Should I stay or should I go? COPD and air travel

Eur Respir Rev. 2018 Jun 13;27(148):180030. doi: 10.1183/16000617.0030-2018. Print 2018 Jun 30.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a challenging respiratory problem throughout the world. Although survival is prolonged with new therapies and better management, the magnitude of the burden resulting from moderate-to-severe disease is increasing. One of the major aims of the disease management is to try to break the vicious cycle of patients being homebound and to promote an active lifestyle. A fundamental component of active daily life is, of course, travelling. Today, the world is getting smaller with the option of travelling by air. Air travel is usually the most preferred choice as it is easy, time saving, and relatively inexpensive. Although it is a safe choice for many passengers, the environment inside the aeroplane may sometimes have adverse effects on health. Hypobaric hypoxaemia due to cabin altitude may cause health risks in COPD patients who have limited cardiopulmonary reserve. Addressing the potential risks of air travel, promoting proactive strategies including pre-flight assessment, and education of COPD patients about the "fitness to fly" concept are essential. Thus, in this narrative review, we evaluated the current evidence for potential risks of air travel in COPD and tried to give a perspective for how to plan safe air travel for COPD patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Air Travel*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Health Status
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index