, they carry 115V, 400H AC which is ok for my Resmed machine (accordingly to Resmed).

And what procedure did you follow to get approval to use it on-board - advance notification, paperwork, etc.?

Last edited by dtsm; Jan 21, 10 at 4:45 pm
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Old Jan 21, 10, 5:44 pm
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Originally Posted by dtsm View Post
I searched the forum and there are a few threads, primarily concerning carrying on cpap units as carry-on luggage. But the threads are very skimpy re actual usage, so a 'duplicate' post here.

I just started cpap for less than 1 month and will eventually be flying to Asia. Depending on my destinations, I could be in CX's non-stop from JFK to HK, or SQ on the non-stop to Singapore, or less appealing, JFK to Seoul on KAL. Since all are at least 15 hrs or longer, I would like to use cpap in-flight.

CX has a website page re using medical devices and I've spoken with the manufacturer of my cpap unit, Resmed. I am curious how many folks have actually used their cpap machine on board - more and more J and F class has direct AC power. On CX, they carry 115V, 400H AC which is ok for my Resmed machine (accordingly to Resmed).

And what procedure did you follow to get approval to use it on-board - advance notification, paperwork, etc.?
First of all, it's great that you found out you needed it. I had to fight with my doctor here to even order a sleep study. I had had already done in India on a suggestion of a doctor in Delhi, but I couldn't use results of that to get a CPAP.
Some units are certified for use on aircraft. If your unit is certified for use on the aircraft you will be on, the airline should alow you to use it on board. The reality is quite different. The response you get from the airline depends on who answers your phone and how diligent they are in digging up information. Some airlines would allow you to use CPAP only if it runs on a battery (quite expensive at $400 or more). You can also attack the problem from Resmed end. Have them produce documentation to you as to which aircraft teir unit has been certified for. Requiring battery use makes no sense as seats with power points provide enough power from a CPAP (other than empower ones) nor is the EM radiation from a CPAP is not likey to be much more than that from a DVD drive on a laptop. After spending hours with the airline and the manufacturer, the best I could get was "You can use it on the aircraft if you run it on a battery, and NOT use aircraft power).
That said, you will not die if you don;t use CPAP for one night. I had an AHI of 93 with a pressure setting of 16 mm of water. DO you mind sharing what your numbers were. It does make a big difference once you start using it. My BP numbers became normal only after a week's use.
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Old Jan 22, 10, 11:59 am
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Virgin Atlantic: A major CPAP pain in the ***.

Three years ago I had a sleep study and started CPAP the day before a Virgin Atlantic flight LAX-LHR-CPT in PE. I called VA to ask if I could bring my machine with me in the cabin without it being counted as an extra carry-on. I was nervous putting it in my checked luggage. I DIDN'T ASK TO USE THE MACHINE DURING THE FLIGHT. They said no problem. I got to the check-in counter and the drama started. They said that they weren't sure I could fly because I had "Apneoa Syndrome" (their spelling) and I could stop breathing during the flight. I ended-up talking with some nurse from VA and I had to agree to keep my seat vertical for both flight segments from LAX-LHR-CPT. I also had to get a 'fit to fly" statement faxed by my EENT to VA. I was livid, but I agreed so that I could board my flight. I thought that was the end of it, but no. The same thing happened to me me in London when I was boarding my flight to Capetown, AND Capetown to London AND London to Los Angeles. I fly VA a lot; I just returned from South Africa three weeks ago and you can bet that I never mentioned CPAP. VA hasn't changed their policy as far as I know. They do not allow the use of CPAP with or without battery power. I would sure like to be able to use the machine when I fly UC, if not for me for my fellow passengers with my intense snoring.

I'm planning a trip to Chennai, India in April and I'm considering flying Singapore Air if they would let me use my machine instead of flying LAX-LHR-DEL and then taking a domestic carrier to Chennai (MAA).


Originally Posted by Yaatri View Post
First of all, it's great that you found out you needed it. I had to fight with my doctor here to even order a sleep study. I had had already done in India on a suggestion of a doctor in Delhi, but I couldn't use results of that to get a CPAP.
Some units are certified for use on aircraft. If your unit is certified for use on the aircraft you will be on, the airline should alow you to use it on board. The reality is quite different. The response you get from the airline depends on who answers your phone and how diligent they are in digging up information. Some airlines would allow you to use CPAP only if it runs on a battery (quite expensive at $400 or more). You can also attack the problem from Resmed end. Have them produce documentation to you as to which aircraft teir unit has been certified for. Requiring battery use makes no sense as seats with power points provide enough power from a CPAP (other than empower ones) nor is the EM radiation from a CPAP is not likey to be much more than that from a DVD drive on a laptop. After spending hours with the airline and the manufacturer, the best I could get was "You can use it on the aircraft if you run it on a battery, and NOT use aircraft power).
That said, you will not die if you don;t use CPAP for one night. I had an AHI of 93 with a pressure setting of 16 mm of water. DO you mind sharing what your numbers were. It does make a big difference once you start using it. My BP numbers became normal only after a week's use.
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Old Jan 22, 10, 12:48 pm
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Originally Posted by backdoc View Post
Three years ago I had a sleep study and started CPAP the day before a Virgin Atlantic flight LAX-LHR-CPT in PE. I called VA to ask if I could bring my machine with me in the cabin without it being counted as an extra carry-on. I was nervous putting it in my checked luggage. I DIDN'T ASK TO USE THE MACHINE DURING THE FLIGHT. They said no problem.
Never put it in your checked baggage. There are plenty of Youtube videos about what baggage handlers do with the bags for you to put an expensive piece of medical equipment -- but of course I am preaching to the choir.

You can bring a CPAP onboard as a 3rd piece of carry-on. I've never had to argue the point but it is in the airline regulations. I find of course that it is logistically problematic with the overcrowding of flights these days and have a carry-on that will hold the CPAP safely plus my clothes and then bring the laptop bag and I am good to go.
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Old Jan 22, 10, 12:50 pm
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If you haven't already done so, I suggest you check out cpaptalk.com as well. Very helpful site for new hoseheads.

Good luck with your trip, and please report back afterwards how it went.
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Old Jan 22, 10, 1:07 pm
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Originally Posted by Yaatri View Post
.....
That said, you will not die if you don;t use CPAP for one night. .......
True, but your seatmate and anyone else near you might not get much sleep.
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Old Jan 22, 10, 1:44 pm
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Smile

Originally Posted by iff View Post
If you haven't already done so, I suggest you check out cpaptalk.com as well. Very helpful site for new hoseheads.
Thanks iff, I actually do read the cpaptalk.com forum. I just finished doing a search there and found lots of great information there. This is what I learned so far:

1. You are permitted to carry-on your cpap unit and it does not count toward the maximum 2 bag allowance (at least on domestic flights). Best to carry a couple of the TSA ruling letter, copy of your doctor's script as backup in case you run into an uneducated airline person.

2. CX (I'm still checking on Singapore Airlines and KAL) runs 115v, 400H AC power and my Resmed S8 autoelite II will operate properly. CX requires advance notice by phone (24 hrs). Others have successfully operated their cpap unit on Eva Air and Qantas.

3. If you can use a battery pack, that's preferred way...according to some but that adds weight.

4. You have less 'problems' if sitting in J or F class but it can be done in economy...

Originally Posted by backdoc View Post
I'm planning a trip to Chennai, India in April and I'm considering flying Singapore Air
Look forward to hearing how your trip went. And I will post my experiences on this thread after my next trip.


Slightly OT but my brother checked his cpap in when flying JFK/HK, then China, etc., even though I told him not to. Fortunately nothing happened
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Old Jan 22, 10, 7:38 pm
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Originally Posted by dtsm View Post
Best to carry a couple of the TSA ruling letter, copy of your doctor's script as backup in case you run into an uneducated airline person.
Print out this page from the TSA site. Also be sure to insist that the screener clean the table, use fresh sampling media, and put on a pair of new gloves (from the box, not pulled out of their back pocket).
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Old Jan 22, 10, 8:34 pm
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Originally Posted by N965VJ View Post
I think you mean the pdf file that can be downloaded from this page:
http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtrav...eds/index.shtm - dated 2006 but still valid.

Having a medical ID tag for your carry-on also helps. It can be downloaded here:
1. Heroic Red Star version http://www.mindspring.com/~jimw203@m.../PAP-Tag_1.pdf

2. Authentic True-Believer Blue Star version http://www.mindspring.com/~jimw203@m.../PAP-Tag_2.pdf

Print them and bring to Staples to get laminated tags made for $0.99 each!

Or you can purchase them on-line for about $10 each.

Last edited by dtsm; Jan 24, 10 at 11:29 am
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Old Jan 23, 10, 2:06 am
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Originally Posted by SeAAttle View Post
True, but your seatmate and anyone else near you might not get much sleep.
Right. But the good news is that they won't die either.
If your machine is not certified for use on aircraft, you can't use it anyway.
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Old Jan 23, 10, 8:21 pm
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Originally Posted by ross123 View Post
Never put it in your checked baggage.
Amen, brother. Of all the flights I took in 2009, I did this maybe five times. I just wanted to get through the security check without having to unload countless items into the plastic bins. Then on one flight out of ORD, I got a random call from an unknown number. I was already in my seat and let the call go voicemail. Bad move on my part. It was American baggage claim at O'Hare telling me they had my bag. Ummm...do you think you can send it with me to DFW? When I got to DFW I told them to send that bag forward and it never came until the following morning. What a night. I will NEVER do that again.
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Old Jan 23, 10, 11:53 pm
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Keep in mind that even though the USA allows a third carryon bag for your CPAP machine, other countries may not have such an allowance. I keep a copy of my prescription, and all the DOT and TSA paperwork with me just in case I need it. I also carry a 10 ft AC extension cord, too often I end up in a hotel room where the AC outlet is too far away to be of any good.

I've come to the point where I don't bother taking my CPAP machine out of it's case anymore at the security checkpoint. If they want to swab it down, let the TSA open the case! No complaints so far.

Just curious what machines fellow cpap users have here for travel? I'm looking for something very compact and portable that can fit in my roll aboard for those occasions that a third carryon is not permitted. Been thinking of getting myself this one:
http://www.cpap.com/cpap-machine/aei...p-machine.html
or this one:
http://www.cpap.com/cpap-machine/pro...p-machine.html
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Old Jan 24, 10, 7:31 am
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Originally Posted by Arthurrs View Post
Just curious what machines fellow cpap users have here for travel? I'm looking for something very compact and portable that can fit in my roll aboard for those occasions that a third carryon is not permitted. Been thinking of getting myself this one:
http://www.cpap.com/cpap-machine/aei...p-machine.html
or this one:
http://www.cpap.com/cpap-machine/pro...p-machine.html
Re the first unit - check this review: http://www.cpaptalk.com/viewtopic.ph...z+PAP+#p438093

I'd be curious re which you ultimately get. I use a S8 AutoElite II - not too large to carry but anything smaller is always better.

Last edited by dtsm; Jan 24, 10 at 8:35 am
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Old Jan 25, 10, 10:50 am
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My partner has used his CPAP machine several times on BA, but always in F or J - there are some good seats in J on the upper deck of 747s that are perfect for resting the machine. He used the inseat power, always asks the crew before using it, and has never had a problem.

BA's website is very clear and in stark contrast to backdoc's shocking Virgin experience states: "Medical clearance is not required for the carriage or use of CPAP machines (used in the treatment of sleep apnoea) as fitness to travel will not be in doubt." Laptop power is rated at 75w and as long as your device needs less than that you are fine, although BA do not guarantee that they will be in service and suggest you use a battery-powered machine if necessary.
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Old Jan 25, 10, 1:29 pm
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I have been flying with a BiPap for a little more than a year now. Last year 7 international r/t flights on UA, mostly in C with two legs Y. UA has an AeroMedical Desk staffed with terrific agents. They require a minimum of 48 hours notice to set up electrical for the flight. They will tell you if you have an approved machine. On planes without in-seat power UA will bring power to your seat, but you must have an original manufacturer cigarette lighter adapter for your equipment. Mine cost about $30 for my $5000 machine.

When UA came out with their new seats in F & C that had the in-seat power (currently the 747 and 767) initially they still brought power to the seat because their engineering department had not yet approved the in-seat power for medical equipment use. They subsequently approved it, however. This has made travelling overseas very easy for me. I just wish I had a humidifier option on my machine.

The best part, however, is when you are stuck in Y on a 14 hour transpac and are the only one with power! I have an adapter for my laptop and iPhone as well and when I wasn't using my machine I was able to charge my other equipment (and that of my friends who were along on the trip). On UA, mechanics board the plane first and plug a long extension cord into the outlet by the door that the cleaners use for their vacuum cleaners, run an extension cord to an inverter box, which they place under the seat in front of you or under your seat. The cord is taped down with FAA approved airplane tape (kind of a duct tape on steriods). For the return portion of your international flight they fly the box over to your departure airport on the plane that you return on and mechanics at that airport install it for the return flight. They always let you board before the engineers leave to test the equipment. There has been one or two occasions where the inverter box didn't work and required some tinkering.

One of the reasons I did not go on the *A Mega DO was the different airline rules for medical equipment use on board. With all the different carriers involved, it would have been a nightmare to deal with. That is one reason I am very happy to stay with UA on overnight international flights. They have made flying with medical issues very easy.

While CPaps and BiPaps are prescribed for similar illnesses, equipment varies. My BiPap is more like a mini-respirator, which explains the cost. While some may not die from not using their CPaps, I can die from not using my BiPap. So I would not necessary heed the medical advice tossed around in this thread and would instead ask my treating physician how harmful it would be to you if you went without the CPap for a night while flying.
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