E7-19207 effects on airline travel for persons who use Therapeutic Oxygen in flight
By Eben B. “Skip” Scribner IV
Hazardous Materials Regulations:
49 CFR Parts 173, 175 and 178
Transportation of Compressed Oxygen, Other Oxidizing Gases and Chemical Oxygen Generators on Aircraft
Enforced as of October 1, 2009
Persons who use Therapeutic oxygen and wish to travel on the airlines have options ranging from the use of customer owned/acquired Portable Oxygen Concentrator’s (POC’s) and/or purchasing airline provided therapeutic oxygen in compressed gas cylinders.
Carriers now fall under E7-19207 regulations that began enforcement on October 1, 2009. As a result, we have seen a few carriers discontinue their Therapeutic oxygen programs, partly due to the cost of the required Super Box containers to move the oxygen cylinders throughout their served airport locations.
The HM 224B Super Box containers must withstand penetration of a 1700ºF flame for 5 minutes, in accordance with Part III of Appendix F, Paragraphs (a) (3) and (f) (5) of 14 CFR part 25.
In the past, a carrier would send ATA300 rated packaged oxygen cylinders, in the cargo hold of the aircraft to the needed airport of departure for the requesting passenger ahead of time. When the passenger showed up for their flight, the needed Therapeutic oxygen was standing by on the jet way for their flight.
As of this writing, Alaska, Continental and Delta/Northwest have either discontinued or temporarily suspended their onboard Therapeutic oxygen programs. Both American and United airlines continue their programs.
Impacts and choices:
Persons who use either a “Pulse delivery” type of flow on POC’s with manufacturer settings up to 6, or a “Continuous” flow up to, but not exceeding 3 liters per minute (LPM), can use a POC. Those who need a continuous flow over 3 LPM would need to explore alternate methods of obtaining oxygen, as there are currently no POC models capable of a continuous flow higher than 3 LPM.
Since there are very few airlines now providing Therapeutic oxygen, it is imperative that passengers check with their individual airlines as to their oxygen customer policy prior to booking their trip. If the passenger has a need for greater than 3 LPM, alternate routing options using a carrier that can provide the needed higher flow oxygen, may be necessary.
In speaking to some of the carriers representatives who have responsibility in this area, it is very clear to me that the airlines who have stopped providing the service certainly wish there could have been another choice. Due to fiscal constraints with regards to the cost of the “Super Boxes” and the small overall percentage of passengers requesting flows higher than can be accommodated by POC’s, they were not left with many options.
POC’s have certainly made air travel more seamless for the bulk of the oxygen dependent community. With new innovations like the POC’s, one must always remember to be educated in the proper use of the product. I have already been made aware of horror stories involving passengers who were not educated on how to use the unit. They were not Knowledgeable on how to adjust the flow, or change batteries on the unit. Some have also come to the airport to travel and had not given appropriate advance notification that they would be traveling with and using a POC. They didn’t have the required physician’s statement with them, or just did not realize they needed one.
Some were beginning a long flight and arrived with far below the proper amount of batteries needed for the trip (typically 150% of the flight time in batteries). All of these instanced could have been avoided with pre-planning and communicating with the airline ahead of time.
In summary, if you or someone you know uses Therapeutic oxygen at a flow rate higher than 3 LPM in flight, you need to stop and evaluate your choices in air travel before booking future travel. The field of choices has narrowed and you may have to rethink how you will get to your final destination.
Feel free to contact the author at +1-757-481-1590 with questions or comments.