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Traveling with a Medical Device

by | Oct 25, 2019 | The Term Reporter, Travel

Quick Facts

  • Your carrier may require you to provide up to 48 hours’ advance notice and check in 1 hour earlier than normal if you need to use and/or connect a respirator or similar device to the plane’s power supply
  • You may need to provide up to 48 hours’ advance notice (72 hours for international flights) and check in 1 hour earlier if you want to use medical oxygen during the flight that is supplied by the carrier.
  • Many devices require manufacturing labels to prove they are FAA compliant.
  • Your carrier may require you to bring enough fully charged batteries to power your device for at least 150% of the expected flight time.
  • Your carrier may not require you to sign a waiver of liability for loss or damage of your assistive device, or as a requirement to receive in-flight services such as medical oxygen.
  • If you have a disability, you may ask at the gate to preboard the plane in order to have more time to stow your equipment or be seated.
  • Your assistive device will not count toward your carrier’s carry-on policy, so even if your carrier does not allow carry-on items, you may still bring your device.
  • If your device is lost or damaged during the flight, you could recover an amount up to its original purchase price.

Introduction

            According to the Air Carrier Access Act, carriers may not discriminate against individuals with a disability.1 In order to carry out this Act, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) published part 382 in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.).2 These rules outline many of the rights airline passengers with disabilities have and how carriers must accommodate these rights. All U.S. carriers must comply with these rules, and foreign carriers must comply for flights to/from the U.S.3 We have read through these rules, and this article will lay out what rights you have if you are someone who needs to travel with an assistive device.

For the purposes of this article, an assistive device does not refer to mobility aids, such as wheelchairs. For information on those, please refer to Traveling with a Mobility Impairment.

Before Your Flight

            According to the C.F.R., you are not required to provide advance notice that you will be on a flight.4 However, a carrier may require you to provide up to 48 hours’ advance notice and check in 1 hour earlier than normal if you need to use and/or connect a respirator or similar device to the plane’s power supply, need your carrier to provide packaging for your assistive device (if the carrier requires packaging), or need to travel with an incubator. You may also need to provide up to 48 hours’ advance notice (72 hours for international flights) and check in 1 hour earlier if you want to use medical oxygen during the flight that is supplied by the carrier. 5

You should contact your carrier before your flight to ask for any other requirements or restrictions such as labels, size, and weight. Many devices require manufacturing labels to prove they are FAA compliant. Additionally, your carrier may require you to bring enough fully charged batteries to power your device for at least 150% of the expected flight time. If you tell your carrier in advance that you will be using an assistive device in-flight, then your carrier must inform you of the expected flight time within 48 hours of your booking, “or 24 hours before departure, whichever is earlier. If you do not comply with the carrier’s requirements, then you may be denied boarding.6 For a full list of POC machines that do not need a label, please refer to § 382.133(c)-(d) on pages 446-447 in the C.F.R.7

It is also important to note that a carrier may not require you to sign a waiver of liability for loss or damage of your assistive device, or as a requirement to receive in-flight services such as medical oxygen.8

 At the Airport

            At the airport, you and your assistive device will be subject to the same TSA screening as everyone else.9 However, your carrier may also conduct an additional screening if your device sets off the security system, or if it believes that your device may conceal a prohibited item.10

Boarding and Deplaning

            If you have a disability, you may ask at the gate to preboard the plane in order to have more time to stow your equipment or be seated.11 If you do preboard, your assistive device may be stowed with priority over other passengers’ items, except for wheelchairs.12 If you do not preboard, then the space in the priority storage area will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.13 If the space is filled in the priority storage area, then your device may be stowed with priority over other baggage in the overhead baggage compartment.14

On the Plane

            If your assistive device can be stowed in a designated area, then your carrier must allow you to bring it in the cabin.15 Your assistive device will not count toward your carrier’s carry-on policy, so even if your carrier does not allow carry-on items, you may still bring your device.16 While on the plane, you may ask for help with stowing and retrieving your assistive device.17 If your assistive device needs to be disassembled and reassembled in order to be stowed in the cabin, then you may provide written instructions which the carrier must follow if possible. If your device is disassembled by the carrier, then the carrier must ensure its reassembly and return.18 If your device is lost or damaged during the flight, you could recover an amount up to its original purchase price.19

If you are traveling on a plane designed to carry more the 19 passengers, then you may use the following assistive devices in the cabin as long as they are compliant with TSA, FAA, and PHMSA regulations: a personal oxygen concentrator, a ventilator, a respirator, or a CPAP machine.20

More Resources

For additional information check out our articles on traveling with a service or emotional support animal, traveling with a hearing or vision impairment, and traveling with a mobility impairment

References

1 49 U.S.C. § 41705(a) (2003).
2 14 C.F.R. §382.1 (2018).
3 14 C.F.R. § 382.7(a)-(b) (2018).
4 14 C.F.R. § 382.25 (2018).
5 14 C.F.R. § 382.27(b) (2018); 14 C.F.R. § 382.27(c)(1), (2), (5) (2018).
6 14 C.F.R. § 382.133(e)(1)-(3) (2018); 14 C.F.R. § 382.133(h)(1)-(3) (2018).
7 14 C.F.R. § 382.133(c)-(d) (2018).
8 14 C.F.R. § 382.35(a)-(b) (2018).
9 14 C.F.R. § 382.55(a) (2018).
10 14 C.F.R. § 382.55(b)(2)(i)-(ii) (2018).
11 14 C.F.R. § 382.93 (2018).
12 14 C.F.R. § 382.123(a)(2) (2018).
13 14 C.F.R. § 382.123(a)(3) (2018).
14 14 C.F.R. § 382.125(a)-(b) (2018).
15 14 C.F.R. § 382.121(a)(3) (2018).
16 14 C.F.R. § 382.121(b) (2018).
17 14 C.F.R. § 382.111(e) (2018).
18 14 C.F.R. § 382.129(a)-(b) (2018).
19 14 C.F.R. § 382.131 (2018).
20 14 C.F.R. § 382.133(a)-(c) (2018).

Authors

Matt Matsuyama

Contract Analyst Intern, TermScout  

Ben Golopol

Contract Analyst, TermScout  

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Copyright © 2019 · TermScout · Nothing on our website, in any of our content, or in any communications between us is or should be considered legal advice of any kind. Our content represents our opinions only. If you need legal advice, you should hire an attorney.

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