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.