Fancy going from Paris to Marseilles by plane? As an healthy passenger, you would pay 100 Euro. If you require oxygen on board the plane, the cost of the ticket can go up to 700 Euro! When you are a patient with a severe respiratory disease, even booking an ordinary flight can turn into a nightmare. 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.
EFA believes current measures are clearly discriminatory and pose an unnecessary burden on passengers requiring oxygen therapy. With the new booklet “Enabling Air Travel with Oxygen in Europe,” prepared in collaboration with European Lung Foundation (ELF), we aim at informing and educating patients, their carers, the general public and air crews, and bringing the issue to the attention of EU policy makers and the airlines themselves.
“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.
European airlines clearly take advantage of their freedom to charge inexcusably high fees for passengers travelling with oxygen. This practice is not only discriminatory but also completely unnecessary. 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 testimony of Betty Sutton, a patient from Ireland, demonstrates, cabin crews in Europe are not yet accustomed to accommodate the needs of patients travelling with oxygen.
“The steward asked me to turn off my personal oxygen concentrator for take-off and landing. It only demonstrates how poorly educated the cabin crew was.”
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 policy makers 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. Travellers requiring oxygen should not be discriminated against any further and they should enjoy same rights of free movement as any other passengers on airplanes.
Press Release for EFA’s oxygen on board aircraft booklet.
The booklet is available here.