Proposed rule would require airlines to provide free oxygen

Sunday, September 11, 2005

WASHINGTON - Many U.S. and foreign air carriers operating to and from the United States would be required to provide medical oxygen without charge to passengers who need it during flight, under a new rule proposed Sept. 7 by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This proposed requirement would apply to all passenger carriers operating at least one aircraft with more than 60 seats.

The department proposed this this requirement because passengers needing supplemental oxygen on flights have long experienced significant difficulties in obtaining the services they need in order to fly. 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. "This rulemaking continues our effort to ensure that Americans with disabilities are treated fairly when they travel by air."

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, if made final, also would require all U.S. air carriers 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, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines and certain portable oxygen concentrators. Passengers who use respiratory assistive devices have had difficulty traveling on certain flights because carriers were concerned about possible electromagnetic interference with aircraft navigation and communication systems. Under the proposed rule, passengers would be allowed to use these devices on aircraft if they can be safely operated on board.

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.

Comments on the proposed rule, which was published in today's Federal Register, are due in 60 days. The proposed rule and comments on the proposal may be obtained via the Internet at, docket number OST-2005-22298.

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