We really weren't expecting the specialist to say that Nick needed oxygen to fly long haul. Nor did we expect, when the doc signed all the permission papers for the four different airlines we will use, that things were not going to be simple.
First, Qantas can't fit oxygen to an A380. Maybe we would care to fly out of Melbourne on a different plane, oh, and purchase a seat for the oxygen cylinder. Well, no, we wouldn't care to actually...
So began the exploration of the various methods of getting oxygen on a plane and the various costs of doing so.
SWISS wanted 450CHF per leg, or $545aud, and there are 2 main legs and 2 minor ones. Air Canada wanted $900 to get us home from Vancouver. We couldn't seem to get bottled oxygen on Qantas without paying for a new seat. So we researched POCs, or Portable Oxygen Concentrators.
Last time I saw one of these they were the size of an air-conditioner and had to be wheeled about on a trolley. Now they come as quite small cubes. Do-able we thought and we could hire one.
More calls and enquiries. Qantas allows POCs to be plugged into special medical power outlets but the other airlines don't and we figured, in the end, that we would do better with a POC for all flights, but with additional batteries, enough for 150% of the longest flight, even though Nick doesn't need it on the ground and the 16 hour plane flight from Vancouver would run out of fuel before it flew 24 hours. But rules is rules...
Our supplier in Sydney could provide 2 battery packs. We needed 6. Ouch! Then bingo! A supplier in Adelaide had a concentrator and the required 6 packs. Another flurry of emails, more things signed by the doc, separate permissions from each airline, clearance from Qantas dangerous goods for the battery packs.
Then the courier didn't deliver. More phone calls. Finally, on late Tuesday afternoon we had the rather large and daunting carton of equipment. Wednesday Nick tried all the bits and pieces and all worked well. The Travel Insurance people answered questions to our satisfaction. So, with one working day to go (Easter looms) we are all systems go for the flights.
An additional 10kg of awkward machinery will go in backpacks and we will go on a holiday starting Easter Monday.
UPDATE AFTER THE TRIP: All through the trip we carried 2x5kg backpacks with the equipment. It was clearly labelled as an oxygen concentrator and batteries which may have helped. We had to request the right seat on Qantas at check-in despite all the previous discussion. The technician checked we were aware of the power point adaptor. The staff were totally unaware we were approved to use the equipment.
On other flights we had very few queries at check-in and only one at one security point. No one ever asked why we had more than the approved carry-on allowance. We were never required to demonstrate the batteries or their charge. And to prove a point, Nick didn't use the equipment on the longest flight and was fine. It was a bit of a blessing when he had a bad cough on the cruise and in Brussels just to relieve breathlessness but otherwise, I guess it was an insurance policy just in case.