When jets are at altitude, the inside of the plane is pressurized to simulate earth at about 8,000 feet. For a person with breathing problems, any altitude above 9,000 feet can cause problems.
In the last year I had my fair share of air travel. I have seen the inside of JFK a total of 12 times in as many months. On all of them, I take my oxygen concentrator but rarely do I feel the need to use it.
If you are taking your concentrator on a plane, you really need to let the airline know that you are taking one on board. You need to have a letter from your doctor saying that you need to use oxygen. If you are flying internationally you need to have battery supply for 150% of the duration of the flight, meaning that for a seven hour flight, you have to have enough batteries for your concentrator to last ten and a half hours.
I have an Inogen G4 with enough batteries for 7 hours of use. I am going on a trip next month and the flight is nine hours long , so I need to have two additional batteries. To get around having to buy additional batteries at a cost of $495.00 each, since I don’t always need to use my concentrator during a flight, I found a work around for the extra expense.
The standard letter from the doctor says that I need to use the concentrator during ALL stages of the flight – Taxiing, take off, flying at altitude, landing. All I need is a new letter stating that my oxygen use is only as needed at altitude.
I asked my doctor for the revised letter, but being the good doctor that he is, told me he could not do that in good conscience, which I understood. So he sent me for a High Altitude Simulation Test, which I did yesterday. I didn’t even know they had such a test.
The test is about 30 minutes long and you were a breathing mask that simulates the oxygen level at 8,000 to 10,000 ft. If your blood oxygen levels plummet, you need oxygen during a flight. Mine did not. I stayed at 96%.
I was elated. No need to buy the extra battery and now I can fly easier knowing that I don’t need oxygen on board. Then the tech told me I needed to do a step test. Without oxygen I was made to go up and down on a step and boom, my blood oxygen level plummeted to 81% in less than a minute.
That means that I don’t need oxygen sitting down, but if I decided to get up and jump around like a monkey up and down the aisle, I would need to use oxygen. I am pretty bummed now because that is my favorite thing to do on a jet at 34,000 feet. What am I going to do with my monkey travel suit now?