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American Airlines carry-on allowance, France (CPAP?)

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Sep 5th, 2009, 07:30 PM
  #1
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American Airlines carry-on allowance, France (CPAP?)

I've recently started using a medical device called a CPAP machine, for sleep apnea, and I need to take it with me to France during our upcoming vacation. It packs up in a small kit 15 X 12X 5.5 inches. The supplier strongly recommends that it not be packed in checked luggage.

There is no questions that on a domestic flight, I could carry this device on board. Furthermore, medical devices can be carried in addition to all other carry-on baggage allowances.

However, I've called American Airlines twice, and gotten conflicting information about allowed checked baggage on trips to France, and specifically, returning from France. One agent told me that I can carry the CPAP kit as a separate item, just as in the US. However, another agent told me that a limit of one carry-on will be strictly enforced when going through security in France, and that I had better somehow manage to get the CPAP into a single carry-on.

Does anyone have any experience with this? I don't want to take any chance that I'll have a problem getting both items on board (in either direction). My carry-on bag, other than the CPAP, is crammed with expensive electronics: a computer, PDA, 2 cellphones, GPS, and 2 cameras and chargers. I don't want to take any risk of being forced at the last minute to check either that carry-on OR the CPAP kit.

The American Airlines web page on the carry-on allowance can be found at:

http://www.aa.com/aa/i18nForward.do?...nAllowance.jsp

It notes: "Additional items that will be allowed above and beyond the restrictions listed above include ... assistive devices for passengers such as wheelchairs, walkers and CPAP machines."

It then has a chart of "Exceptions to U.S. Policies", but France is not mentioned.
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Sep 5th, 2009, 08:34 PM
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What about your machine as a "personal item?" I've been myself researching what might qualify as a "personal item" in European airports. It seems that even in Europe you can take a "personal item" in addition your single carry-on through security. Air France's website mentions such and gives as examples of an "accessory" such as a laptop or purse. If AF allows an "accessory" (which I presume must be small enough to fit under a seat in front of you), I can't imagine security at CDG would disallow it, since their largest airline stipulates you can take an "accessory" on board their aircraft.

So how do you find out what qualifies as an "accessory" at CDG? Good question, but I'd probably pursue the security at CDG angle and assume AA itself won't have a problem with you bringing it on board as a "personal item" in addition to your single carry-on bag...if you can get it through security at CDG.
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Sep 5th, 2009, 09:31 PM
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I think the agent that told you a limit of one carry on would be strictly enforced by "security" is incorrect.

For your own peace of mind, I'd recommend contacting AA via their website, where you could click on Customer Relations, Disability Assistance, then fill out the form with your request under "other" - for a response in writing specific to you and your flight.

You say you don't want to take a chance on having to check one or the other, but what is the alternative? Even with written confirmation that you should be allowed to board with both, you will not win an argument with an AA or security official.

If "our vacation" means you will have someone else along, perhaps you can combine carry on items?

If it were me, I'd find one bag suitable for the CPAP and other carry on items, just to be on the safe side, in case you just cannot get past the AA gate agent.

You can't go by what Air France would allow (though they undoubtedly follow the same USA security guidelines as AA as Andrew mentioned). Security does not count carry on items, they only inspect them.
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Sep 5th, 2009, 09:34 PM
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You should be able to take this through as your personal item no problem. It's not that big, as long as you can stick it under your seat and your carry on in the overhead (unless, of course you can fit it all under your seat.) It could be a purse, laptop, whatever and it is separate from your carry on bag.
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Sep 5th, 2009, 09:43 PM
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There have been numerous threads about CPAP's. Do a search and you should be able to find them. There was something about it had to be an approved type. There have been a few posters reporting using their while flying also even though they weren't supposed to. There has been a thread just in the last few weeks. Someone posted a link about the airline regs about carrying on so they could print it to take with them. I don't think you have to count it as your personal item since it's medical equipment.
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Sep 5th, 2009, 09:44 PM
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Sep 6th, 2009, 06:09 AM
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Thanks for all the help.

rialtogrl and Andrew, my wife Margie suggests I re-phrase the question as, "in addition to a carry-on, can I also have a separate 'personal item' on trips to and from France (on American)?" I'm happy to take the CPAP as a "personal item"; I don't need anything in addition to that.

The trouble is that one agent (the first, not the second) specifically told me that for France, only one item can be carried on board. No separate medical device, no separate "personal item" such as a pocketbook for women. This sounds odd to us, but that's what he said (after taking time to look up France specifically). If I can definitely have both a "carry-on" and a separate "personal item", then I've got no problem

The chart on the AA web page I mentioned above lists quite a few countries which allow only "One small bag", an exception to the AA rule in the US of "one small bag and one personal item". These countries are Belgium, China, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK. France is not mentioned, so I would seem to be OK on that score. My only problem is the advice I received from that one agent.

To be clear: I have no need to use the CPAP on the plane - I just want to carry it.

djkbooks, I think you're correct in saying that my issue is not "security", that security doesn't count items. This is an issue with AA carry-on policies, and my concern would be whether I might end up arguing with the gate agents in France. I think your suggestion of writing AA using their form is a good one.

You asked "what is the alternative?" Well, actually, the alternative is to pack everything, CPAP included, into one carry-on, hence observing the most restrictive rule I've been given. I can do it (I've tried). It means I can't take the "humidifier" section of the CPAP, which makes it noisier in operation, but I can put up with that. I'll have to pack the hose part in my checked luggage, but it's not fragile, and a pharmacy in France could probably replace it were it to be lost. And it also means no room for things like an inflatable neck pillow, noise-cancelling headphones, and other such niceties in the carry-on, not the end of the world. So this is more a "comfort in flight" issue than anything else.

Again, the downside of showing up with two separate units and being refused at the gate (when my checked luggage is already gone, so I can't include it in any re-arrangement) is having to check either the CPAP kit or the carry-on with all my electronics at the last minute. On the other hand, it's getting harder and harder for me to believe that what that first agent told me was correct. Women can't bring on a small handbag if they have a carry-on? Sounds absurd.

kybourbon, I did try to do a search before I posted, but I think I looked for "Medical Devices", and not "CPAP", or something like that. Thanks for the reference. I'm also looking for recent experiences - these policies are changing all the time.

Larry
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Sep 6th, 2009, 06:18 AM
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I have no experience in France - but before our recent Aer Lingus flights we read that the one piece rule was enforced strictly and the size stated was smaller than normal. I therefore did not take my full photo kit in it's rucksack with me, but only a small camera bag which complied.
Well needless to say there were people who had huge bags as carry-on, and some had three or four pieces with them. There was no mention of them not being able to fly with them.
I believe that medical equipment is exempt from the one piece rule anyway. Maybe you should be prepared to check your other carry-on bag (after removing essentials for the flight) just in case. but really CPAPs are so common now I can't see it being a problem.

One tip - bring a long extension lead with you. Sockets are invariably a long way from the bed!
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Sep 6th, 2009, 09:26 AM
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I've traveled on Air France a lot and they have always allowed one carryon and one personal item (like a purse) which can weigh up to 12 kg. I am flying on them today, actually, and just checked in and checked the allowances, and they still say one carryon (they call it hand baggage) plus one "accessory" item which some folks call personal item (eg, laptop, purse).

So if AA has this rule, I think it is AA's own thing, and the thing about it being a CDG rule is nonsense, it is their rule. I haven't flown them from CDG to the US in almost a year, though, but that would seem very odd that they'd be changing rules like that at this point in time. Of course, I realize this may well be AA's rule, but other airlines don't do that.
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Sep 6th, 2009, 11:01 AM
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From AA's contract of carriage:

Any mobility aid or assistive device that is approved for in-cabin transport on American, and is carried by a qualified disabled passenger, is not subject to the free baggage allowance, provided such aid or device fits in an approved stowage space.

I think you can find dozens of people that have done just that on the AA Flyertalk forum.
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Sep 6th, 2009, 12:15 PM
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Thanks again, everyone.

From everything I'm hearing, I think I've been needlessly concerned about this.

I took djkbooks's advice, and sent a message to AA, using the form on their web page. Within four hours (on a Sunday), I received a phone call from someone dealing in "Disability Assistance". She assured me that I will have no problem bringing the CPAP as a separate carry-on, and said she'd note in my reservation record that I would be doing so. She did advise my wife to have the ability to put her handbag into her carry-on, to be capable of strictly observing the "single carry-on" rule if the plane is having capacity problems and the crew feels it necessary to limit carry-ons. We actually went out and purchased a somewhat larger carry-on for her than we had been planning on taking (but still within the carry-on restrictions, no more than 45 inches summed dimensions).

I get the feeling that the airline wants to be lenient, but people routinely show up with all kinds of stuff, and so they promulgate worst-case rules to encourage people to bring less. Good Doobies like me who try to follow the letter of the law (hey, I'm an engineer) then get all worried about it.

So now, in addition to a carry-on, I'm now going to bring my CPAP in its kit, and I'll throw in the humidifier part as well. The humidifier makes the operation quieter (and allows heated humidification of the air I breathe overnight, if my throat starts to get dry).

hetismij, thanks for reminding me to bring an extension cord! Actually, I usually don't have a problem finding an outlet near the head of the bed - there's usually a nearby outlet for a side table or reading lamp. But I once had to deal with a fairly remote outlet. It was not a problem at the time, but now that I have the CPAP machine, it would be a bigger issue. I'll bring a 12 foot extension cord. Adding that to the six-foot length of the CPAP machine itself, that gives me 18 feet to find an outlet.

Again, thanks all for your help. We're leaving on Tuesday. Some time after we return on 9/23, I'll resurrect this thread, and close it off by reporting on what happened.

- Larry
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Sep 7th, 2009, 07:24 AM
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On a recent return flight on AA we saw a number of French citizens carrying three bags; maybe they have different rules?
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Sep 9th, 2009, 01:43 PM
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Well, some French think they have different rules.

I don't have to wait until our return 9/23 to round out this thread, because having arrived here at La Maison Rose in Montblanc (Herrault, Languedoc/Roussillon), I have a really nice high-speed internet connection for my netbook.

We had a nice smooth on-time flight on American, which was very comfortable in part because the plane was only about 3/4 full, so we were able to move to a row with an empty middle seat. The legroom on this American flight seemed to be better than on other recent flights we've taken.

I took my CPAP, with the humidifier, in its own separate carry-on kit, and had no problem at all. Margie brought on a carry-on and a separate handbag, with no objection. Dragging the luggage up to the top level on the TGV was a bit of an effort, and the whole trip took about 19 hours door-to-door, but here we are, CPAP and all, happy to be in France.

The CPAP kit was opened and carefully inspected by the TSA personnel in Logan airport, with more care than is usually given to carry-on items. That included running a kind of swab around the unit, which was then fed into a device that I imagine was some sort of drug or explosive sniffer. Perhaps they have reason to believe that people will try to smuggle forbidden substances on board a plane as a part of medical devices. But I passed the test, and the testers clearly knew what the device was, and that it was a permitted carry-on.

This is the start of our French vacation, and with the CPAP machine, I should be able to sleep soundly (especially after all the good local wine I just had with a great dinner at La Maison Rose.

Larry
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Oct 1st, 2009, 03:24 PM
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We've now been back for a while, but we're still a bit in "digging out" mode. I'll post a trip report soon on our entire two week trip.

But I ought to finish off this thread with a full report on my carrying and use of the CPAP machine to/in France. It worked fine on 220 volts / 50 Hz, as per the plaque on the bottom of the machine (and the attached humidifier). It was subjected to the same inspection in Paris on the way home as it was given in Boston on the way out - a small white swab was wiped over it, and carried over to a machine that was, I presume, some sort of "sniffer". This was done twice, actually, because the first sniffer malfunctioned, but there was a second one available not far away in another security line.

Margie, who has a seafood allergy, was subjected to a bit more questioning about her two epi-pens (auto injectors for epinephrine in case of an allergic reaction). They asked to see a prescription, and the Rx form had fallen off the box (it was actually in the bottom of Margie's bag, but we didn't realize that). But eventually, they OK'ed it. We've never been questioned about the epi-pens before.

Some of you might want to skip the following techie stuff, but see below for a note on my use of an extension cord.

Some techie stuff:

My HP netbook computer is powered by a small "brick" type power supply, which plugs into the wall in the US with a standard three-prong (grounded) plug. You can see a picture of the power supply at:

http://www.shopping.hp.com/product/c...A374AA%2523ABA

It's unusual for these small computer power supplies to have a three-wire plug. The output is two-wire DC, and is probably isolated from the input (I doubt they carry the ground through to the DC side, although I haven't checked this out). But the specification says, "Protect your PC with built-in surge protection", so my guess is that is the purpose of the ground.

My problem with this: My original adapters were all un-polarized two-wire adapters. They will accept the three-conductor plug (both flat power prongs on the plug are the same width), but the round ground prong lies off to the side of the adapter and doesn't connect to anything. It works fine in France, but leaves the ground unconnected.

Although I don't think that's very serious, I actually brought along a small wire with an alligator clip at each end. In French outlets, the two power connections (live and neutral) are female, but the ground connection is male. This allowed me to clip one end of the wire to the ground connector on the US plug, and the other end to the ground connector on the French outlet, giving me a proper ground connection.

This all proved to be unneeded when, on the way out, I went into the "techshowcase" store in Terminal B at Logan airport in Boston, and was able to buy a three-wire grounded adapter. This plugs into either type of French three-wire outlet (standard or Shuko), and looks sort of like this:

http://www.brilliantstore.com/adapte..._cpa_1340.html

I paid $14.99 for it, although I now see I could have gotten it in advance on the web for half that ($1.95 plus shipping). I used this throughout the trip to plug in my netbook computer, preserving the ground and hence the surge protection capability.

Using my extension cord:

Per the advice from hetismij, I brought along a 12-foot extension cord, in case I couldn't find an outlet near the bed. I had no problem at all until the last night, at the Hyatt Regency Charles de Gaulle near the airport, where the outlet was on the opposite side of the bed from the bedtable. Aha! I took out my extension cord, and snaked it under the bed.

And then came the catch. The two-wire extension cord was polarized. That means that one of the flat prongs on the plug is wider than the other, and similarly one of the slots on the outlet end is wider. The wide prong/slot is the "neutral" side of the line, and the narrow prong/slot is the "hot" side. The catch: the wide prong is too wide to plug into any of my two-wire adapters. European outlets are not polarized, and I guess the adapter makers don't want to accept a polarized plug, which might connect an assumed "neutral" prong to the "hot" side of the line. Thus, I couldn't plug my extension cord into any of my two-wire adapters. If all I had with me were my usual two-wire adapters, my extension cord would have been useless.

But I also had the three-wire grounded adapter I had bought in Terminal B at Logan airport in Boston, and it accepted a polarized extension plug (turned either way). I guess it was designed for maximum flexibility, and assumes the user knows what he is doing. Of course, this meant that the polarization might be backwards (that is, the wide supposedly "neutral" prong might have been connected to the "hot" side of the line), but the CPAP machine has an un-polarized plug (two narrow prongs), so obviously it doesn't care which side is which.

The moral of the story: bring to Europe only devices that have un-polarized plugs, and bring an un-polarized extension cord.

A question is, can one these days even buy an un-polarized extension cord in the US? I haven't tried lately. Like most people, I have a motley assortment of extension cords, and all the relatively new ones that I have are polarized. I do have some rather old ones that are not polarized, but they are pretty short.
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Oct 1st, 2009, 09:11 PM
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No doubt you can buy unpolarized extension cords at garage sales or a thrift shop. Just examine the cord carefully - if it looks solid and no fraying, etc. it should be fine. I wouldn't run high-power devices (like heaters) from them. I have no idea how much power a CPAP draws. A laptop computer draws about as much as a 60 watt light bulb (when charging) but often far less, more like 15 watts.

I'm in Europe now. My new Netbook also came with a 3-prong US power cable. I didn't think much of that (previous laptop adapter was 2-prong) and only in buying a separate "roll-up" power connector for it (the power cord to the brick rolls up neatly in a little spool) did I think about the 3-prong issue. The roll-up had a 3-to-2 adapter and it has a 2-prong at the end. It works fine that way but as you say, the ground provides surge protection, no doubt - but it sure makes things less complicated to connect up pretty much everywhere, so I'm taking my chances with it this way...
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Oct 18th, 2009, 07:27 AM
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I've been looking around at places like Sears and Home Depot, and it indeed seems to be the case that you can no longer buy a new un-polarized two-wire extension cord in the US. I can think of several ways to effectively get one, though.

Andrew's advice is good - there used to be such things, and you can probably find them used.

Three-wire (grounded) extension cords have two narrow flat prongs, so they will plug into a typical two-conductor European adapter (with the round ground prong lying off to the side unconnected). However, having three conductors and large three-conductor connectors, they're typically heavier than two-conductor extensions.

On some extension cords, the wider prong could be filed down to make the plug un-polarized. The other end would still have a polarized outlet, which would be misleading if used in the US (since the plug could now be put in either way, and the wide side of the outlet might not in fact be neutral).

Finally, another simple idea came to me: buy a two-conductor extension cord in Europe (France and Italy are the countries generally of interest to me). It would be used only for European travel. The Europe-US adapter would then plug in at the other end (the outlet end). This cord couldn't accidentally be used in the US, so there would be no concern about creating a shock hazard by taking a US extension cord and tampering with the plug.
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Oct 18th, 2009, 09:41 AM
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I might also add that the trip that prompted this thread has been reported on at:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...tarn-arles.cfm

I also put the report up on my web page at:

http://ljkrakauer.com/travel/france09sep.htm

That version has some pictures added, but it doesn't report on the prices of accommodations and meals.
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Oct 18th, 2009, 04:20 PM
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Why not just buy a 3 prong to 2 prong grounding adapter? Buy the 3 prong extension cord and use the grounding adapter and whatever country adapter. I've often piggybacked adapters when the electrical receptacle was recessed in the wall.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...o_2_Prong.html

http://www.amazon.com/Prong-prong-gr.../dp/B000I96AUM
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Oct 18th, 2009, 04:50 PM
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Well, I bought a France-to-US grouding adapter:

http://www.brilliantstore.com/adapte..._cpa_1340.html

(click below the big picture to see the other side)

That works - it will accept a polarized plug (plugged in either way, though).

But I'm always very sensitive to weight, and 3-prong extension cords tend to be quite a bit heavier. They're heavier because they have three conductors instead of two, because the ends are heavier, and also because three-prong extension cords are usually made to carry higher currents.

The plate on the bottom of the basic CPAP unit says 110-220V, 2.5A. A kind of odd spec, since I'd think at 220V, it would draw half the current. But in any event, it's not a really high-power device.
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Oct 18th, 2009, 05:09 PM
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I find the flat wall-hugger type to be thinner.

http://www.acehardware.com/product/i...Id=42089128033

http://www.buy.com/retail/product.as...ingid=38116402
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