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Long-Awaited Department of Transportation Ruling Signals Victory for Oxygen Patients
Date:5/12/2008

DALLAS, May 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Airlines now will have to allow passengers to carry on approved portable oxygen concentrators when they board because of a ruling from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that amends the Air Carrier Access Act.

This is an important step for patients suffering from respiratory illnesses who require supplemental oxygen, according to the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), a professional association of respiratory therapists on the front lines of treating respiratory patients in the United States.

The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel and requires U.S. air carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities, but it did not specifically address the needs of medical oxygen users. Now the Act stipulates passenger-owned electronic equipment that assists breathing, such as portable oxygen concentrators, must be allowed on board. The Congressional COPD Caucus, founded by U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), urged Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters to complete the final rule that oxygen advocates have sought since 2005.

"We have worked very hard with several organizations to achieve this ruling and are thrilled for the respiratory patients," said Cheryl West, director of government affairs for the AARC. "Patients should be aware that this rule does not change the fact that the use of medical oxygen still requires advance notice and a medical certificate for the airlines."

Working together with the Airline Oxygen Council of America, Alpha-1 Foundation and the U.S. COPD Coalition, the AARC spearheaded the effort to get a nationwide ruling that would require air carriers to board passengers with DOT-approved concentrators. Before this ruling, airlines had the option to allow DOT-approved oxygen concentrators on planes, but many declined. This ruling makes it mandatory for all airlines to let patients aboard with approved devices.

"This is great news for the patients who must travel with oxygen," said Miriam O'Day, who leads the AARC's legislative efforts in Washington, D.C. "Travel will be so much more accessible and convenient for them. It's safe, it's secure and it opens many possibilities for those who have been reluctant to travel in the past."

The rule will apply to U.S. airlines worldwide and foreign airlines whose flights begin or end in the United States. It will take effect officially in one year, providing the airlines with ample time to organize proper procedures to implement the regulation.

"Many oxygen-dependent patients have struggled with air travel, and when portable concentrators finally were allowed to be a carry-on item, many major airlines still chose not to permit their usage," O'Day said. "Now, respiratory patients have access and enforceability that has been a long time coming."

About the AARC

The American Association for Respiratory Care, headquartered in Dallas, is a professional association of respiratory therapists that focuses primarily on respiratory therapy education and research. The organization's goals are to ensure that respiratory patients receive safe and effective care from qualified professionals as well as supporting respiratory health care providers. The association continues to advocate on behalf of pulmonary patients for appropriate access to respiratory services provided by qualified professionals. Further information about the AARC and how to become a respiratory therapist are available at http://www.AARC.org .


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SOURCE American Association for Respiratory Care
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