Airline removed me a because of confusion about medical supplies

By | November 1st, 2011

Here’s an unusual case with an equally unusual resolution. It involves two airline passengers, a medical device and EU airline passenger law.

Now, before you say, “How exciting!” consider this — while the case may be exceedingly rare, and while this isn’t exactly a blog about medical supplies, the outcome of this medical device mishap could affect you on your next European flight.

So pay attention, you kids in the back of the class. Yeah, you know who I’m talking about.

Holly Mannchen and her husband were flying from Washington to Turkey on Lufthansa recently via Munich. She says they had sought approval for a portable oxygen concentrator before boarding. Her husband needed the medical device because of a lung condition. The transatlantic flight went smoothly.

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But then things got complicated, as far as the airline and the medical device were concerned. Mannchen explains,

In Munich we were pre-boarded and sat on the aircraft while all the other passengers boarded. Just prior to takeoff, the pilot asked to see the concentrator, which we showed him.

At that time the pilot refused to let us fly and forced us off the aircraft. The pilot was ignorant as to what an oxygen concentrator was.

We were humiliated. We were escorted off the plane and told not to worry we would be on the next flight. When asked what was the difference between this flight that has not yet left, and the next flight, the gate personel answered “the pilot”. We were eventually booked on the next flight seven hours later.

Mannchen feels she and her husband was denied boarding under EU 261. They want their airline to compensate them.

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The definition of “denied boarding” is a little slippery, though, and it doesn’t address traveling with medical supplies.

“denied boarding” means a refusal to carry passengers on a flight, although they have presented themselves for boarding under the conditions laid down in Article 3(2), except where there are reasonable grounds to deny them boarding, such as reasons of health, safety or security, or inadequate travel documentation.

Lufthansa sees things differently. It offered the couple a $100 voucher which needed to be used within a month. That didn’t work for Mannchen.

I contacted the airline on their behalf. It conducted its own investigation and send me the following response:

Passenger safety is the top priority for Lufthansa, and ultimately the Captain of an aircraft has the final say on such issues. As defined in AE 261 Article 2(j) “denied boarding” means a refusal to carry passengers on a flight, except where there are reasonable grounds to deny them boarding, such as reasons of health, safety or security, or inadequate travel documentation. According to the Captain of this particular flight, this was a health / safety issue and he had to make a judgment call, since he is responsible for all passengers. Furthermore, I have been informed that the passenger did not have a doctor’s note on hand to confirm that he was safe to fly.

Lufthansa was able to look into the situation and further research the issue, and so therefore the Captain of the second plane that the Mannchen’s flew on had more information when making his decision.

We completely understand that this was an unpleasant situation for Mr. and Mrs. Mannchen, and hope that they recognize the important responsibilities that a flight Captain has under him/herself. We will also contact the Mannchen couple and offer them each a $300 voucher with the hope that they will choose to experience a Lufthansa product once again.

I thought that was a pretty fair gesture, considering the medical supplies issue only delayed the couple by a few hours.

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But it didn’t work for the Mannchens, so they appealed to Lufthansa’s executives. In a letter taking Lufthansa to task for the way it handles passengers and their medical supplies, and their medical device in particular, she explains her reasons for rejecting the offer.

While this falls far short of the EU Regulations governing refunds for denied boarding, this would be acceptable if my husband was ever going to fly again, but since that trip he has decided never to fly again due to the humiliation and trouble he encountered with your airline. The problem is that the voucher is in my husband’s name and therefore cannot be used by me or anyone else, thereby will go unused.

I respectfully request you review our situation. It is my and my husband’s hope to have his voucher reissued in my name. While this does not change your current offer of $600 it will allow the offer to be of use to us.

Otherwise, I would appreciate that you would follow the EU Regulation 261/2004. (our flight was greater than 1500km and the alternate flight delay was 7 hours) and issue to my husband and me each by check a refund in the amount of EU400 (or USD equivalent).

And guess what? Lufthansa cut her a check for $555.

Maybe it does pay to fly with your medical supplies.

  • S E Tammela

    Can of worms.

    Firstly, why would you be so arrogant as to try and fly anywhere without paperwork from a doctor explaining why you’ve got some strange medical contraption with you? It is not the pilot’s job to understand every medical device ever made, and in the case where he/she is unsure about its safety he/she MUST err on the side of caution. The rest of the passengers have rights to a safe flight and the pilot must put their overall needs before the “wants” of one passenger. It’s really not too surprising that the pilot didn’t know what it was. I’m sure seeing one isn’t a daily occurrence.

    Secondly, I must admit Lufthansa surprised me here by offering the full refund. The EU laws are difficult even for airlines to understand (case in point was KLM refusing to compensate or even accommodate people affected by the Icelandic volcanoes even after their partner Delta was telling passengers that KLM should look after them).

  • Michael K

    You think the *passengers* were “arrogant”, seriously??

    The FAA actually issued a ruling in 2009 specifically permitting these devices.  Furthermore, Lufthansa is one of the international carriers that has told device manufacturers that it allows POCs worldwide.

    Not to mention that any objections should have been resolved at the point of departure (Washington) not during a connection (in Munich).

  • Michael K
  • sirwired

    The FAA has issued that ruling, yes, but this flight was from Munich to Turkey, where FAA rulings have no force, and this pilot may not have even been aware of them.

    Each individual pilot is responsible for the safety of the aircraft they fly; they are not bound by the safety decisions of pilots on previous legs, so the fact that a US -> EU pilot allowed it does not compel the Munich -> Turkey pilot to do so.

    Yes, the 2nd pilot made a bad call, but it’s a call he was legally allowed to make (although it was probably against Lufthansa’s operations manual.)

  • MarkieA

    I’ve never understood the “strength” of a doctor’s note. If a bad guy wants to smuggle some weird-looking device on board a plane, and all he thinks he needs is a doctor’s note, I’m pretty sure he can construct one that’s convincing enough to get past the geniuses at the gate.

  • sirwired

    Tough call, but I voted that the refund was too much.  “I’m never going to fly again” seems a bit of an overreaction to a three-hour paperwork foulup.

    Also, DID they have a doctor’s note and/or a copy of the approval from Lufthansa?  While it wouldn’t be required in the US, as long as it was an FAA-approved model, FAA rulings don’t apply overseas.

    If I was a pilot, I’D personally be suspicious of an oxygen-concentrating device.  He made a bad call; he should have consulted the Lufthansa operations manual and/or fleet medical (maybe he was under heavy time pressure), but absent those consultations, the denial was not unreasonable on it’s face.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I dunno on this one, but I do know that “too humiliated to fly again” is the most ridiculous hyperbole I’ve seen in awhile…

  • Chris in NC

    I will roll my eyes at the OP’s repeated use of “humiliated” and that statement “… but since that trip he has decided never to fly again due to the humiliation and trouble he encountered with your airline.” A little dramatic aren’t we?

    However, the airline denied boarding and under terms of EU 261, Mannchen is entitled to 400 Euro compensation.

  • emanon256

    Wow, Seriously?  Thousands of people use portable oxygen concentrators, I see many of these daily, and I see them on planes all the time.  It is not some strange medical device, it is a very common devise that allows millions of people to travel freely rather than being tied to bulky powered equipment or tanks.  I am shocked that a pilot would not know what it is.  This is the medical “need” of one passenger who already got approval from Lufthansa in advance; it is not the “want” of one passenger nor was the passenger arrogant.

  • emanon256

    I voted no, in fact, I think Lufthansa should have gone further from the very beginning.  I am sick of airlines falling back on “The captain has the final say.”  This is clearly a very arrogant, ignorant, captain who is living under a rock.  I don’t know how or why a captain would not know what an oxygen concentrator was, and I am shocked that the airline wouldn’t even give pilot’s continued training on medical devices approved for use in airplanes.  This sounds more like a case of discrimination against someone with a disability for which I have no tolerance.
    Portable oxygen concentrators are so common, I see them all the time traveling.  They give millions of people the freedom to travel and they have been around for quite some time.  Some of them are so small now; I bet people don’t even realize others have them.  I personally don’t need oxygen, nor do I personally know anyone who uses one.  But I see them so often and have asked other travelers about them and learned so much about how great they are.
    I think it is so wrong that the captain humiliated them, kicked them off the plane, and they were then delayed 7 hours.  Especially when they got pre-approval to bring the device.  This captain sounds like some jerk on a power trip.  I think it’s great that Lufthansa gave them a check for $555.  I hope they also got an apology and the captain goes through some re-training or gets fired.

  • emanon256

    “Too humiliated to fly again” may be hyperbole, but it could also be serious in some cases.  I have a neighbor who is a holocaust survivor.  He hasn’t traveled in years and tried to fly back to Germany recently.  He didn’t make it past TSA.  He was called out of line for an enhanced pat down and while the agent was berating him he started having concentration camp flashbacks.  He broke down and collapsed and had to be taken away in an ambulance.  He said he was too humiliated to ever fly again and I completely believe him.  He also never asked for a refund or compensation due to his incident.
    In most cases, I think being “Too humiliated to fly again” may just be one trying to get money out of an airline.  But someone with a disability being called out and then kicked off a plane because of their medical apparatus could easy humiliate someone to that point.

  • Richard Trilling

    “Furthermore, I have been informed that the passenger did not have a doctor’s note on hand to confirm that he was safe to fly.”

    The passenger did NOT have to have a note from his doctor that it was safe for HIM to fly. A note from a doctor or the device manufacturer, saying that the device was necessary for him to have aboard the aircraft might have been necessary. It was not clear whether of not he had that note.

    I am a diabetic, and always travel with with such a note for my needles and insulin. I have never had any problem any place in the world (US, Europe, Asia, …). As a matter a fact I have never even been questioned at security. 

    As an aside a syringe  & needle of insulin if I wanted to use it as weapon is enough to kill someone, it’s just as effective as a box cutter.

    Under EU 261, they were denied boarding, they are therefor entitled to all the compensation.

    Airlines enforce THEIR rules against passengers, passengers should be able to enforce passenger consumer laws against airlines.

  • Bill

    There needs to be consistent rules on what’s allowed and what is not.  It is nearly impossible to fly based upon the whims of the pilot.  Although pilots should be making many decisions, that as to whether to allow devices such as this aboard shoudl be one based upon proper evaluation and safety considerations by experts.  Pilots will just refuse carriage on speculation if they don’t know about this particular device.

  • Ames

    I am very confused by the final resolution – a check for $555.  That does not equal two $300 vouchers or 400 euros each.  How did Lufthansa calculate the amount?

    I do understand the passenger never wanting to fly again, who wants the uncertainty of a misguided pilot added to all the other bother.  Perhaps he will change his mind in a year, but maybe not.  Certainly there are plenty of people who read this column who avoid flying due to the TSA, others who avoid a specific airline for past transgressions,  he has reason to be upset, so allow that he is, at least for now.

  • Bill

    Thanks for the link.  Looks like they were supposed to also have paperwork.  If the passengers are so rule obsessed, that link shows that they did not have the paperwork they were supposed to have.  Give the cheque back.

  • Neccoz

    I am wondering who pointed out the medical device to the Captain. I understand that the Captain is responsible for the safety of the flight but how many times have you seen a Captain leave the cockpit before takeoff to inspect medical devices and other carry-on bags on the plane?

  • Harrison

    Holocaust survivor and American tourist are two different things…

    I agree with Raven–sometimes the hyperboles make a good letter read like garbage. At least this one didn’t come with the “fixed income” and “single parent” attempts at pity.

  • “She says they had sought approval for a portable oxygen concentrator before boarding.”

    If their was an issue with the device it could have been resolved before boarding.  This could be an issue with perhaps flying on a different airline (US Air to Munich and Lufthansa to Turkey), but the OP did do due dilligence in terms of notifying the airline about the issue.  They should have and could have managed any issues regarding a medical device before they boarded the plane in Munich.

  • Tony A.

    Nope, the captain is not ignorant. IATA Resolution 700 defines the rules governing transportation
    of persons with special needs.

    A completed MEDIF form is required for each passenger –
    whose medical condition requires provision of special services, such as a stretcher, oxygen, and other medical assistance or the carriage of special medical equipment.

    The OP should have filled up IATA Reso 700 Annex A MEDIF form of Lufthansa:

    That said, if the OP was refused carriage, then a refund of his ticket is in order.

  • Lemmie

    And they missed the death in the family.

  • AirlineEmployee

    ..”delayed by a few hours” ?……Seven hours is not “a few”.   They should have been refunded the price of their tickets.   It’s ridiculous for people to be at the mercy of others who have no knowlege of what they are talking about.   Typical crew reaction – they don’t know something so they make it up or wield their “authoritative” power trip like a club.

  • Michael K

    According to the article: She says they had sought approval for a portable oxygen concentrator before boarding.  So if she didn’t have the right “paperwork,” then something went awry with that interaction.  Was she given accurate information?

    Regardless, the point where their paperwork should have been checked was in Washington.  Once the OPs were transported to a foreign country — not their origin or their destination — what was the airline going to do?  Leave them stranded there with no practical means of leaving?

  • Rosered7033

    It’s been my experience that Lufthansa is in a class all by itself.  Personally, I traveled with a short Swiss Army knife in my carryon, and had it pass through security in the states and in other countries, and security was aware I was carrying it.  Went to board a Lufthansa jet in Germany & was told I had to get rid of it by a L. employee.  I suspect someone had knife envy & saw an easy way to get one.  This all happened a few years after 9/11.

  • guest

    $555 is approximately equal to one 400 euro refund, did the wife get to keep her $300 voucher?

  • Julie Northrop2009

    As someone who has metal rods holding their spine straight from scoliosis surgery, as well as staples in the growth plate of my right leg, I know that the chances of me setting off the alarms is there.  Because I know this, I make sure to carry a doctors note with me letting them know of the procedures and that I may or may not set off the alarms. 

    In the past, when I’ve set off the alarm, I’ve shown the agent my letter and  I was on my way.  I flew again in 2009 and I set off the alarm. I showed the letter to the agent and they pulled me aside to run a wand over my back and knee and I was on my way.  It’s not convenient half the time, but it’s better than not having the letter and being detained.

    How anyone with a medical condition that requires special equipment NOT have a doctors note explaining the husband’s condition is beyond me. It’s just common sense that you would be completely prepared, no matter that you were told everything would be okay.

  • Geoff

    They were not in the USA. The Pilot is in charge of the safety of all passengers. The pilot were a little stupid, but still the pilot. The passengers argued a good game, but I would have given them 0.

  • MichelleLV


  • jennj99738

    She did.  She got approval in advance in Washington.  She then flew all the way from Washington to Munich on Lufthansa without a problem.  Why on earth would she think there would be a problem on the flight from Munich on the same airline?  This was quite simply an ignorant pilot who should have spoken with whomever handles passengers with disabilities in Munich if he had never seen this medical device before.  This even in the face of the fact that Lufthansa explicitly allows oxygen concentrators. The pilot should have known this or Lufthansa failed to properly train the pilot. Either way, Lufthansa’s on the hook.

    I’m always one to say it’s the passenger’s job to dot her i’s and cross her t’s.  This time it was Lufthansa’s fault and the fault of its unenlightened pilot.  The passenger did a good job of asserting her rights although there is a lot of weasel room in the EU regulations.

  • sprky

    This is fair, because they finally gave them an actual refund.  If your business has pissed me off, I don’t want a coupon to force me to use them again as some sort of remedy to the situation.  I want my money back.  Period.

  • John Sierra

    Even I think the Pilot is responsible for Passengers safety,He should have behaved in proper way. Travel-Ticker (Hotwire) Coupons

  • sprky

    My mother had this “strange medical contraption” for 15 years.  We could wallpaper airports with the amount of documentation we had with us when she would fly, and the airlines and airports would still find a way to mess it up.

    Those concentrators are perfectly safe for air travel.

  • Grant

    Couldn’t agree more. Where safety is concerned, the default reaction for pilots should ALWAYS be overreaction. Too bad Lufthansa caved. :-(

  • While I understand people’s backgrounds and personal experiences may affect how they react today, that’s exactly what they are – personal reasons. I totally sympathize with the Holocaust survivor (and applaud his realization that the pat-down people were not to blame), but the guy with the oxygen too traumatized to EVER fly again? That’s a personal problem / decision. Lufthansa did great to give them the settlement they got. Next time (if there IS a next time), bring a doctor’s note. (Being ignorant of the OP’s condition – did he need to be on the machine all the time, ie. during the flight? Is that why they had to let the airline know? Just wondering…)

  • Carver

    Perhaps one of the travel professionals can assist.  IF the OP got clearance for the device, wouldn’t that be noted in her record, which is easily accessible by the airplane crew?

  • Carver

    I think there is a world of difference between a medical condition and needing a simple device like say a CPAP machine.

  • Tony A.

    Well, some people do feel humiliated being escorted out of the airplane.

    To avoid discriminating disabled passengers both the EU and the USA passed laws. In the EU, EC 1007/2006 is the rule. In the USA, 14 CFR Part 382 is the rule.

    Both EC1007 and US 14CFR 382 would have prohibited the airline from denying carriage of the OP and his medical supply and companion. The only issue here is if the OP sufficiently advised the airline of his medical condition. That is where filling up the MEDIF form required by IATA 700 comes in.

    Nevertheless, any disabled passenger inside the EU, who is denied boarding based on his/her disability is awarded the same compensation (reimbursement or re-routing) as in EC261/2004.

    I cannot second guess the captain, but I cannot find his action as illegal. IMO he didn’t want to risk an unscheduled medical landing between MUC and Istanbul so he use the missing medical form as his reason/excuse to kick out the OP. Sh*t happens.

  • sirwired

    POC’s are still fairly new, and it was not that long ago that the FAA approved them (and only certain models, at that) for use on US flights.  (Prior to POC’s, you had to apply to the airline to supply on-board O2, which was indeed available.)    There are similar restrictions on the transport of certain scooter batteries… lithium batteries for a a scooter of questionable origin that you picked up used from the flea market aren’t going to fly either, no matter how necessary for your disability.

    Something that concentrates oxygen AND has an on-board lithium battery makes flight-safety types (justifiably) nervous.  It is not unreasonable for a captain to refuse to transport such a device without instructions from the home office, which may not have been able to provide said instructions in time.

    And yes, the captain has final say over the safety of the aircraft.  This is a bedrock principle of aviation safety and it has very few exceptions.  The captain exercising this authority does not automatically make him guilty of unjust discrimination.

  • LadyMac

    I voted no.  Of course I sit here with bated breath waiting to find out if my sister in law made her flight from Atlanta to Washington, DC while travelling with a portable dialysis machine (she requires perotonial dialysis every night).

    I can imagine some airport personnel not knowing or understanding what the device is for and denying her passage because of it. 

    I hope she makes it here.

  • slacktide

    I personally feel that all passengers deserve respect and compassion, especially those with medical needs. We see the same disrespect from TSA.

  • Sadie Cee

    It seems to me that if the PAX had been able to produce a letter from Mr. Mannchen’s doctor, he and his spouse could have avoided the difficulty that they had.  According to Lufthansa, “I have been informed that the passenger did not have a doctor’s note on hand to confirm that he was safe to fly.”   (It has been said that doctors’ letters can be forged, but that is another issue.)
    Even though Lufthansa is listed among the airlines that permit POCs on board, the Web link that you provided advised that the PAX needed to have this letter in their possession.  Lufthansa’s own site also speaks to the necessity for documentation.

    The following is taken from http://www.oxygenconcentrators… which is the link you provided:
    “Pursuant to Federal Aviation Regulations, anyone wishing to use a POC onboard an airline must obtain a written statement from their physician stating your ability to hear/see and respond to alarms, when oxygen use is necessary (all or part of the trip) and the maximum flow rate corresponding to the pressure in the cabin under normal operating conditions.  ……….. Every airline offers their own template for a statement, though they are generally all the same.  You should be able to use one statement for the majority of your air travel.  Like an I.D. it is something you present and keep with you.”

    Did the PAX fail to exercise their due diligence before embarking on this trip?  I do understand that circumstances can develop that are entirely beyond the PAX’s control and are the sole responsibility of the airline, hotel, car rental firm, etc.  When they do, I believe that the supplier should be nailed and I would also fully support all efforts made for them to accept responsibility.  In this instance, I believe the compensation offered is more than fair.   

  • Martin

    Horrible story about your neighbor, but those cases couldn’t be much more different. A Holocaust survivor being felt up, collapsing and having to be rushed away in an ambulance differs a WHOLE lot from what these people went through. They had to get off the plane and were on the next flight. They even had airline employees sympathizing with them and letting them know things would be okay with a different pilot.

  • Sadie Cee

    I don’t know what happened.  This started out as a reply to MichaelK who provided the oxygenconcentrators Web link.  The “you” refers to MichaelK.  Thanks.

  • Linda Bator

    And did NOT have the required paperwork — THEIR own fault.  LH was MORE than generous under the circumstances.

  • Tony A.

    Actually MOST airlines require that you inform them at least 24 hours before departure that you intend to bring a POC on board and they also usually require a Physician’s certificate. Even for pre-approved POCs on USA flights, the FAA requires batteries equivalent to at least 150% of cumulative flight times. In other words, you cannot just show up during boarding and declare your intention to take a POC with you.

  • Linda Bator

    And their rules clearly states you must have a letter for the machine – which of course, they did not have.  And heaven forbid THEY should take responsibility for that.  The letter would have sufficed – no letter, no boarding. 

  • Linda Bator

    Which is WHY they require the letter of requirement.  To avoid any such problems.

  • Linda Bator

    Which, by LAW, requires a letter of requirement.  To avoid any such problems.

  • Bodega

    Not all airlines allow permit POC’s onboard.  Make sure to check with your carrier before you book your flight.  Most airlines require that you contact them at least 48 hours before your flight departs to inform them you will be traveling with a POC.
    Before you fly you must obtain a signed statement from your physician.  Pursuant to Federal Aviation Regulations, anyone wishing to use a POC onboard an airline must obtain a written statement from their physician stating your ability to hear/see and respond to alarms, when oxygen use is necessary (all or part of the trip) and the maximum flow rate corresponding to the pressure in the cabin under normal operating conditions.  Here is a template of the Medical Verification Statement Required by Continental Airlines.  Every airline offers their own template for a statement, though they are generally all the same.  You should be able to use one statement for the majority of your air travel.  Like an I.D. it is something you present and keep with you.
    The above is from the website

    I seems pretty clear that the passengers didn’t do what they needed to do. While LH out of the US allowed them to travel, as LH does allow POC’s, the connecting flight carrier, might have been a codeshare carrier, which has not been clarified and that is why the pilot questioned this.  LH probably realized that they didn’t follow procedure themselves and are paying up now for their mistake.

    My question is; where did the passengers purchase their tickets?  Online?  This is a ticket I would never had allowed to be purchased without properly verifying in writing to the client what they had to do, provided they informed me about traveling with a POC.  I have assisted dozens of passengers over the years who had to travel with oxygen.  If you have special needs, the internet is not a mind reader and can’t see you to provide you with important information.  IMHO, the passenger failed their responsibility, too, along with LH. 

  • Joe Reynolds

    I think the pilot did not want the person on the aircraft because he appeared to sick to fly and the pilot would have taken on a risk unfair to the rest of the passengers. Any patient using an Oxygen generator on an aircraft rather than portable oxygen is too sick to fly. Remember the plane will go to 10,000 feet and there is less oxygen in that air than on the ground.
    The patient should have had a note from his doctor that he was OK to fly and still may not have been. I support the first pilot.   The second pilot just got away with it taking a chance. If that patient got into any kind of trouble on the aircraft like diarrhea and had to make frequent trips to the restroom that caused exertion at 10,000 feet cabin pressure he could have gotten into trouble. Were they in 1st class where they have 110 electricity to plug the oxygen generator in or did the aircraft have 110 electricity in economy.
    The oxygen generator was not a threat, the patient was. He should have had enough portable Oxygen to fly his distance without the generator.
    The first pilot was protecting his flight from being aborted because of a sick passenger.

  • Hmm. seems a little harsh but surely you would fly with a doctors note explaining the medical equipment? I’m sure people reading this will definately think about acquiring one in the future;)

  • Fordmann

    While Chris did an awesome job telling our very long story in a shortened version, he missed a couple of key facts IMHO.  Lufthansa’s statement of  “I have been informed that the passenger did not have a doctor’s note on hand to confirm that he was safe to fly.”  was an error and we did in-fact have a medical letter from my husband’s doctor stating he was cleared to fly.  The letter also stated he did not need the Oxygen Concentrator during flight, but simply to board and de-plane.  We offered to check it but was denied that as well.  The issue was strictly the concentrator and the pilot’s ignorance as to what it was NOT the health and well being of my husband.  It was not even addressed until after we were thrown off  and only to cover Lufthansa’s butt.  Additionally we had a copy of the FAA website showing the devise as approved.  Unfortunately our carry on had to be checked on our first leg & it inadvertently was checked in that bag, but we did have the Doctor’s letter with us.  We were cleared on our outbound flight out of Dulles and were on Lufthansa our entire trip so thought we were cleared all the way though.  My husband did due diliigence in checking the Lufthansa’s website to check for medical device clearance but could not find any info.  Lufthansa acknowledged that in the first letter stating they were going to update their website.  Additionally they agreed the pilot needed additional training and they were going to use our situation to educate their employees in the future. 

    Addressing the issue several folks have had about my  husband being “too humiliated to fly again”, that was not an attempt to more money, it was simply the truth and the certificates they had issued in his name would never be used, I just wanted what they offered in a usable format to us.  My husband is a quiet, private man and his disability has caused him enough embarrassment just having to wear his oxygen in public.  Having him boarded before everyone else then kicked off the plane in front of everyone was too much for him to handle.  Judge him if you want, but he will never fly again, and I know this to be true.  The compensation of a $555. check for each of us is only what the EU regulations call for when denied boarding of a flight greater than 1500 km and delayed greater than 3 hours (our delay was 7 hours in Munich with no way to contact those that were waiting for us in Izmir, Turkey).  We weren’t asking for more than the laws allow.

    I hope this clears up issues some of you have.  For those of you who have seen our side, thank you for your kind words and support.

  • flutiefan

    “strange medical contraption”??!?! laughable.  POCs have been in common usage over the past few years. we don’t require medical documentation for a passenger to carry one on board. this pilot was just ignorant.  he probably thought it was actual an actual oxygen tank, which does require doctor’s documentation. but they are very different items and we have been trained to know that. Lufthansa eventually did the right thing.

  • flutiefan

    actually, i HAVE been tested at the genius level. thanks for recognizing that.

  • flutiefan

    sure, they were after your precious knife. *snort*

  • Tony A.

    I have a question regarding the “math”. As far as I know the two (2) of you were denied boarding, correct?
    If the distance (measured by Great Circle Method) between MUC and IST is 1575 kms. and you were delayed arrival in IST exceeded 3 hours (even after re-routing), then EACH of you are entitled to 400 EUR.
    Chris mentioned only one check worth $555. You should be getting twice this.

  • Bodega

    I am pleased that you got to your destination and that LH is acknowledging their error, but there are a couple of concerns I still have.  Where did you pruchase your ticket?  With an online company or on LH’s webpage?  I don’t think you used a local travel agency, which might have been a better way to get these tickets as you would have been given the information concerning your husband’s needs.  LH does address health issues on their website.  While it doesn’t list specifics, it does say anyone with health issues, which your husband has, is to contact the carrier at least 48 hour prior.

    It appears that you didn’t contact the airline and waited until the day of departure.  Why?  When something so important was a concern, calling their toll free number along with checking their website shouldn’t have been a step that was overlooked. 

  • Byron Cooper

    I am a pulmonary physician and I often deal with patients who require supplemental oxygen during air travel. In every case that I can recall, the patients have gotten the appropriate paper work from me and have not been hassled by the airlines. In one instance, I spoke to a physician for Lufthansa. When we discussed the details specific to the specific passenger and her medical situation and destination, we agreed that it was not safe for her to fly at that time, with or without oxygen. The Lufthansa doctor made himself very accessible and even gave me his home number. 

  • Fordmann

    Yes, we will be getting (2) checks for $555.  This is equal to 400EU at the exchange rate in effect at the time of our travel.  It is exactly what we should have been given in the first place.

  • Hmm sad what happened with the couple. Still, i agree what they say “for the sake of passenger safety”, but there is one thing to understand that the pilot either needs to have sufficient knowledge about what the passengers carry with them or he can at least speak to his fellow concerned authorities and take a decision instead being arrogant and humiliating by keeping them out straight without even investigating the issue thoroughly.

  • Fordmann

    I did purchase our tickets through an online agency but that should not matter as we are capable of taking care of travel arrangements.  My husband had all the documentation he needed with him originally and was checked in and cleared upon arrival at Dulles.  It was his first time flying with a concentrator but had looked on the LH website for guidance and there was none.  They have since added the note about contacting the carrier (our trip was a year ago).  Since we were cleared in Dulles and notes were put in the computer record (we saw the computer screen with the note of clearance). We were forced to check our carry-on because it was slightly too large for their bin and some of the paperwork was left in that bag.  We did keep the letter from the doctor, and the concentrator clearly had the FAA approval label on it.  My husband was not denied boarding because of his health issue…he was denied boarding because they would not let the concentrator on board.  The Pilot was ignorant as to what it was.  I think he thought it was oxygen under pressure like a tank.  As others have pointed out, this is not a rare piece of medical equipment and the pilot should have been very familiar.  My husband did not need the Oxygen onboard, as I said we offered to check it.  He would not allow it.  We him we had information from the FAA website allowing them, he asked to see it but it was in our checked carryon.  He said, “then I can not let you fly”  so it had everything to do with the device, not his health.  LH immediately knew they had made a mistake after the flight took off without us, even the gate person knew the PILOT was the issue.  Handicapped people should not have to jump through hoops to be treated equally.  

  • Michael K

    Update: According to the OP’s comment below, they DID in fact have the right paperwork (a written statement from their physician).

  • Rosered7033

    Actually, it was a limited edition knife.  “snort”

  • Tony A.

    Actually you made it very clear in your former post that your husband never intended to use and did not need to use the Personal Oxygen Concentrator (POC) while inside the airplane. You also made it clear that your husband health while in carriage was not the issue. The only issue, therefore, was carrying a POC on board; and not it’s use.

    I would like to present a reason why you had this problem – the rules in the USA regarding POCs are very different from that of Europe’s and the rest of the World.

    In the USA, we have a law – Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) – and it’s rules are codified in 14 CFR Part 382 (aka Part 382). Part 382 is very detailed and lengthy and has many chapters dealing with POCs.

    To put it bluntly, for flights within, into and from the USA, the carrier may NOT bar you from taking on board and stowing an FAA approved POC. I quote the DOT FAQ addressing that issue:


    53. May a carrier refuse to allow a passenger to stow on the aircraft any respirator, ventilator, CPAP machine or FAA-approved POC that does not have a manufacturer’s label indicating compliance with the standards of RTCA/DO-160 (current edition) or other applicable FAA or non-U.S. government requirements for medical portable electronic devices?Answer: No. Carriers must allow passengers to carry a respirator, ventilator, CPAP machine or FAA-approved POC onboard aircraft, subject to applicable safety requirements, even if the device may not be used onboard the aircraft.

    Having said this, your flight from the USA to Munich on Lufthansa was obviously in compliant with this DOT rule.

    Unfortunately, flights between 2 points that are not in the USA and operated by foreign carriers do not need to comply with US rules. So the flight from Munich and Istanbul simply had to comply with German, Turkish rules and EU directives.

    The EU directive concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air is EC1107/2006. Again, since you say your husband did not need to use the POC while on board, then we could reasonably conclude that he was not disabled. He was merely TRANSPORTING a POC.

    But consider this conundrum – how can an airline employee in Germany reasonably determine whether you will actually use the POC or not if you take one on board? I think you said that you had the doctor’s statement on a checked luggage and therefore could not show it in Munich.

    Again unfortunately, OUTSIDE of the USA, Lufthansa identifies a POC as a “Dangerous Goods that may be carried under certain Conditions”.
    Unlike USA regulations that give you the “right” to stow an FAA approved POC, there is no such “right” in Europe.

    I quote:

    Portable oxygen concentrators
    Description: Portable oxygen concentrators powered by gel batteriesfor medical use, also for use on board.Checked baggage: NoCabin baggage: YesApproval of carrier required: Yes

    Rule: The approval has to be requested via the LH Meda desk.

    So, according to Lufthansa’s GERMAN website, you need to seek MEDA approval to carry a POC on board (whether you use it or not).
    I assume you never filled up Lufthansa’s MEDIF form and hence did not get such an approval to carry a POC on board for the Intra-European flight. Note: A letter from your doctor is not a substitute for a MEDIF form.

    The MEDIF form complies with the IATA Resolution 700 and the data fields are formatted in such a way as they can be entered in the airlines system and transmitted accordingly. It is the airline’s Medical Department that clears the transport and use of the POCs; not the airport or desk agents. All the agents can do is enter an SSR code for MEDA, meaning the passenger needs Medical Assistance. And what this does is trigger an alert to all the succeeding flights so special passenger handling is done. In addition the Captain is ALWAYS informed of all incapacitated and disabled passengers AND the presence of any POC on board.

    While I agree with you that it is humiliating to be “escorted out” of an airplane (PS believe me it has happened to me several times when I was flying “standby” as an airline employee), I also can agree with the possibility the the Lufthansa captain on the Intra-European was only doing his job (No MEDIF/MEDA clearance, No POC on board) as per Lufthansa rules OUTSIDE the USA.

    Yes you were denied boarding hence you claimed compensation under EC261/2004. But your experience should be an example for ALL Americans wishing to take a POC outside the USA. We should not assume that the rest of the world have the same FAA or DOT rules that we have here.

    Furthermore, I disagree that Lufthansa crew need to do more training. There is no reason to train European and Non-USA personnel on US Rules when the rules of the rest of the World may be different. IMO the training should be for American Passengers – different rules outside America.

    Well, at least you got your Denied Boarding Compensation.

  • Tony A.

    Bodega, the only error here is the wrong assumption of many travelers – they believe that the Rest of the World operates with American-like rules and vice-versa. The air transport and use of a POC is only one example of this dichotomy. 

  • Julie Northrop2009

    There is quite a difference between a medical condition and carrying a medical device, I’m not debating that.  However, post 9/11, getting through security can be problematic. Especially if you set off the alarms in the metal detector.  Rather than having to jump through hoops to catch my flight, I make sure I have the right documentation so that they know the metal in my body is from medical procedures, not to blow up the plane.  I’ve found that the note is sufficient and gets me out of security much quicker than the alternative.  I do realize that having to clear a medical device is a whole other matter, but if you have the right documentation it shouldn’t be an issue….at least in the US.

  • Tony A.

    From an airline safety transport perspective, CPAP, POC, and oxygen canisters, etc. are NOT SIMPLE devices. They are dangerous goods.
    The airlines also assume that if one takes a POC on board that they either intend to use or may need to use it. Hence, the assumption of a medical condition.

  • Bodega

    No, handicapped people should not have to jump through hoops, but as you learned, there is a responsibilty on your end, too.  I am glad the carrier saw their responsibility in this confusion and stepped up.

    I had a message from United in the PNR one time regarding a client who had checked in and the airline felt she needed to be seen by a medical professional, which they have at the airport.  They would not clear her to fly unless she consented to this.  She insisted she was fine, but if the airlines have a safety concern, they have a repsonsibility to address it.  She was seen, cleared for travel and made the flight home. 


  • Bodega

    I concur.  I wonder what the pamplet instructions for this machine says about taking it on a plance?  From the little research I have done, it is recommended to contact the carrier.  When you health is an issue, looking online is just one step.  Why wasn’t the airline contacted?  They have a toll free number. 

    Here in the US, a passenger can be detained from boarding a flight if the airline is questioning the health of the passenger.  I had a message in a client’s PNR one day stating that a request for the passenger to be seen by the airport medical staff was made and would not be allowed to fly until she was cleared.  She initially refused, then consented and was cleared for her flight.

    I am sure LH felt there was some error on their part, but from what I read here, there were also errors on the passenger’s side, too. 

  • Bodega

    I would say, no, you weren’t capable of getting the information you needed and what did you save instead of using a travel professional?  I don’t want to come across as harsh, but when you knew a health issue was at stake, you took a chance and lost part of your vacation at the airport.  I have sold tickets over the years to people with oxygen needs and I take care of getting them the proper paperwork and contact person at the airline.  I also instruct what you need to have for boarding and what not to let go of when a carryon is gate checked.  You need to be prepared and that online company and airline website isn’t going to provide you with the needed tips.  You landed in a foreign country, not Kansas. 

  • jennj99738

    Except Lufthansa did accept the POC so the passenger did do something in advance that was acceptable to Lufthansa.  Once Lufthansa accepted the POC from the US, they cannot abandon the fliers in Germany for some nonexistent or fabricated risk.  That’s asinine. 

  • jennj99738

    Linda, as you’ve had a lot to say on this column, much of it very HARSH to these passengers, I hope you read the comments from Mrs. Mannchen below.  She did have paperwork from the physician.  The pilot didn’t accept it. The comments are under the username “Fordmann.”

  • Tony A.

    Nope they actually can. Even the US DOT acknowledges the limits of the regulations. In fact they use the sample USA-LON-CAI where they state the LON-CAI flight does not have to comply with USA rules.
    This is essentially what happened to the OP.
    You need to realize that US and European rules are not the same.

  • Tony A.

    Bodega, I am actually a perplexed at Holly Mannchen statement – Handicapped people should not have to jump through hoops to be treated equally. Well, I thought she eloquently made the point the the issue WAS NOT her HUSBAND’S HEALTH because he was cleared by his doctor to travel and that he DID NOT NEED SUPPLEMENTAL OXYGEN while in flight. In other words, her husband is not handicapped.

    If her husband had no intention or need to use it, then the issue is simply transporting a POC which is considered dangerous goods by IATA (whether the transporter is handicapped or not).

    Americans need to know that they cannot simply transport a POC by air within Europe or other parts of the World without the necessary paper work. And that paperwork is an IATA MEDIF form that is not used in the USA and Canada.

    As you said Munich ain’t Kansas.

  • Tony A.

    Also, assertions were made about the Lufthansa pilot being IGNORANT!
    Other posters piled on. I would like to know exactly what the pilot was ignorant about and why that affects his ability to safely fly his passengers from Munich to Istanbul. Is a German pilot required to have a mastery of FAA and US DOT rules regarding POCs if he is not flying routes to and from the USA? From the German point of view, maybe the OP is ignorant of their own regional/local POC requirements.

  • Anna

    “IMO the training should be for American Passengers – different rules outside America.”

    And that’s the take-home message from today’s story… if only people would learn!

  • Michael K

    There is no reason to train European and Non-USA personnel on US Rules when the rules of the rest of the World may be different. 


    Shouldn’t personnel who deal with international itineraries be trained in all the international rules that may apply to their airline?

    Does the airline not have some responsibility to determine at the point of origin whether the passenger’s itinerary is complete-able?

  • sffilk

    Out of curiosity, has LH done anything about the pilot?  Have you been informed of any actions LH has taken with regards to the pilot?

    Thank you.

  • xpatinasia

    It’s amazing that their humiliation disappeared when they were given $550.

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