Virgin Atlantic Airlines Does Not Like Apnea People

Virgin Atlantic Airlines Does Not Support CPAP Users

I have had Obstructive Sleep Apnea for over 20 years and use my C-PAP every night in order to sleep safely. I have a small travel C-PAP for trios like this one.

On June 8th, we flew Virgin Atlantic (code share Delta #4383) from Dulles International to Heathrow. Over the years I have accumulated over 3 million frequent flyer miles so I am somewhat experienced with air travel. I have flown on just about every airline that exists, and on just about every type of aircraft that exists. However, this was my first time on Virgin and was looking forward to experiencing their legendary service.

International flights to Europe, Asia and elsewhere from the US are almost always overnight flights and so being able to get some sleep is an expected activity for almost any passenger. I typically fly business class (as I did on this flight) because in every airline I know, they have electric outlets in the business class seat that can accommodate laptops, IPADs and the like – or a C-PAP for those like me who need them.

Upon boarding I asked the flight attendant (who happened to be the in-flight service manager) where the electric outlet might be in my seat. He informed me that there were no electrical outlets anywhere on the plane because the airplane’s electrical system could not handle the load (it was an Airbus 330-300). In addition, he said that a C-PAP was a “restricted medical device” and should have been “registered” with them before I boarded and since I had not done so, I might be escorted off the plane!

I assured him that I had taken my C-PAP on flights all over the world - including on other A330-300’s and had never heard of any such threat to an airplane’s electric system, nor did I ever have to “register” the device. I also said I have never been in any business class seat before where one could not plug in a laptop or whatever and that it was one reason people flew business class - to have the ability to plug in devices. When I asked why my C-PAP was such an issue he said because the ION batteries could explode. I said well if my C-PAP had ION batteries (it does not) then I would not need to plug it in, would I? And if ION batteries were such an issue then why are they allowing laptops, IPADs, mobile phones on the plane? His reply was that it didn’t matter because these were Virgin Atlantic’s regulations and that my only option was stay awake for the entire flight regardless how exhausted that might leave me the next day or get off the plane.

It is tempting to say that this was just one aberrant flight attendant, but it is clear that structurally the plane could not accommodate CPAP users. There were n fact no outlets. So he was right this is Virgin Atlantic corporate policy.

We, as Apnea sufferers should spread the word that Virgin Atlantic does not want or deserve this community’s business.

Postscript: My return flight was on United Airlines and it was wonderful. Yes, it had receptacles in the seats, and yes, I was able to sleep safely using my CPAP.

While it’s true that this particular plane had no electrical outlets for onboard use, you have said other flights on the same plane type did have them. So, I’m wondering if you have contacted Virgin Airlines Corporate Office to ascertain what their official policy really is, instead of taking the word of this flight manager, & have you also asked them why you weren’t apprised earlier that some kind of authorization form has to be approved before boarding with or using a CPAP device on one of their flights, & that this form would be a moot & an unnecessary issue if none of their flights do not in fact have electrical outlets for passenger use. I suspect that this flight manager might not have ever encountered anyone using a CPAP before & was just mouthing some smarts & non-existent policy to seem knowledgeable & efficient (which seems to be a pervasive modus operandi with airline personnel these days when they don’t know what official policy really is), especially as he was going on about lithium ion batteries not being allowed onboard & apparently didn’t know they’re in laptops, iPads, Kindles & all cell phones, which don’t need a special permit to take onboard a plane. In fact, we as consumers should be asking the airlines before boarding if our particular flight is transporting lithium ion batteries commercially in the cargo bay as several planes carrying cargos that included lithium ion batteries have exploded or caught fire, causing the planes to either blow up or go down, killing all on board (this is thought to be the case with the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared, among several other flights; you will need to Google this for more references, if interested). You would think passenger & crew safety would be foremost in the airline industry, but apparently it really isn’t when greed & profit take precedence by allowing shipping of these dangerous batteries on passenger flights, instead of on purely cargo flights, & then not telling the public about it beforehand that dangerous cargo is onboard the flight, giving passengers the option to book a safer flight, but they don’t. After contacting Virgin’s Corporate Office (you might even want to address this issue with Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin Airlines), please let us all know what they have to say is their “official policy” regarding CPAP machines during long overseas flights when one can reasonably expect to sleep during such lengthy flights & then ask them to send you a written copy of the policy. That should clear up the issue once & for all & then if this flight manager is wrong, you will have the written policy in hand to straighten out any other wises flight manager in future. We will all appreciate your sharing what you find out is their official policy & perhaps you can include a pdf link in your update so that others of us who expect to fly on Virgin can print out their policy, too. Thank you for bringing this important travel issue to our attention.


Oh my I have never heard of such a thing. Wow. That’s information that should be told to passengers. People use their laptops all the time!

I would never dream of using my machine on a plane.