Air Travel with a Portable Dialysis Machine

Portable Dialysis Machines give people with kidney failure a new lease on life by making it possible to receive the required treatment wherever they wish. Portable dialysis restores the freedom to travel, and an increasing number of people are traveling with portable hemodialysis machines as they explore the world.

Portable dialysis machines.
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I recently became aware of a U.S. airline wrongly denying passengers the right to fly with their portable dialysis machines, and felt it important to advise my readers on the relevant rules and regulations. As it turns out, the Department of Transportation has issued detailed guidance to both airlines and passengers in a document available here.

Here are a few quick facts contained in the guidance:

  • Portable dialysis machines are considered to be medically necessary assistive devices under the Air Carrier Access Act.
  • Carriers must permit passengers to stow the portable dialysis machine in the aircraft cabin or, if it is too large, in the cargo hold. There is no baggage charge for medical equipment.
  • Equipment necessary for dialysis treatment, including dialysis fluids, must also be carried without charge.
  • If a portable dialysis machine is lost or damaged during transport, the airline is responsible for an amount up to the original purchase price on domestic itineraries. The liability limit on international itineraries according to the Montreal Convention is 1,131 Special Drawing Rights (SDR) or about $1,560 USD.
  • Portable dialysis machines cannot be used during flight.

If the airline refuses to accept your device, follow these steps:

  1. Ask to speak with the airline's Complaint Resolution Official (CRO), who is supposed to be trained on all ACAA regulations.
  2. If the airline’s CRO does not resolve the matter, call the Department of Transportation’s disability hotline during normal business hours (9 am to 5 pm Eastern time, Monday through Friday except Federal holidays) at 1-800-778-4838 (voice) or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY).
  3. File a complaint with the DOT's Aviation Consumer Protection Division alleging an ACAA violation by following the steps described in this article.

If you plan to travel by air with a portable dialysis machine, be sure to bookmark this article to reference at the airport if necessary.

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