New publication reveals discrimination against patients requiring oxygen on aeroplanes

Patients who require oxygen when they travel on an aeroplane face huge costs compared to healthy passengers, according to a new publication.

Patients who require oxygen when they travel on an aeroplane face huge costs compared to healthy passengers, according to a new publication.

The rules and prices regarding the use of oxygen on flights vary considerably between airlines in Europe, often leading to confusion for travellers, making the travel stressful, challenging or even prohibitively expensive.

The new booklet, produced by the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients Associations (EFA) in conjunction with the European Lung Foundation (ELF), aims to inform patients, carers, policymakers and the general public about the variation in oxygen policies across Europe. It builds on the success of the ELF Airline Index which provides information on airline’s oxygen policies across Europe.

EFA believes current measures are clearly discriminatory and pose an unnecessary burden on passengers requiring oxygen therapy.

“As EFA President, it is my pleasure to present this booklet as a cornerstone for a movement to call out the discriminatory policies employed by certain airlines and call upon policymakers to improve the situation for patients with chronic respiratory diseases,” said EFA President Breda Flood.

Entitled, “Enabling Air Travel with Oxygen in Europe,” the booklet examines how European airlines clearly take advantage of their freedom to charge inexcusably high fees for passengers travelling with oxygen. As certain airlines, such as British Airways and TAROM have shown, it is possible to provide oxygen free of charge. Meanwhile, others continue to exploit patients with respiratory diseases and charge flat fees for both European and long-haul flights that can result in an increase of airfares up to seven times the cost of the actual ticket.

Chair of the ELF, Monica Fletcher, supports EFA’s position and said: “We believe it is completely unacceptable to discriminate against patients with lung diseases. The ELF Air Travel database, providing oxygen policies for major airlines, can help people select the most economical option, however our goal would be for clearer guidelines and for oxygen to be free and available on all airlines.”

With this booklet, EFA and ELF argue that patients with respiratory disease and a need for oxygen during travel should have oxygen available at all times and free of charge – either in the form of airlines’ oxygen containers or their own portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) checked and approved by EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency).  

EFA also calls for proper training of all airline cabin crews and staff handling the oxygen in order to avoid inappropriate treatment of passengers requiring oxygen therapy in the future.

As the example of improved wheelchair accessibility on airlines indicates, a harmonisation of oxygen policies across Europe is possible with a European Commission mandate.

EFA therefore calls on policymakers to ensure that charges for using oxygen on-board planes will be dropped and rules regarding the use of oxygen on-board aircrafts harmonized across the European Union, as MEP Keith Taylor from the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee says in EFA’s booklet.

The booklet is available here.

Notes for editors

About EFA

Patients and their needs and rights are at the heart of everything we do. The European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients Associations (EFA) was established in 1991 as a European network for patient associations specialising in allergy and asthma.

We work on behalf of patients to:

  1. Promote awareness of allergies and airways diseases among policymakers and the general public.
  2. Broaden our understanding of these conditions by increased collaboration between national patient associations.
  3. Share knowledge and experience to beneficially educate both the public and EFA members.
  4. Promote patient concerns and opinions within the European institutions and enable national patient associations to gain representation at EU level.
  5. Improve their health and quality of life.  
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