How do I travel by air with a urinary catheter?

aeroplane image by Clarence Alford from

Air travel can conjure up feelings of nervousness and trepidation even for those without additional medical issues. Passengers with special medical needs travel each day by air and airlines are well versed in handling most medical issues. Air travel for those with urinary catheters is not much more complicated than for other passengers.

Contact the airline you will be travelling with and ask if the airline requires any special procedures for travelling with a catheter in place. The airline will advise you of the exact procedure you should follow. Ask what you will need to do if you need to empty your bag during the flight. Also ask the airline to note on your reservation that you will be travelling with a catheter in place. This way the flight attendants will know that you may need additional attention.

Contact your medical supply company and your physician. Let them know that you are travelling via air and ask if there are special instructions for your catheter and bag. Follow any advice provided to you. Ask your physician for a letter stating that you have a catheter and that this is a medical need. Your airline may not require it, but it is good to have on hand.

Fill your bag with water rather than air for the flight, unless instructed otherwise by your physician or medical supply company. When an aeroplane flies at high altitude bags fill up with air, and this will also happen with a urinary catheter collection bag. Prevent this by filling the bag with water and then releasing some of the water when the plane is in flight.

Inform the airline upon checking in if you will need assistance to and from the bathroom during the flight. Airline staff should be notified of this in advance; even if you informed the airline of your needs earlier, repeat this request at check-in.

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