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Health and Mobility on Flights

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Health and Mobility when flying

Explore the sections below to see travel advice for common health conditions and mobility problems. Find out what you can do to prepare and what we can do to help, to help make your journey more comfortable.

From choosing food that suits your dietary needs to getting assistance at the airport to help with mobility problems, there is a wide range of conditions that travellers may need help and assistance with at the airport.

Keep reading to find out more about each condition and how best to improve your air travel experience.

Dietary needs

If you have any type of dietary needs, from a vegan or vegetarian meal to allergies or religious airline meal such as Halal or Kosher, you will usually be able to request this from the airline. Read our guide to special meals for information on see which airlines provide them and when and how you will need to request them.

Flight assistance for seniors

When travelling as a senior (those aged 65+), there may be extra things you’ll need to consider. Find out what advice to follow when travelling as a senior or elderly passenger, and other related things such as airport assistance for those with reduced mobility, travelling with any medication and also what Alternative Airlines can do to help.

Flying when pregnant

Depending on the individual and the recommendations of their doctor, most women are able to fly until they are 37 weeks pregnant. Although it is important to get guidance from your doctor or obstetrician, we provide tips and general advice for flying when pregnant, including information on what to do and details on many airlines individual policy for flying when pregnant.

Flying after surgery

Although there are many different types of surgery, and each of these differ depending on the individual, we provide overall guidance on flying after different types of surgery, such as flying after knee surgery or flying after brain surgery.

Flying after a stroke

Can you fly after having a stroke? Although it depends on your own doctor's advice and the severity of your stroke, you can find out on our dedicated page to flying after a stroke, information and advice about how to prepare for flying and some FAQs.

Flying with ASD

Adults and Children with Autism can have an enjoyable airport and flight experience with enough planning and preparation. Find out advice on how to prepare in advance and what to do on the day to have a smooth journey.

Flying with emotional support or special service pets

Flying can be stressful for many people, especially those with a fear of flying. For some people, it may help them to have with them their emotional support animal. If you require mobility assistance and need to take your special service pet with you on the plane, you can also do that with Alternative Airlines. Find out information on how to arrange this for your flight, and what you will need to be able to do it over on our page dedicated to taking pets, emotional support animals and special service pets on a plane.

Flying with medical marijuana

Want to know if you can legally take marijuana on a plane with you? What about medical marijuana? Truth is, it depends on the laws where you are flying from and to. Find out restrictions about how much you can take, what form of marijuana you are permitted, and where you are allowed to fly with it over on our dedicated page.

Flying with medication

Flying with medication is difficult to advise on, as there are so many forms, drug names and laws in different countries. However, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to flying with medication, with information on the rules and regulations that surround it, and advice on where to pack it.

Flying with a hidden disability

Some people with hidden disabilities fear travelling, not only because of the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen but also the fear that staff will not assist them in their travels because their disability may not be immediately apparent. Some airlines offer discounted tickets for accompanied travellers. Read about what to do when travelling to ease your travels and worries with many different types of hidden disabilities, including planning and before travelling, but also on the day of travel.

Flying with a lung condition

Having a lung condition shouldn’t stop you from flying. Although you may need additional preparation, such as medicine and assistance, you can still fly with most lung conditions. Read our full guide which is full of advice on common lung conditions such as asthma, COPD, lung cancer and lung infections and also how to transport a portable oxygen concentrator (POC). More information about flying with a lung condition can be found below in our Frequently Asked Questions.

Flying with a nut allergy

If you are flying on a commercial plane with a nut allergy, there may be some additional steps you need to do to prepare yourself. From contacting the airline to arrange pre-boarding to organising a special meal which is nut free, there are some vital steps which will help you be safe on a plane. In our guide to flying with a nut allergy, we also go over some popular airline’s nut allergy policy, to help you choose your airline wisely.

Wellbeing on flights

Need a guide to common flying problems, for both psychological and physical conditions such as anxiety, stress, jet lag, ear pain and DVT? We’ve covered all of these over on our page for wellness for flights, with advice on how to avoid them and what to do if you get them.

Wheelchair assistance

When buying flights with Alternative Airlines, you can request wheelchair assistance for the airport and on the airline. See what we can do to help you if you need any form of mobility assistance, including FAQs such as what to do with your wheelchair when on the plane.

Low blood pressure

Low blood pressure affects many people, but there are simple steps you can take to help! Discover all you need to know about flying with low blood pressure here.

High blood pressure

It is important to understand that air travel can potentially raise blood pressure, so it is important for those with high blood pressure to understand what steps can be taken to help.

The best airlines for disabilities

You can discover our list of the best airlines for those flying with disabilities here. Also discover your rights as a disabled passenger when flying, and how Alternative Airlines can help with your booking.

Flying with chicken pox

Are you allowed to fly with chicken pox? What happens if your child has chicken pox? Can airlines stop you from flying? Find out in our guide: Flying with Chicken Pox.

Flying with a cold or flu

It's very likely that you'll have to fly while fighting a cold at some point! The experience can be uncomfortable, but out top tips can help! Find out more in our guide to flying with a colf or flu.

Flying with MS

Most people with Multiple sclerosis (MS )are able to fly without any problems, but it is worth taking extra steps to ensure you are comfortable and safe when flying.

Flying with epilepsy

Having epilepsy shouldn't need to stop you from flying! But it is important to plan ahead before you fly, and our guide to flying with epilepsy can help.

Flying with cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis shouldn't stop you from travelling and exploring the world! But flying safely will likely require steps to be taken, from prepping and planning beforehand to travelling safely through the airport and on the plane. Our guide to flying with Cystic Fibrosis can help.

Flying with cancer

Flying with cancer can often have significant benefits, and pleasure trips are often encouraged by many oncologists. Sometimes, a person fighting cancer may need to fly to the cancer centre where they will be treated. Most people who have active cancer can travel without any problem. However, it is important to know when it is crucial to seek medical advice. Careful planning and preparation can help to ensure your travel is as safe and stress-free as possible. More information about flying with cancer can be found below in our Frequently Asked Questions.

Flying with Tourettes syndrome

Tourette's syndrome is a condition that makes an individual to make uncontrollable sounds and movements that are called tics. Our guide to flying with Tourettes offers advice for anyone who has questions about flying with Tourettes.

Flying with a fracture

A fracture can be of any type, most broken limbs such as arms and legs are treated with a form of a cast that ranges in different types. Read our guide on flying with a fracture for more information.

Flying with broken ribs

With broken ribs, you can fly but it's better to speak to your airline and doctor before flying. Once this is approved you may want to increase the ease and comfort on your flight whether it's the seating, requiring assistance or taking medication. Check out our guide on flying with broken ribs for more information.

Flying with a cast

A cast can be of any kind, most broken body parts such as arm, legs or foot are all treated with a type of cast, that can vary from plaster, fibreglass, resin or a walking boot. These will affect your ability to fly with your airline. Take a look at our guide on flying with a cast for more information.

Flying during menstruation

Heading on holiday can be the cause of a lot of anxiety, not just the immensely stressful process of getting through the airport and remembering to pack everything, but waiting to see whether you’ll suddenly come on your period right before you’re due to board a plane for 6+ hours, stuck between strangers and strapped in that uncomfortable seated position. Read our helpful guide on flying during menstruation for more information.

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Alternative Airlines Can Help

In most instances, passengers who want special assistance should aim to notify their airline with 48 hours' notice if help will be required. If you have a disability or are travelling with someone with a disability, Alternative Airlines can help.

Alternative Airlines is a flight search website that offers full support through our expert customer service team. You can contact us to discuss your disability and any additional needs you may require when travelling.

If you are completing the booking process, you can add information regarding your disability to the ‘Additional Requests’ section on the booking reservation. We will then pass this information on to the airline.


What is a lung condition?

A lung condition is any problem in the lungs that prevents the lungs from working properly. It could be a blockage in the airways or inflammation of lung tissues and blood vessels, all of which affect the way you breathe.

The most common types of lung conditions are asthma, COPD, lung cancer, lung infections, pneumonia, bronchitis and pulmonary edema. Be sure to continue reading this page if you, or anyone you know, has any form of lung condition.

How can I prepare when flying with a lung condition?

If you think you are safe to fly, and your doctor has confirmed you can fly, you can then follow these simple guidelines to help you prepare for your flight and get you ready for a smooth and trouble-free journey.

Inform your airline

It is recommended that you consult the airline you’re travelling with in order to leave plenty of time before your trip. If you use an electric wheelchair or mobility scooter, you can inform them that you will require “special assistance”. The airline will be able to organise this assistance, such as a wheelchair and a staff member to help you. If you require wheelchair assistance, you can find out more about how to organise that here.

If you use a portable oxygen concentrator (POC), you need to speak to your airline regarding their policy in carrying one on board and also you can ask if they provide in-flight oxygen, which you will often have to pay for. If you’re unsure whether an airline allows oxygen onboard, click here for a list of examples, or contact Alternative Airlines and we can provide you with all the information you need before you book your flight.

Check your insurance

It is advised that you check your current level of medical insurance in regards to your health. If you aren't fully covered, you should then look to upgrade in order to cover yourself in any event.

Bring enough medication and a fully charged POC with you

Remember to take with you plenty of medication as prescribed and a fully charged POC to last you through your journey. Remember to always pack your medication in your hand luggage so that they are easily available for inspection by the airport security officers. Airlines recommend taking extra batteries for your POC in case your flight is delayed and you have access to oxygen.

What happens when flying with a lung condition?

The air pressure within the cabin of an aeroplane is not the same as the air pressure on earth, meaning that when you fly, oxygen will not enter your body as easily as it would normally. You may feel more breathless and your chest may feel a little tight, especially on long-haul flights. However, very few people experience problems when travelling with the correct medical advice and precautions.

Can I fly with an oxygen tank?

This depends on the airline you’re flying with. However, most airlines only accept a portable oxygen concentrator, just remember to charge those batteries before your flight. You should inform your doctor before you fly and the airline you’re flying with in regards to their policy on this.

Please inform Alternative Airlines that you intend to carry oxygen on your flight as soon as possible before your day of departure. You should report that you intend to use your own Portable Oxygen Concentrator (POC) during the flight and clearly specify the manufacturer and model.

Do I need a medical certificate if I have a lung condition?

If you need additional oxygen on board the plane, some airlines may ask you to show them a medical certificate at the airport. These certificates show that you are healthy enough to fly. You can obtain a medical form either from your airline or from your medical practice which needs to be completed by you and your doctor. You must carry your concentrator with you and show it to the airline employees as required.

Is it safe to fly with cancer?

There are times when it's advised not to travel if you have cancer. Because of changes in pressure or the amount of oxygen in the cabin of the plane, you might not be able to fly if you have had certain treatments.

It is important for anyone with cancer, or who has recently had cancer, to talk to their oncologist. It is recommended that you sign off on your planned trip before you book tickets or make reservations.

If you have or have recently had cancer, it is recommended to check with your doctor that you can fly. Ask your doctor if you have concerns about your fitness for flying.

Some cancer patients⁠—such as patients who have had lung-related problems or recent surgery⁠—might put themselves at risk of complications if they fly. Your doctor can contact the Civil Aviation Authority for advice. You might also need to contact the airline you plan on flying with.

Your doctor may advise you not to fly if you meet the following conditions:

  • If you have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the last 6 to 12 months. Doctors tend to advise against travelling abroad during the first 6 months after a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Patients usually need to have regular checkups and might need blood transfusions during this time
  • If you have a low level of platelets or a low level of red blood cells in your blood. Platelets are blood cells that help your blood to clot, and cancer treatment can lower this count. Your doctor might advise against flying if this is the case
  • If you have problems with your ears or sinuses
  • If you get breathless after light exercise, such as walking up a flight of stairs
Can I fly during chemotherapy treatment?

If you are undergoing chemotherapy treatment, the best time to travel will depend on the regimen you are on, as well as other factors such as the side effects you might be experiencing. The chemotherapy nadir (when blood counts are at their lowest) will usually occur 10-14 days after an infusion, so your oncologist may recommend travel either earlier or later. During high-dose chemotherapy, such as the treatment for some leukemia, air travel might be discouraged for the duration of treatment.

Can I fly after cancer surgery?

Doctors will, in general, support you if you want to fly once you are able to get back to normal day-to-day activities. However, you should always check with your doctor if you have recently had surgery.

If you have recently undergone bowel, chest or brain surgery, it is unlikely your doctor will support you if you want to fly. This is because you might have air trapped in your body, which can expand and increase pressure inside your body. It is usually safe to fly 7 to 10 days after surgery after the air has been re-absorbed.

If you have recently undergone an eye procedure as a result of cancer surgery, you may need to wait 2 to 6 weeks before flying. Speak to your doctor for more information.

For more information, check out our guide to flying after surgery

How do I get medical clearance to fly with cancer?

Ask your doctor to write an official letter explaining your condition, treatment regimen, and medications; remember to always keep it with you during travel. This will be particularly important if you have an IV port or other internal device, as documents will be needed to show during security screening. Depending on the airport/airline, you may need a note from your doctor if you require syringes for medication or portable oxygen tanks, in order to be allowed to board a plane.

For certain airlines, sometimes a note from your doctor may not be enough. To make sure you aren’t delayed or unable to travel, check with the airline about specific requirements they have regarding health, mobility, oxygen, and medical devices. Some airlines require specific medical clearance cards or signed forms. You can download and print these forms from the airline's website, and they often have to be completed and submitted a few days before your scheduled flight. Sometimes these forms require information provided by your doctor, so planning is key.

Top Tip: You may want to book early to ensure you get a seat with additional legroom or one on an aisle for frequent trips to the lavatory. You need to contact your airline before your trip if you need help with your luggage or getting around the airport.

What are some important things to consider when flying with cancer?

Some important considerations when flying with cancer:


When travelling to many parts of the world, vaccinations are important as they reduce your chance of getting particular infections. You may not be able to have the recommended vaccinations if you have had a particular type of cancer or treatment. This can affect where you are able to go on holiday. It is important to get advice from your cancer doctor about vaccinations.

Blood Clots

Having cancer will increase your risk of a blood clot, often called a deep vein thrombosis or DVT. This is particularly true for certain cancers, such as stomach, lung, and bowel cancer, and some treatments, such as hormonal therapy for breast cancer. Any form of travel, particularly flying, also increases the risk of developing a blood clot. The risk is increased if you sit for a long period of time; this could happen on a long-distance flight. Before you travel, ask your doctor about your risk of a blood clot. They can advise you on precautions you should take, such as wearing compression stockings and booking an aisle seat so that you can easily stretch.

Flying with Medication

There is a huge variety of medications for cancer; some medications are to treat the cancer itself, and others alleviate the symptoms. Some of these medications will be subject to extra legislation, known as ‘controlled drugs’. Strong painkillers, such as diamorphine and other opiate-based painkillers, are classed as controlled drugs, so you may need to take proof of your prescription and your condition to the airport with you.

Controlled drugs should be carried in your hand luggage. These should be carried in their original packaging, as prescribed by your doctor, alongside your doctor’s letter. You should also carry any liquid medications in your hand luggage.

Drug approval varies among countries; your particular medication may not be available where you are travelling. Make sure that your medication is legal in the countries you are visiting. Narcotics may be illegal or restricted, for example, codeine is illegal in Greece and Hong Kong. If travelling abroad, check out the laws before you travel.

For more information, check out our full guide on flying with medications.

Flying with Oxygen

Researchers have developed a pre-flight algorithm that can be used by your doctor to help predict whether or not you may need in-flight oxygen. Airlines differ in their regulations, so it is therefore crucial to check with your airline before you fly, as you may need to purchase or rent an approved oxygen device or receive a doctor’s statement.

Can an airline stop me from flying if I have cancer?

Simply having cancer is not enough to stop you from flying. However, it does mean you might need to do a bit more planning and preparation beforehand to ensure smooth boarding and risk-free flight.

Members of the cabin crew are required to notify the captain if they see any indication that a passenger may be serious; it is, therefore, crucial to follow an airline’s procedure—you might need to apply for a Fit to Fly certificate, for example—and notify them of your condition before flying if you are worried that you may come across as ill. According to the World Health Organisation, a Captain can refuse a passenger’s boarding, the decision being based on whether the passenger is “fit to travel”.

Most airlines follow the recommendations made in the International Air Transport Association’s Medical Manual and Aerospace Medical Association’s Medical Guidelines for Airline Travel. The manual states: “Medical clearance is required by the airline’s medical department if the passenger…has a medical condition which may be adversely affected by the flight environment.” Importantly, the IATA Medical Manual considers a doctor’s opinion to be only advisory. This is because not all doctors are familiar with the medical effects of flying. Each airline has its own medical department, which has the final say over which passengers are medically able to fly safely.

Can I still get travel insurance if I have cancer?

It is an absolute must to have specialist travel insurance if you have an unpredictable condition such as cancer. Without insurance, you may be liable to pay the cost of any emergency treatment you may need while away, and these costs can be high, especially in destinations including the USA, Canada and China. It can be hard to find a standard travel insurance company that will cover you if you are undergoing treatment for cancer. However, there are specialist insurance providers that will cover you.

Top Tip: Read your Insurance Policy for full details of the terms and conditions and familiarise yourself with any exclusions that might apply.

On the Cancer Research UK website, you will find a list of specialist insurers that offer travel insurance to people with cancer.

What are the best airlines to fly with if I have a disability?

It is important to choose the right airline, one with a good customer support reputation. Not every airline will go to the same extent to provide support. To help, we have composed a list of the best airlines for those flying with a disability, based on what the airline will provide passengers travelling with disabilities.

As well as airline reputation, it is also important to consider any frequent flyer status/ points you may have, as well as flight lengths and flight connections when looking at flight options as well. Remember, in the European Union, responsibility is also given to the airport management body to help provide support, but this is not the case elsewhere. It might also be worth taking a look at airport layouts and facilities as well as the airline you will be flying with.

1. Qantas

Qantas is the flag carrier of Australia and has a great reputation. The airline says that it aims to be the airline of choice for passengers traveling with specific needs. The airline offers various types of assistance.

  • Advance Notice Period: If the following support will be needed, 48 hours of notice is required.
  • Restroom Facilities: All wide-bodied aircraft (A380, B744 and A330) have at least one fully wheelchair accessible toilet. Narrow-bodied aircraft (B737, B717, F100 and Dash 8 aircraft), don't have accessible toilets. Cabin crew can assist to and from the door of the aircraft toilet, but an assistant or carer is required if further help is required.
  • Onboard Wheelchairs: Onboard wheelchairs are available (with the exception of the 717, Fokker 100 and Dash 8 aircraft, due to cabin size restrictions) and allow passengers to be escorted to and from the aircraft toilets. The 737-800 has an onboard wheelchair, but no wheelchair accessible toilets.
  • Meet and Assist Services: The service must be requested at the time of booking and generally commences once you've checked-in. Includes assisting to/from check-in to the departure gate, from the arrival gate to baggage claim and meeting you at the departure/arrival gate to collect/deliver your mobility aid (where possible).
  • Special Seating: Aircraft are equipped with torso harness restraints enabling a customer to remain upright during take-off, landing and if necessary, throughout the entire flight. 

2. Air Canada

Flag carrier to Canada, the airline is dedicated to providing specialist attention from the moment you arrive at the airport until you leave the airport at your destination.

  • Advance Notice: It is important to contact the airline at least 24 hours before departure to arrange special assistance. If you are traveling on an airplane with fewer than 60 passenger seats (Bombardier Dash 8-300, Dash 8-100 or CRJ100/200, or Beechcraft 1900D) 48 hours notice will be required.
  • Restroom Facilities: Washrooms on most aircraft are fully accessible via the on-board wheelchair, but please note that not all Air Canada Express aircraft have an on-board wheelchairs able to access washrooms.
  • Onboard Wheelchairs: Onboard wheelchairs are available on most aircraft.
  • Meet and Assist Services: Air Canada will, upon request, provide wheelchair assistance to and from the door of the aircraft throughout your journey.
  • Special Seating: Passengers are able to request a seat with special adaptions, including removable armrests, additional floor space for a service animal, greater legroom, or an adjoining seat.

3. American Airlines

  • Advance Notice: Notice is required within 48 hours of your flight. The airline recommends that you make your special assistance request as far in advance as possible. If you request special assistance during booking, a coordinator will contact you before your flight to ensure necessary requests are complete.
  • Restroom Facilities: The onboard wheelchairs may not fit within the onboard lavatory. Assistants will be required if you are unable to access the restroom facilities from the wheelchair.
  • Onboard Wheelchairs: Onboard wheelchair assistance is available on most planes. Flight attendants can provide assistance in transfers between your seat and an onboard wheelchair, and in moving the onboard wheelchair to and from the lavatory door.
  • Meet and Assist Services: The airline's special assistance coordinators will help with your wheelchair assistance and mobility assistance, including getting in and out of the plane.
  • Special Seating: Seats are available with removable armrests and extra space.

4. Delta Airlines

  • Advance Notice: As much notice as possible is required. This can be done through Delta's website or through your travel agent (Alternative Airlines!)
  • Restroom Facilities: The onboard wheelchairs may not fit within the onboard lavatory. Larger aircraft have an onboard wheelchair-accessible lavatory. This depends on the age, size and configuration of the airplane.
  • Onboard Wheelchairs: Onboard wheelchairs are available. Aircraft with less than 50 seats are not equipped with an onboard wheelchair. The flight crew can assist you with using an onboard wheelchair.
  • Meet and Assist Services: The airline can assist you in boarding, deplaning and connecting to your next flight.
  • Special Seating: The airline provides movable aisle armrest seats and seats with extra space.

5. Emirates

  • Advance Notice: You can notify the airline at the time of booking, or at least 48 hours prior to your flight.
  • Restroom Facilities: Wheelchair friendly restrooms are not available on all flights. Assistance can be provided to the restroom doors.
  • Onboard Wheelchairs: Onboard wheelchairs designed to fit in the aisle of our aircraft are available on all Emirates flights.
  • Meet and Assist Services: Pre-boarding assistance is available upon request. The airline can assist you with transportation from the terminal entrance, to the boarding gate, making connections, and transportation from the aircraft to the terminal entrance.
  • Special Seating:The airline provides aisle seats with movable armrests and extra space.
What are my rights as a disabled passenger?

Your Rights as a Disabled Passenger Explained

There are no worldwide uniform standards to regulate the provision of assistance for airline passengers travelling with disabilities.

All IATA (International Air Transport Association) member airlines need to comply with IATA resolution 700, (Acceptance and Carriage of Incapacitated Passengers), however, the experience can be very different depending on the airline.

Depending on where an airline is flying, there are laws that help to govern the rights of those travelling with disabilities within the European Union and US:

Your Rights in the EU

Under the EU Regulation 1107/2006, all passengers flying with a disability, or reduced mobility, are legally entitled to support. This is commonly known as ‘Special Assistance’. Airports and airlines are required to provide help and assistance, free of charge.

Your right to special assistance as outlined in EU law applies when the following conditions are met:

  • If you fly on any airline from an EU airport
  • If you fly on an EU registered airline to an EU airport

Compared to US regulations, EU Regulation 1107/2006 divides the responsibilities and duties provided to those with a disability between both airport managing bodies and the air carriers. The help provided by your airline should include: boarding the aircraft and support during the flight, and help disembarking the aircraft.

Your Rights in the US

The duties of airlines towards those traveling with disabilities is governed by the following regulation: U.S. Department of Transportation 14 CFR Part 382 (Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel). This regulation applies to all air carriers, whether U.S. or foreign, whose flight route either originate or terminate at a U.S. airport. This is irrespective of the point of origin of the flight.

14 CFR Part 382 says that the provision of accessibility services to people with reduced mobility is the sole responsibility of the air carrier.

Your Rights outside the European Union and US

Non European and Non U.S. air carriers that operate outside territories falling under the scope of DoT 14 CFR Part 382 and EU Regulation 1107/2006 may be subject to regulations specific to the country in which the air carrier originates from.