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The Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Forums

Air Security (Travelling with CPAP)

Share your experiences with CPAP, request help, find out the latest developments ....

Air Security (Travelling with CPAP)

Post by Pinky69 » Fri Aug 11, 2006 11:59 am

I wonder how the new air security measures, which will probably now be the norm, will impact on our ability to take our CPAP equipment on planes in future.

Bill Bolton

Post by Bill Bolton » Sat Aug 12, 2006 3:46 am

The basic answer is likely to be SIGNIFICANTLY!

Even if it is still possible, I expect that there will be many more hoops to jump through in order to get any sort of carry in electronic device into an aircraft cabin than has been the case to date.

The issue is related to possible power sources that could be used to detonate an explosive device, so even access to on-board power may be severely restricted.

In the meantime, seeking specific advice from the airline(s) and air travel regulator(s) prior to travelling regarding taking a CPAP machine into the aircraft cabin and being able to use it with the cabin is clearly indicated as a smart thing to do.

For everyone's information, a plane has indeed been "blown up" using the approach that was apparently being attempted in the UK, involving assembling a bomb on the aircraft from components carried on mostly "in plain sight". It was on Philippine Airlines Flight 434 en route from Manila to Tokyo in December 1994. One passenger died and about a dozen were injured, but fortunately the aircraft was able to land safely at Okinawa, so it wasn't a total disaster.

The possibility of this from of attack has been known for quite a while.



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Post by Alsacienne » Sat Aug 12, 2006 7:18 am


I am currently stranded at San Francisco, and face an 11 hour flight home without my CPAP.

As some of you will know, I deliberately spent my money on a ticket in the World Traveller Plus class (BA) so that I could use my CPAP with a power point. I am now faced with consigning my precious and sensitive machine in the hold and at the mercy of baggage handlers, and also risk delayed luggage at my final destination as I don't have confidence in the luggage changing terminals in time at Heathrow. Similarly if I cannot travel as planned, I risk spending an overnight somewhere without my machine.

I am really worried about trying to stay awake for at least 14 hours, and this has led to my first major panic attack in five years.

NOT HAPPY AT ALL - and getting really stressed.

PS The CPAP and the EMPOWER adapter (made by Teleadapt) worked a treat on my outward flight.

Bill Bolton

Post by Bill Bolton » Sat Aug 12, 2006 9:03 am


New Rules for Carry-On Luggage in U.K. After Bomb Plot

In light of the terrorist bomb plot foiled today in England, the Home Office has implemented new rules for hand luggage on all flights departing UK airports.

The following items may be taken through airport security search points and into the plane's cabin, but only in a transparent, plastic carrier bag. All items not on this list must be processed as hold baggage and carried in the hold of passenger aircraft departing UK airports.
  • Pocket-size wallets and pocket-size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards --handbags are not allowed.

    Travel documents essential for the journey (passports and travel tickets)

    Prescription medicines and medical items sufficicent and essential for the flight (diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic.

    Spectacles and sunglasses, without cases.

    Contact lens holders, without bottles of solution.

    For people traveling with an infant: baby food, milk (the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger).

    Female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flfight, if unboxed (tampons, pads, towels and wipes).

    Tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs.

    Keys (but not with electrical key fobs).
Check the Home Office's website for more details


Post by BigEars » Sat Aug 12, 2006 12:22 pm

I would have thought that you CPAP was a medical item essential for the flight. Airline security for long haul flights must have seen enough of those by now to know what they are.

All the more important to use it in flught as the cabin is presurised lower than at sea level and the oxygen level is reduced accordingly.


Air Security

Post by JohnJ » Sat Aug 12, 2006 7:19 pm

I travel regularly in Europe and do not need to use my CPAP machine whilst on board a plane, but was advised that it should NOT be placed in the hold. Does anyone know if indeed the machine might be affected if it is stowed in an aircrafts hold, apart from the obvious risk of being physically damaged?

Bill Bolton

Re: Air Security

Post by Bill Bolton » Sun Aug 13, 2006 5:29 am

I travel regularly in Europe and do not need to use my CPAP machine whilst on board a plane, but was advised that it should NOT be placed in the hold.

The usual reason for that advice is to make sure that the CPAP machine ends up at the same place that you do at the same time, rather than in some other place because the checked baggage got misrouted.

Apart from that, if the machine is well packed there is no specific technical/medical reason why a CPAP machine can't go in checked luggage, in the hold.

We need to recognise that we are not presently "in the normal course of events" and that many travellers are going to be inconvenienced to a greater or lesser degree. :shock:

BTW, if you look at the fine print on most of the medical equipment exceptions for air travel, you find that it the equipment is indeed needed for immediate life support there are many, many restrictions and additional requirements/documentation/insurance associated with its use on an aircraft.

The use of CPAP machines on commercial aircraft carries a relatively light documentation load (in the case of BA is carries none) and is always on a best effort basis. The airline usually warns that they cannot guarantee that you will actually be able to use one (due to power availability or other operational issues).

Trying to claim that CPAP is essential life support medical equipment is usually just counter productive, as the airline starts to look at that other set of requirements and (trust me on this) you really don't want to go there! :roll:



Bill Bolton

Post by Bill Bolton » Sun Aug 13, 2006 2:28 pm

Here's the text of the information I recevied a few weeks ago from BA about using CPAP machine in flight.


Here is some Information on taking a CPAP machine for use on BA flights.

PC Laptop In Seat Power Sockets are available on B747 and B777 in World Traveler Plus, Club World and First Class. We cannot supply power in our World Traveller (Economy) cabin.

It should be noted that this power source cannot be guaranteed as an individual seat may be unserviceable or the power may be switched off for varying reasons.

This source of power can only, therefore, be used providing the use of the medical equipment is not essential. ie. the passenger may use the CPAP machine as normal whilst sleeping, but must consider that it would not be detrimental nor essential to their wellbeing, if the CPAP was for some reason, unable to be used at all or interrupted during it's use in-flight.

The medical equipment would need to be 110 volts AC.

The PC Laptop in seat power socket is 15 Volt DC and requires the use of an adapter to convert from 15 Volt DC to 110 Volts AC.

The only way around this is to have a CPAP machine that is dry cell battery operated.

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Post by Alsacienne » Mon Aug 14, 2006 10:41 pm

Well I'm home now, with my CPAP ....................

I was fine until I got to the second security check at San Francisco, when there was a question about the battery in the CPAP (for the clock/record keeping etc) and that it might cause a spark on being powered up, thus being able to start an explosion. (All this is new to me.)

I was told that I would have to check my CPAP, and this distressed me, even though the kind lady at SFO had already put my luggage aside (at the gate) so that I could choose which bag it was to go in. The TSA staff were amazingly kind and supportive - they could see how upset I was - and they pursuaded the BA lady to check again. She admitted that this was an odd case, and had already been in contact with supervisory staff and management since I had checked in (3 hours before).

It was finally decided that the CPAP would be given personally by the BA agent to the CSD (Cabin Services Director) on board, and he would look after it during the flight, so that it was with me but not available for use.

I was still shocked and a sweet member of the cabin crew listened to my story and went to see the CSD to see if I could eventually have my CPAP during the flight - when it was 'night time' and the lights had been dimmed. This sensible gentleman had no problem with this at all and I DID get 4 hours patchy sleep.

At Heathrow, I explained that I was in transfer, and the security staff seemed to have no qualms about letting me through. I had my CPAP with me during the short flight.

However, once arrived at my destination, my bag had not been put in the hold at London, and I have been told that it might be 5-6 days before it catches up with me. I am SO glad it wasn't in the hold.

CPAPs might be ok in the hold for direct flights, but I would avoid doing this at all costs if there is a transfer/connection .... especially at LHR as it is at the present (and some cynics might add 'at any time').

Just my factual experience, and hope it helps someone, somewhere.

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Post by dan » Tue Aug 15, 2006 12:28 am

I've made this a sticky as we're starting to get phone calls in the office about this problem.
Dan Kew
British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association

01737 245638
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Post by harvey57 » Mon Aug 21, 2006 3:42 pm

I've recently started using a CPAP and am flying off to Spain with my family shortly. I phoned up the so-called medical dept of my travel company to check whether I could take my machine in the plane in view of the recent scare. The person had obviously never heard of CPAP machines or sleep apnoea for that matter so I had to explain all about it. She was totally unsympathetic and told me it would have to go in the hold and the airline may well stop me from flying if they think there's a health risk.

I have now asked my GP urgently for a letter stating I need the machine but I'm OK for going by air and just hope that it will do the trick. I don't really want to manage without it for 2 weeks, especially as I intend to hire a car out there, but on the other hand we don't want a load of hassle at the airport.

I assumed travel companies and airlines would know about CPAP by now as they seem fairly common these days. Maybe I just got the wrong person on the phone.

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Post by Alsacienne » Mon Aug 21, 2006 5:49 pm

I assumed travel companies and airlines would know about CPAP by now as they seem fairly common these days. Maybe I just got the wrong person on the phone.

Sadly you are by no means alone. I never have any problem in Europe, and certainly in the US, the security staff immediately knew what I was talking about, but in the UK I nearly always have to show how my machine works and the term sleep apnoea compressor/sleep apnoea machine is unknown.

I am sure that a letter from your doctor will help smooth your journey - and have a great holiday.

Bill Bolton

Post by Bill Bolton » Wed Sep 06, 2006 11:18 am

Just a reminder that if you are intending to actually use your CPAP machine on a long haul commercial flight, you will need to reset the altitude setting on the machine. This is usually a "patient menu" settable parameter.

The cabin presuure on a commercial aircraft is usually set to no less than ~2400 metres (~8000 ft), so your CPAP machine should be set to whatever is the closest altitude setting available on its menu.

If you use the CPAP machine on an airborne aircraft while it is set for a normal terrestial setting (such as sea level) you will get lower pressure than normal which may well effect the quality of your sleep.

Remember to reset the altitude to an appropriate terrestial setting when next you use the CPAP machine after completing your flight.



Tony The Busman

Post by Tony The Busman » Thu Sep 21, 2006 2:30 pm


I have just seen on the BBC news website
that the hand baggage rules are to be relaxed from tomorrow. You will now be allowed to take on board one piece of hand baggage that is the size of a small roller suitcase.

Interestingly though, musicians are being allowed to carry their instruments through as an additional piece of hand luggage, so I wonder if the same exemption would be aplied to our CPAP machine. No offence to the musicians out there, but I think our need is greater than theirs.

As I am going to Prague for a week, on Monday this is good news, but I will get in touch with the airport/airline and try to find out about my CPAP machine.

I will let you know if I get a positive response.


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Post by Alsacienne » Thu Sep 21, 2006 4:46 pm

Thanks Tony! It's great to be kept up to date!

I too am off on my travels this weekend .. only to Wales (from Basel/Mulhouse), but it's with my 'friend' BA and I'm just hoping that things will be 'business as usual', because I'm NOT putting my CPAP in the hold unless it's the last resort!!

Have a great time in Prague, and don't forget to take your plug adapter!

Kind regards,

Alsa xxx

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