The Transportation Security Administration allows passengers to bring their CPAP machines on board when flying, as long as they bring it through security and follow a few simple rules. Valid documentation from your doctor and a few tips on keeping your machine clean while passing through security will help make boarding the flight with your CPAP as smooth as possible.
Secure your CPAP
Your CPAP machine should be taken through security rather than put in your checked luggage in order to avoid being lost if your luggage doesn't reach your final destination. Alert a TSA agent that you have a CPAP machine with you, and inform him of any special requirements you or the machine may have. You will be required to remove the machine from its case, though you can leave its tubing and breathing mask inside the case. The X-ray machine must be able to see through all of the CPAP; if it cannot, additional scanning methods may be used.
While not a TSA rule, it is recommended for easier passage through security that you provide documents from your doctor demonstrating that the machine is yours. Bring a note of medical necessity from your doctor explaining the medical reasons why you need the machine. Additionally, bring the prescription from you doctor for the machine. These documents can be particularly helpful when boarding international flights and can help you replace the machine should anything happen to it while traveling.
Carry it On
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a CPAP machine is not considered carry-on luggage and does not count toward your carry-on quota. You are allowed a carry-on bag, a personal bag such as a purse or briefcase, and your CPAP machine in its traveling case. A medical equipment tag, identifying your machine as a necessary medical device, will help avoid any concerns about your carry-on items should you be asked by a TSA agent or flight attendant.
Keep It Clean
In order to protect the hygiene of your CPAP machine, the TSA recommends that you place it inside a clear plastic bag before entering the security checkpoint. Should your machine need to be inspected by an agent, request that the agent put on clean, sterile gloves before handling it. Also ask that any surfaces the machine will be placed on be thoroughly wiped down and that any explosive detection swabs used are new in order to avoid contaminating your device with bacteria a used swab may have on it.
Planning for Air Travel
Air travel is becoming more and more restricted, with airlines limiting free carry-on bags and even charging for checked luggage. Don't worry about this issue. A CPAP is a medical device and therefore not included in what is considered carry-on baggage. And you should probably carry the machine on the plane. Whether you sleep on the plane or not, you don't want to risk losing it if the airline loses or misdirects your luggage.
It's also important when traveling with a CPAP to be sure you have everything you need in order to use it. Heading to Europe, you'll need plug adapters, but don't bother to buy current adapters. All newer machines, like computers, have universal power supplies that adapt to voltage variations.
You'll also want to bring your prescription with you. This is handy in case you have problems with the machine or need to buy additional parts or supplies while on your trip. Consider getting a backup battery pack to take with you in case of power outages, as well as extra supplies, including mask cushions. To prevent water from spilling or damage to the CPAP machine, carefully empty the machine's humidifier chamber before you pack it.
If you're flying to Europe from the West Coast, you'll be flying for more than 10 hours, long enough that you might sleep on the plane. With this in mind, check immediately when you get to your seat to be sure that power outlets near your seat are working.