Flying with portable O2 concentrator

Hi's been a long time since I joined this site, however, I rarely post..just enjoy reading everything! I have a questions I hope someone can answer.

I have severe COPD (FEV 29%) on O2 24/7 at 2 LPM constant. pUlse flow not working well for me as I am a shallow breather.

I have flown many times with O2 concentrator with no issue. Just recently I flew to California (3.20hrs) and had problems at around 28k feet up. My O2 concentration was down in the mid 70,s at 5LPM pulse, and 2 LPM constant. Needless to say, I was in trouble. I didn't even think to ask the attendant for help, too busy concentrating on staying calm, breathing correctly and trying to relax my was racing!

It is 2 days since I returned from. That flight and I am so exhausted, I feel like I did after I had pneumonia! Am seeing doc end of March but was wondering whether my concentrator didn't do its job or if my lungs just decided to not work??? I am just so concerned that my flying days Are over. I had the best concentrator (they claim). A respironics simply go. I don't have any infection symptoms except short of breath.

Thanks for any help. Healthy breathing to you all!! Jackie

17 Replies

  • Hi Jackie I to are on oxygen 24/7 and used to go to Spain regular when I was only on oxygen 15hrs a day , although I don't have answers to your post could you tell me which concentrator you use that lasts for your journey. I am on 2ltrs constant flow.

    Hope you can continue your journeys.

    Kind regards


  • The concentrator I used for the flight is a Respironics Simplygo.

  • The respironics is a great concentrator but it may need servicing and have the sieves checked or replaced. The oxygen levels can be checked also by a qualified tech. The cabin air pressure could have been fluctuating thus adding to a bad flight experience. Suggest you have the unit checked and calibrated, just for good measure. Stay well.

  • Thanks for your reply..yes, I too am wondering if the concentrator did not do its jib,,

  • first did you have fit to fly test a did you say how long the flight was ? i had a fit to fly test to go to Russia only 2 and a half hour flight i was not to fly so now i do a cruise

    and no one will insure me if i fly as i have to sow them the fit to fly letter . hope this is of help

  • i'm on oxygen 24/7 and cant even get to see anyone to get a fit to fly certificate. 1lt on concentrator at rest , 2lt on portable unless i'm walking then out walking 3 to 4 lts when exercising.

  • ask tour doctor to seed you to the hospital

  • I asked at the Royal Brompton hospital when they gave me scans on heart lungs liver & kidneys. Not only no fit to fly. I can't be operated on as my heart won't survive a local anaesthetic. Took 5 days in ICU last time for me to come round

  • i have the same so now i do a cruise with P& O an so much help from as long as you tell all that is going on with you health.

  • I have never had a test for "fit to fly" but I do carry a doctor's letter stating I can fly. I am going,to look into the "fit to fly" test. All I have had are spirometers tests.

  • fit to fly will only last for a short time i have one each year

  • Hi

    Irrespective of altitude using a concentrator on 2LPM you would have been inhaling 28% oxygen.

    Is your oximeter working correctly, the sudden realisation of such a drop in sats may have caused a panic attack.

    As your concentrator been regular serviced, may be worth a check.

    Can you get a early appointment with your GP to check for any breathing issues which where made worse by flying.

  • I know how to combat a panic attack so that is not what happened. I forgot to mention I,had the problem on both the outgoing flight and return flight so I think it might be the concentrator. Also wonder if I had too much trapped air?

  • Hiya there. I'm surprised that you were allowed to fly without a "fitness to fly" certificate; that's always been a requirement from Virgin Atlantic (which supplies oxygen for free, incidentally!). The Medical Physics department at my local hospital does my tests - it takes about an hour...

    If you think it might be a concentrator problem, then you do need to get that checked out (of course!!), but do remember that the air supplied in aeroplanes contains only 15% oxygen, not the 21% which we normally get at ground level. You may well need a higher setting on your concentrator whilst flying.



  • Thanks camp. Here in Canada and the USA all I need to get on,the plane is a doctor's letter no older than 6 months stating my disease, and oxygen requirements! I am going to check out "fit ti fly".

  • Hello Mooskie, I have the same problem. I can't travel any higher than Denver, where I live (5,280 ft.), without problems any more, and my condition is much milder than yours.I don't think it's panic either. I can get my O2 up with continuous flow, which helps some but moving around remains an issue. Age (now 77)? Air trapping? Wish I knew. When I go lower in elevation I don't need oxygen at all. A few years back my pulmonologist gave me permission to fly 2.5 hours without any oxygen and I have done it several times. I avoid flying now -mainly because I dread causing some medical incident.

    Hope we can find some more information.


  • Thank you nancy for your response. I am on oxygen 24/7 usually at 2 lpm constant flow. At 25k feet my stats dropped like a rock so I tried 6 LPM pulse flow as concentrator at 2 LPM was not helping. Even at 6 LPM pulse...nothing!!! I am now noticing at home, I have pushed it up to 3 LPM constant. Wonder if my lungs made a sudden dive??

You may also like...