Proposed rule requires airlines to provide free in-flight oxygen

Friday, September 30, 2005

WASHINGTON - Many U.S. air carriers and foreign air carriers operating to and from the United States would be required to provide medical oxygen without charge to passengers under a new rule proposed Sept. 7 by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This proposed rule would apply to all passenger carriers operating at least one aircraft with more than 60 seats. Comments on the proposed rule are due by Nov. 7.
Currently, airlines are not required to provide medical oxygen to passengers, and many choose to not offer it. Those that do may require passengers to pay for the service, sometimes at a prohibitively high cost, the DOT stated in a release last week.
"Passengers who use oxygen deserve the same access to our air transportation system as do travelers with other disabilities or medical conditions," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.
Airlines also are not required to allow passengers to use their own portable oxygen concentrators onboard aircraft, although a recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rule permitted carriers to allow passengers to use Airsep Lifestyle and Inogen One portable oxygen concentrator devices aboard an aircraft if certain safety conditions are met.
The proposal also would require all U.S. and foreign air carriers operating to and from the United States, except for on-demand air taxis, to test four types of respiratory assistive devices to ensure that they will not cause interference with aircraft navigation or communication systems. These four types of respiratory devices are ventilators, respirators, CPAP machines and certain portable oxygen concentrators. Passengers who use respiratory assistive devices have had difficulty traveling on certain flights because carriers are concerned about possible electromagnetic interference. The proposed rule would require the airlines to comply with all applicable safety and security regulations when providing medical oxygen service, testing respiratory devices and permitting their use aboard aircraft.