When travelling with a necessary medical device such as a CPAP machine, do airlines count it as one piece of carry on or a personal item? While one of those might fit in some carry-on, there would not be room for much else.

Are then general rules or regulation concerning this? Or do airlines have different rules, if so what are the most prevalent rules?

  • 4
    Most commercial carriers have a special clause for allowing medical appliances as excess to carry-on limits, but it's not a case of just claiming the exemption; British Air for example wants to see a note from the NHS.
    – Gayot Fow
    May 18, 2016 at 13:52
  • While I expect it to be easy to get a certified prescription from the local authority written in the local language, a non-British resident passing through the UK would probably find it difficult to get an NHS (Which I guess is National Health Service) note. Are there international agreements to recognize each other' prescriptions?
    – Itai
    May 18, 2016 at 16:01
  • For the 'most prevalent rules' part of your question, the April 2015 issue of "Aviation Adviser" has a pretty good article listing the most common policies. It does not list any international treaties.
    – Gayot Fow
    May 18, 2016 at 17:04

2 Answers 2


The US Department of Transport has a general ruling for airlines subject to DOT rules.

The limit of one carry-on bag and one personal bag (e.g., purse or briefcase) for each traveler does not apply to medical supplies and/or assistive devices (including service animals and their equipment). Passengers with disabilities generally may carry medical equipment, medications, and assistive devices on board the aircraft.

A survey of a random selection of other airlines, shows similar results, although in most cases the airline needs to be notified in advance and have the device approved.

http://www.britishairways.com/en-it/information/travel-assistance/medical-conditions-and-pregnancy Travelling with medicines or medical equipment

If you need to use your CPAP machine on board you can take it with you as an additional item to your hand baggage allowance. However if you don't need to use it on board, it counts towards your hand baggage allowance. Alternatively, you can check it in at no additional charge. Just contact PMCU to authorise this as an additional 'checked baggage' item.


Traveling with mobility and medical devices

A 48-hour notice is required to approve electronic medical devices for use during a flight All approved medical devices must be battery operated (battery type will also need to be approved for use inflight)

If you’re bringing an assistive device as a carry-on, it will not count toward carry-on limits


The following items of medical equipment may be carried free of charge as a additional item of baggage (max. weight 23kg), provided that the passenger registers them in writing well in advance of departure with the Service Center (by post, email, fax, or, for passengers in possession of a severe disability pass, by phone) under the contact details given in section 3.1, and in individual cases a medical certificate confirming that the equipment is necessary is produced prior to departure: - ventilators, asthma equipment, inhalers - catheters - materials for dressings (special conditions apply to plaster casts – as per section 6.4.3) - walking aids (crutches, walking frames) - sanitary products (nappies), stoma - shower/WC-seat, transfer board for wheelchair users - prostheses - dialysis machines, defibrillators, lymphatic drainage devices, electrotherapy devices - suction equipment, irrigators - medicines and injections - disabled person’s bicycle, therapeutic bicycle, wheelchair bicycle


You are allowed to take your CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure device) device on board subject to providing evidence on the nature of the equipment. This device can be carried as an additional item. If you are travelling with such device, please contact our Call Centre at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled departure of the flight.


In addition to the hand baggage the following items are also allowed:

crutches or other medical equipment provided the passenger has to depend on them;


Exceptions may be made for medical equipment required during flight. If it exceeds the carry-on allowance, please advise your Travel Agent at time of booking


Customers wishing to bring medical equipment as an additional item of cabin baggage should contact the Ryanair Special Assistance Line to receive a cabin baggage waiver letter for presentation at the Boarding Gate.

In general it would appear to be prudent to notify your airline in advance, but I would expect the necessary use of a medical device in-flight would not count towards hand luggage limits.

  • Great answer thanks! I think I know how to look these up now, so I'll try to post info for a few more major airlines for completeness. At least if I can find Air Canada, Delta, United, LAN and Cathay Pacific, it would cover most of my travels.
    – Itai
    May 20, 2016 at 16:34

I've always been allowed to carry my CPAP bag as an extra baggage allowance; however, my concern after reading this is some of the wording that says "only if you need to use it during the flight". The rate at which the airlines seems to lose luggage these days, I would hate to arrive at my destination without a necessary medical device even though I didn't need it on the flight itself. Having to check this item--even though free--would concern me.

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