Flying with a chest condition
Is it safe for me to fly?
Most people with chest conditions are able to tolerate normal aircraft conditions and have no difficulty flying.
Because the cabin air is pressurised, not as much oxygen reaches your blood. If you have low blood-oxygen levels this could cause breathlessness and discomfort. Your doctor might suggest having some further tests to see if you will need in-flight oxygen.
If you have had a recent exacerbation (flare-up) of your condition, you should be fully recovered before you fly. If you are in any doubt about your fitness to fly, speak to your doctor or contact your airline’s medical clearance team.
How do I arrange oxygen for a flight?
Each airline will have its own policy regarding the supply and use of in-flight oxygen, for example, what flow rates are available and what charges, if any, are applicable.
If you will need to use oxygen during the flight, you will need to let your airline know when you book your flight.
Most airlines will only provide oxygen for the flight. If you need oxygen on the ground you will need to provide your own for any transfer between flights.
Some airlines now prohibit in-flight oxygen during take off and landing. Ask your airline what its policy is.
Practical advice for flying with a chest condition
- Aircraft cabins have low humidity levels meaning that your sputum may become thicker. Drinking plenty of fluids will keep you hydrated and will help to loosen your sputum and allow you to keep your chest clear.
- Do your chest clearance techniques before you fly and during stopovers on a long-haul flight.
- If you are prone to chest infections ask your doctor about taking a supply of antibiotics with you in case you get an infection while you are abroad.
- Nebulisers can be used at your airline’s discretion; if you will need to use a nebuliser during the flight, you will need to inform the airline in advance. Remember that proper use of spacers can be just as effective. If you require transport within the airport, you will need to arrange it in advance
- It is safe to use any of your inhalers when flying. Keep them with you, in your hand luggage, at all times.
The Airport Guides Network provides information to travellers who use the UK’s many airports, the Heathrow Airport Guide (PDF) supplies information on what to consider if you are flying with a medical condition.