Emphysema And trip

After being treated for weeks for asthma then bronchitis I have been diagnosed with Emphysema and need abt 5 days in hospital. But have a 2 week trip planned in Europe in 8 weeks. No refund on$12k. 13-15 hour flight in one segment. Never smoked but both parents died of Emphysema and I got it second hand apparently. Was to celebrate end of chemo treatment with friend. Afraid of flying overseas after being told dangerous. But also can't bear the thought of ruining these plans. I will never get the chance again. Age 69. Oxy currently 94. Even if I get it up before flight, what will happen? Am I to cancel?

25 Replies

Forgot to add I live in California

I wouldn't think you should have to cancel since I'm assuming,it's early stage emphysema?Youre oxygen levels are fine at 94

I am 82 and have emphysema. I live inLondon and travel to Australia which is a 25 hours journey by plane. I usually have a fitness to fly test and have found that I don't need supplementary oxygen.

In most cases oxygen is needed if your o2 saturation is below 88.

Only on one occasion did I require oxygen on board the flight. The airline was most helpful gave me oxygen bottle which they tucked under the seat in front of me.

Enjoy your journey.

Hi Magwil49, 94 oxygen is still very good. They'll want to do a flight assessment to see how your sats are affected at altitude. This will tell them if you need oxygen to support you on the flight. I flew to South Africa (11.5 hrs), Barbados- 10 hrs (my 50th Birthday), Spain & Cyprus in the last 4 yrs. I'm 94 O2 at rest & have 30% lung capacity & need oxygen when I fly, Speak to your Doctor I'm sure they'll do everything they can to ensure you're well enough for your holiday. Best of luck & keep us posted 🌻Christina x

Thanks. I feel better. But was in Europe 2 years ago with 95 for bronchitis and had to go to er for breathing treatment to make it thru scanner. Wonder if each airport has own rules

Why cancel? Your SATS are good. This is the quote from British Airways regarding flying with respiratory illness.

'Chronic bronchitis, emphysema or other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

If you can walk 50m, without oxygen and getting breathless, you should be fit to fly.

If you can’t walk this far you may need supplementary oxygen in flight which must be pre-booked'.


That is extraordinary James - they really don't know what they are talking about.

My resting sats are around 93/94 and I can walk 20 minutes non-stop, desaturating to 90 for most of that time, 89 on the last bit. But I've needed oxygen to fly for some time. Last time I flew, about six years ago when exertion desaturation wouldn't have been quite so much as now, I did a fit to fly test and it showed I needed oxygen. No problem fixing it up. I took it off a couple of times to see what would happen and rapidly desaturated to high 70s.

I wish airlines would just tell emphysema patients to check with their GPs or consultants. We are all different and while what they say may work for many, there will be many more where that is not appropriate and could cause damage.

Thank you for your personal experiences Jean. That's what's great about this site- there is a wealth of information from people's experiences.

I think each person has to take advice from their GP and COPD team or respiratory nurse as we're all different as you say. Obviously, anyone using oxygen daily will need oxygen for flying.

I also think though that BA would never give advice which could end up with them being sued.

Thanks for reply James. In case it wasn't clear I don't currently, and didnt when I last flew, use either long term or ambulatory oxygen.

Re BA, well, just as we here should never give out specific advice like theirs, they shouldn't be giving blanket advice when it doesnt apply to many and could cause misunderstanding at the very least. If I had seen that, and taken it at face value, I would have been in big trouble on the flight.

Thank you Jean but I would debate your second point. The BA information is in the public domain and I see it more like passing on useful information but of course people must do their own research and take advice.

Maybe the moderators will rule on quoting directly from valid websites. I presume they read all our posts?


It's just that, as i said James, my experience belies that BA advice. I can't be the only one surely! We may have to differ on this.

Might not have given enough info. Flying rules say at altitude on overseas drops healthy person 4% and puts copd patients is my age in danger zone. I was told no more than 4 hour per leg, agreement that oxygen will be at arriving airport, stats of oxy taken by security walk thru with 95 required to start trip. But that is us to Europe. My doc advise against. I just want to know who has expetienced long overseas flight with 95 starting point.

If your Doctors have advised against, then you should heed that advice. I doubt that any travel/medical insurance would be valid in those circumstances. If you were to be taken ill/hospitalsed/repatriated when in Europe you could potentially be facing a bill of hundreds of thousands of Dollars. And I do sympathise with your situation as it is one I had to face a few years ago.

How about taking a Portable Oxygen Concentrator with you? Ask your Doctor if that would be OK and if he would give you a fit to fly certificate. Good luck!

Some airlines allow portable concentrators, some don't.

Oh! I've never heard of any airline that doesn't accept an approved Portable Oxygen Concentrator??

Well that's what Ive always heard, could be wrong though.

Just checking: this is the civil aviation link:


You'll see it says "IF airlines allow pocs on board . . ." They then refer to a BLF link which is not very informative.

This one is better and states that things have improved since there is an approval system for pocs. It gives a lot of useful info.


Yes that is the site I got my information from ;-)

I'm sorry to hear of your recent diagnosis of Emphysema, however you now receive the appropriate treatments and care.Do speak with your clinician regarding your fitness to fly, reassurance will enable you to enjoy a holiday you are looking forward to.Take care, try to relax and above all ,enjoy 😄 .

Before I was told I need a fit to fly I was told no more than 3 hours flight time. ( I have heart lungs and others to worry about) I have now been told that I will need a fit to fly but they can not gurantee the return fight unless I have another at the place I was at first. On top of that the insurance kills my trip before it starts.

On the plus side 94 o2 is not that bad but I would suggest a test to see what happens at altitude? If it goes lower than it should you need to order o2 for the flights then it does not become a problem?

Be Well

Of course don't cancel your trip. It's not so dangerous that you can't travel surely? I have emphysema and travel a lot. Take meds with you and see if you can get a course of antibiotics to take with you (just in case) 94 Oxy is not so bad I don't think.

How long were your trips? One of my flights is 15 hours. No oxygen allowed aboard. But my gp won't refer me to lung disease doctor as he says he can take care of it at 94. It has improved greatly with 14 meds including a lot of steroids. He says just don't take the trip. I have medicare and they won't allow me to see a specialist without the referral. I don't know who gives the fit to fly test. When I went to Turkey 2 years ago, I had a breathing attack and was in the hospital there. In order to get on the plane I had to take a breathing treatment at the er because the scanner at the airport reads some numbers. Is this when they determine you are not fit to fly? I passed the scanner but was sick for 2 weeks when I got home. Following that I was in the hospital for septicemia which is a blood infection and my immune system just fell apart. So I was told no more antibiotics unless I am at the end of my rope. They just don't work anymore. Discouraged but still want to go.

It does sound quite serious. Certainly, more distress than I have ever experienced. The longest flight I have ever had was 14 hours but broken into 3 stopovers. And I used to fly to Turkey and back from the UK a lot when I had a holiday home there. The longest direct flight I had recently was 9 hours to Florida from the UK.

Thanks for all the notes. I cannot take antibiotics. I am allergic to all but one that I must get intravenously and sparingly. Two of the airlines accept/have oxygen on board. But one does not. There is the chance that I cannot get home if I get sick. I have a portable nebulizer that I could take on board. I have had a heart attack already and my low pressure is now high blood pressure when I have trouble breathing. A lot to consider - a lot of info that differs from what the airlines have now told me. I will do more research but it des look like it is dangerous to travel on long flight with the diminished lung capacity.

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