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Up To £1000 Return…….Just To Breathe!


Paul Pennington/Hilary Franklin/Bernadette Moore/Elizabeth Hinchey
PHA-UK  Press Office
44 (0)20 7272 3915


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The PHA (UK) Breathe Freely Report

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New research reveals ‘lottery’ of charges, policies & woeful customer service facing ‘fit to fly’ disabled air travellers requiring in - flight supplemental oxygen. Charity bosses are calling on airlines to stop penalizing passengers with breathing difficulties after ‘secret shopper’ research by national patient support charity, Pulmonary Hypertension Association UK (PHA-UK), launched today at Westminster, unearthed a bewildering lottery of surcharges, policies & woeful customer service facing the estimated 90,000 potential ‘fit to fly’ disabled air travellers with lung conditions such as Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) or COPD who require supplementary oxygen in flight.  

243 MPs who have signed Early Day Motion 1444 tabled by Nick Ainger MP, calling on all airlines to allow disabled passengers requiring in-flight supplemental to either be able to use personal oxygen equipment or have oxygen provided for them by the airline, without charge will today learn the outcome of PHA-UK research conducted by the charity's members with 71 airlines who operate from and to the UK:

  • Less than a quarter of airlines surveyed supply free supplementary oxygen.
  • A quarter of airlines approached do not supply supplementary oxygen at all. 
  • Two thirds of airlines in the study would not allow disabled air travellers with lung conditions to bring their own oxygen for use in- flight.
  • Of the airlines that provide supplemental oxygen to otherwise ‘fit to fly’ passengers and charge for it, each levies a different fee which can range from £50 to £500 per trip, just to breathe!  

Nick Ainger MP, who has championed the issue in Parliament via EDM 1444 and a Westminster Hall debate is extremely disappointed at the findings. He said, "Six months after raising this in Parliament, the vast majority of airlines are still charging for supplementary oxygen and refusing permission for passengers to bring their own oxygen cylinders. They are taxing the disabled and discriminating against people who are fit to fly but have breathing problems.

All airlines should now follow the good example set by some carriers who give disabled passengers free supplementary oxygen or allow them to bring their own cylinders or concentrators without charge.” Commenting on the outcome of the secret shopper study conducted by PHA-UK’s disabled members, the charity’s Chairman, Iain Armstrong stated, “Since its inception 10 years ago, the Pulmonary Hypertension Association UK has provided over £60,000 worth of grants to people with PH to enable them to afford the ludicrously unfair charges levied by airlines for the provision of supplemental oxygen whilst travelling by air.   We could easily have doubled this amount if we had the financial strength to meet all the requests we’ve received. With the majority of airlines not allowing oxygen dependant passengers to bring their own supply they have no choice but to pay a substantial tax per flight to enable them to breathe.” 

He added, “I was also alarmed to learn of the widespread negative attitudes towards our disabled secret shoppers and the knowledge gaps of airline personnel.  Sadly, all too often our researchers spent protracted periods of time ‘on hold’ and in some instances paying a premium rate for the privilege, speaking with an average of three different customer service staff and still not receiving the information they required.  Alarmingly, in too many instances airlines were only prepared to share their supplemental oxygen policy, if our secret shopper had bought a ticket to fly first.”

He concluded, “I believe disability rights are not about having different rights but equal rights and I call upon all airlines that provide and charge for in-flight supplemental oxygen to follow the example of British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Thomson’s and Emirates and drop these grossly unfair breathing taxes, for all airlines to allow passengers, who require supplemental oxygen to be able to use their own oxygen equipment in-flight and for the airline industry to urgently review and address the way they deal with disabled passengers, especially but not exclusively, people living who require supplemental oxygen in-flight.” 

A call echoed by the British Lung Foundation, who have been working closely with PHA-UK.  Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Supplemental oxygen is as important to people with breathing problems as a wheelchair is to people who have difficulty walking.  This survey reveals the enormous challenges facing anyone who is dependent on supplemental oxygen and wants to travel by plane.  We need all airlines to make it possible for people who need oxygen and want to fly to be welcomed and helped in the same way as other disabled people, not to be penalised financially and treated as second class citizens.”


The Pulmonary Hypertension Association UK (PHA-UK) charity number 1120756 www.phassociation.uk.com provides support, understanding, and information for everyone whose life is touched by Pulmonary Hypertension (PH).

The British Lung Foundation is the only UK charity working for everyone affected by lung disease. The charity focuses its resources on providing support for people affected by lung disease today; and works in a variety of ways to bring about positive change, to improve treatment, care and support for people affected by lung disease in the future.   It provides information via the website www.lunguk.org and telephone helpline 08458 50 50 20.


53 year old Jane Taylor from Berkshire was diagnosed with PH in 2006. “The information from airlines was very difficult to obtain, with only a few exceptions.  Some of the Customer Service Representatives had no idea what I was talking about.  I had people say they would get people to ring back but never did.  The lack of knowledge by all was appalling.  Even the special assistance teams lacked the information required.  Most of them took longer than 20 minutes to find out the information”

55 year old Kathy Davis from Hampshire, who was diagnosed with PH in 2007, “There is a huge disparity between the airlines both in cost and the way they deal with potential disabled customers.  Some airlines were very helpful, the people who answered the phone knew the answers to the questions or could transfer me immediately to the right person.  Others were deliberately obstructive and would not give out any information until I had booked a flight and had the booking reference number.”

49 year old Bedfordshire mother of two Hazel Roberts, has lived with PH for over three years found.  “I discovered that the variation in service is immense and getting the information from most of the airlines was quite difficult as in general you had to be passed to someone else, usually ‘medical support’ type people who only seemed to work certain, very limited hours or were on holiday, lunch break etc. Sometimes the person I was talking to didn’t know who to pass me to, on another occasion the airline put me on hold while they spoke to their head office, which happened to be in Sidney, Australia!” 60 year old Sonia Campbell from North London has diagnosed with PH in 2004, “I discovered that every airline had different polices/guidelines and prices.  Some were fairly clear and others baffling.  The final cost depending on journey could be high as the cost for a 2hour flight could be the same as a 10hour flight.  One required a passenger using oxygen to have someone flying with him/her.  Another required you to buy an extra seat for the oxygen!  I must add that the extra seat was at the price before added tax.  Information given was based on the booking being made first which could cause problems.  There were also restrictions as to how many oxygen using passengers can be on each flight.


Adria Airways50EUR per sectorNoYes*
Aegean AirlinesNoYesNo
Aer Arann£72 per sectorNoNo
Aer Lingus£90 per sectorNoYes*
Air BerlinYes - No chargeYesYes*
Air Canada$150 CAD per sectorNoYes*
Air EuropaNoYesYes*
Air France£180.50 per sectorNoYes*
Air IndiaInformation not availableInformation not availableInformation not available
Air MaltaYes - No chargeNoYes
Air MoldovaYes - No chargeNoInformation not available
Air New ZealandYes - depends on volume usedNo 
Air SouthwestNoNoYes**
AlitaliaCharge per segment                        + 2nd seat for O2NoNo
American Airlines$100 USD per sectorNoYes*
Atlantic AirlineInformation not availableNoYes*
AurignyNoYesInformation not available
Austrian Airlines150EUR per sectorNoNo
BMIYes - information on charge not availableNoInformation not available
British AirwaysYes - No chargeNoYes*
Brussels Airlines175EUR per sector (4bottles + 125EUR)NoYes*
Cathay PacificYes - No chargeNoYes*
China AirlinesMin $800USD each wayDepends on carrier Depends on carrier 
Cimber SterlingNoYesYes*
CityJetYes - No charge***Yes***Yes*
Continental AirlinesNoNoYes*
Cyprus Air85EUR per sectorNoYes*
Czech Airlines50EUR per sectorNoYes*
Delta Air LinesNoNoYes*
Eastern AirwaysNoYesYes*
El Al Airlines£75 / $150 per sectorInformation not availableYes*
EmiratesYes - No chargeNoYes*
Etihad AirwaysYes - information on charge not availableNoYes*
FinnairInformation not availableNoInformation not available
First ChoiceSame policy as Thomson
GermanwingsYes - No chargeNo Yes*
Gulf AirYes - No chargeYesYes*
IberiaYes - information on charge not availableNoYes*
IcelandairYes - £66 per sectorNoYes*
Japan Airlines (JAL)10000 Yen / £66bottleYesYes*
KLM£125 per sectorNoYes*
Korean Air$50 USD per bottleNoYes*
LOT Polish Airlines£136 per sectorNoNo
Lufthansa300EUR Inter-continental                150EUR ContinentalYesYes*
Malaysia Airlines£400 returnNoNo
Monarch£100 each wayYesYes*
Northwest AirlinesNoNoYes*
QantasYes - £ depends on flow rateNoNo
Qatar AirwaysYes - No chargeNoNo
Royal BruneiNoYesInformation not available
Royal JordanianInformation not available at  time of callsInformation not available at  time of callsInformation not available at  time of calls
Ryanair£100 per bookingNoYes*
Scandinavian Airlines - SASYes - 335 Euro Intercontinental 150 Euro other flightsYesYes*
Singapore AirlinesPrice depends on journey / proportion of extra seatNoYes*
South African Airways - SAA$150 USD per leg - 2L/4L charged at the same rateNoYes*
Swiss International Air LinesYes - 300francs or £183 per sectorNoYes*
TAP170EUR each way European                      300EUR International No Yes*
Thai AirwaysInformation not available at  time of callsInformation not available at  time of callsInformation not available at  time of calls
Thomas Cook Airlines£100 each way on flights <5hrsNoYes*
Thomson AirwaysYes - No chargeYesYes*
TUIflySame policy as Thomson  
United Airlines$125USD per sectorNoYes*
US AirwaysNoNoYes*
Virgin AtlanticYes - No chargeNoYes*
Wizz AirNoNoNo

*airline has a list of approved models**POC can be used subject to meeting size restrictions & must be switched off on takeoff and landing***on some aircraft - check at reservation****information couldn’t be sourced at time of call(s) to airlines.  Awaiting written confirmation of policy details from airline. Methodology:PHA-UK’s researchers all live with Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) and were each provided with the verified contact details for the ticket reservation departments and a sample route for each of the 71 airlines identified to fly from and too the United Kingdom. Fieldwork took place between the 1st of September and the 5th of October 2009.

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