Ventilator-Assisted Living©

Summer 1998, Vol. 12, No. 2


International Airline Travel

Lori Hinderer, who uses 24-hour trach positive pressure ventilation due to muscular dystrophy, traveled to Lyon, France, in 1993 to attend an international conference on home mechanical ventilation.

Concerned about the voltage conversion from American to European current, I contacted my ventilator manufacturer, Aequitron (purchased by Nellcor Puritan Bennett, now owned by Mallinckrodt). They suggested I borrow two LP10 ventilators because my LP6 didn't have a built in 220v converter switch. I don't carry an extra ventilator on domestic flights, but it was safer to have a back-up for the 10-hour plus flight from St. Louis (where I was living then) to France.

Although Air France was the official carrier of the conference, they had not approved the ventilator for in-flight use. TWA is the "official carrier" for my domestic flights, and because of their knowledge of my needs, I made the reservation with them. The representative entered all my medical needs into my flight record, including taking an extra ventilator and non-spillable batteries on the plane. After the reservation was made, I called a customer service representative at TWA. She alerted supervisors in all my departing and returning connections of my needs, requesting they assist me through customs and to connecting flights.

The next priority was determining what mode of transportation would be used to get from Paris to Lyon and back. The conference organizer, suggested I fly AirInter from Paris to Lyon. AirInter, however, was a foreign carrier, and required an international medical document called an Incad form to be filled out by my physician and then approved. For the return to Paris, I would take the high-speed train (TGV).

The flights to and from Paris went smoothly. TWA suggested sitting in first class where the seats were softer and easier to access, and were very accommodating with regard to all the equipment I needed with me in-flight.

Despite all the planning, I could have been better prepared. While I can recommend air travel (international and domestic) for ventilator users, the key is to PLAN, PLAN, PLAN.

Remembering passports, documents, adapters and transformers, and extra medical equipment was easier with a travel checklist to refer to when packing.

Most critical is knowing the electrical conversions for all the equipment, not only the ventilator.

Availability of electrical outlets in hotel rooms is also important; one hotel room had only one outlet.

It helps to know someone who speaks English where you are traveling, especially if one has medical needs, or to stay in a hotel with some English-speaking employees.

Compile a list of important numbers to carry with you always, numbers for emergency medical help, 24-hour on-duty nurses, medical equipment companies, and accessible van services.

Veteran Traveler Anne Isberg, respiratory polio survivor, has traveled frequently since 1983 between Copenhagen, Denmark, and Houston, Texas, and will soon be making her 100th trans-Atlantic crossing. She uses KLM as her "official carrier," and after all these years, the KLM agents have it down to a system. Anne uses an older Danish Pulsula ventilator with no electronics so that when it is plugged in there is less interference with the airplane's power system. She has a special narrow wheelchair which she uses to get on-board and to transfer to the seat, usually on the aisle. The wheelchair is stored in the coat compartment in-flight. Her ventilator fits under the seat in front of her, and she uses the power outlet under the adjacent seat. Anne's address is Castbergsvej 20-b, DK-2500 Valby, Denmark (

International Airline Carriers
Compiled by IVUN

Air Canada. 800-776-3000. Medical desk 800-667-4732. Must approve medical form they will send to passenger's physician. No electrical hookup. Non-spillable batteries permitted.

Air France. 800-237-2747. Ask for medical desk. No information received by publication deadline.

Alitalia. 800-223-5730. No information received by publication deadline.

British Air. 800-247-9297. Medical information provided by passenger's physician must be approved by medical department in London. No electrical hookup. Non-spillable batteries permitted.

Cathay Pacific. 800-233-2742. Medical form must be approved by Hong Kong office. Electrical hookup permitted.

China Airlines. 800-227-5118. No electrical hookup. Non-spillable batteries permitted. Must bring letter from physician stating approval for travel.

El Al. 800-223-7600. No set policy. Medical form must be approved by El Al physicians.

JAL. 800-525-3663. Must be approved on case-by-case basis by medical desk in Japan. No electrical hookup. Non-spillable batteries permitted, except for take-off and landing.

KLM. 800-374-5774. No information received by publication deadline.

Lufthansa. 800-645-3880. Medical information must be approved by Lufthansa physicians. Permission must also be received from operations department regarding type of ventilator and batteries.

Mexicana. 800-531-7921. No ventilators permitted.

Qantas. 800-227-4500. Medical form must be approved by medical desk. Electrical hookup for LP3, LP4 approved for connection to 12/24 V DC aircraft power; LP6 approved for connection to 115V/400Hz if internal switch set to same; PLV-100, PLV-102 approved for connection to 115V/400Hz if units are 110V models. Other units are accepted with non-spillable batteries. Some CPAP systems approved for connection to 115V/400Hz air-craft power.

SAS. 800-221-2350. Medical desk, 201-896-3565. Both medical desk and engineering department must approve. Bear volume ventilator pre-approved.

South African Airways. 800-722-9675. No electrical hookup. Medical form must be approved.

Swiss Air. 800-221-4750. Must approve medical form they will send to passenger's physician. They provide ventilators. Electrical hookup in specific seats.

Thai Airways. 800-426-5204. No set policy.

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