We use cookies and other tools to enhance your experience on our website and to analyze our web traffic.
For more information about these cookies and the data collected, please refer to our Privacy Policy.

British Airways and sleep apnea review

1 post
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
HarryMarshall +1 point · almost 7 years ago Original Poster

I am writing this to inform any people that suffer from sleep apnea and have to use a CPAP machine, of my flight experience with the airline British Airways.

I have severe OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) and like other sufferers use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy machine which allows me to breathe properly when sleeping. I took my CPAP machine on the BA long haul to use in my club class seat on the Lax/LHR night flight BA2068 on 7th June 2017.

I declined dinner and explained I wanted to sleep through for as long as possible. I had work the next day. However, on THREE separate occasions, a member of the cabin staff without discussion or explanation unplugged my CPAP machine. The effect of this is that it literally stops my air supply and it is traumatic.

Having the plug on my CPAP machine literally pulled, results in me waking up because I cannot breathe and feeling I am being suffocated.

This happened three times.

I could not understand what or why was happening. Was I pulling the lead in my sleep? Was the plug faulty? Was someone playing a silly joke? After the third episode, I spoke to several members of the flight crew and was finally directed to the steward in charge, Mr. Mason who confirmed that it had been the cabin crew that had on each occasion unplugged my machine while I was asleep. Thrice. Mr. Mason said that this was policy. Not to allow anyone to use equipment if it was unattended.

This was not made clear in any announcement. We were asked not to leave equipment charging. This was not what the CPAP machine was doing. Not surprisingly given the repeated disturbances and given the consequences of this action to my health was very upset to learn this had been done deliberately and unilaterally, with no discussion or consideration for my wellbeing. In addition, I wish to add for the record, Mr. Mason further invaded my personal space and comfort by touching my arm when addressing me. I strongly object to this overly familiar behavior and intrusion and suggest it’s not appropriate when talking to customers.

Mr. Mason said he was not aware I had a CPAP machine plugged in and “didn’t want to disturb me”. If he or the other crew had looked before unplugging they'd and seen I was wearing a face mask. If the crew had the common sense or courtesy to ask me or my wife who was sitting next to me, they would have known that the CPAP machine was essential to my health.

I asked if I could re-connect my CPAP machine and be left in peace for the remainder of the flight. Mr. Mason then said he needed to ask the pilot if I could be allowed to use my CPAP machine. I waited for 20-25 minutes and had to go back up to the galley again to ask what the reply was. Mr. Mason said that he had now spoken to the pilot said it was ok. Was this really required and I wonder why it took this long in the circumstances even if such permission was needed?

My wife and I paid a premium for a good night's sleep but the consequence of the constant disturbance was that we had a very disturbed and traumatic time instead and arrived exhausted in London and unable to function. Following recent well publicized events it’s very clear customer confidence in British Airways has fallen to an all-time low and the company has lost its way and reputation with regard service. For my wife and I this episode follows on the tail of another highly unsatisfactory experience flying first class long haul flight and check in from London to Sydney over December/January. The unsatisfactory outcome of our complaint resulted in our decision to avoid using BA whenever possible and we have subsequently flown mainly on Virgin or other carriers. As gold and silver card holders who have used BA for many years we are extremely disappointed and will continue to opt for other carriers whenever possible until such time as a marked improvement in customer service is achieved.

5 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
Chin +0 points · almost 7 years ago

Thanks for sharing your experience, I will avoid flying in BA next time.

358 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
SleepDent +0 points · almost 7 years ago Sleep Commentator

I am a dentist working in dental sleep medicine. Stories like this serve to illustrate the difficult logistics using a CPAP. I feel that people who travel a lot should investigate an oral sleep apnea appliance, even if they only use it for trips. They are small. completely portable, don't need a power source, and are unobtrusive and non-embarrassing. About 85% of the mild to moderate OSA patients can get good treatment (AHI below5, no symptoms) from a quality appliance like the TAP3. Even 30% of severe patients can get their AHI down below 5 with a TAP3, about 59% can get below 10 and about 70% can get below 20. These numbers could well be sufficient on a temporary basis even for severes. Arthur B. Luisi, Jr., D.M.D..

581 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
sleeptech +0 points · almost 7 years ago Sleep Enthusiast

We always advise our patients to check with the airline about their policy regarding CPAP/BiPAP machines before booking a ticket. We also advise that they carry a letter from a doctor saying that it is a prescribed medical device. As a rule of thumb, never assume that anyone ever knows anything about your CPAP or BiPAP machine. Even in a hospital. In my experience, very few hospital staff of any type (doctors, nurses or other), know anything about CPAP, so I wouldn't expect any non-medical people to be familiar with them. Always take charge of your own equipment and use it yourself. When in hospital I recommend politely asking the nursing staff not to touch your equipment and to let you do it yourself. They have a terrible habit of pulling stuff to pieces and losing things. I am sorry to hear of your air travel travail HarryMarshall, and I hope it may prompt the airline to develop a policy around devices for OSA. Awareness is increasing, but knowledge is still very patchy.

Please be advised that these posts may contain sensitive material or unsolicited medical advice. MyApnea does not endorse the content of these posts. The information provided on this site is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for advice from a health care professional who has evaluated you.