Because of my disabilities I require a lot of extra supplies. My doctor told me that she had heard that, with the proper doctor’s note, I was allowed an extra bag at no charge as long as it was exclusively medical equipment. Is this correct?
Well your doctor is partially correct.
First and foremost, medical documentation is not required (in fact it’s prohibited under the Air Carrier Access Act) except for oxygen.
Under the Air Carrier Access Act, (382.121 and 382.125) US airlines are required to transport wheelchairs, mobility devices and other assistive devices at no additional charge.
Mobility aids include canes, crutches and walkers.
The ACAA defines “assistive device” as “any piece of equipment that assists a passenger with a disability to cope with the effects of his or her disability. Such devices are intended to assist a passenger with a disability to hear, see, communicate, maneuver or perform other functions of daily life, and may include medical devices and medications.”
More specifically, they allow, “prescription medications and any medical devices needed to administer them such as syringes or auto-injectors, vision-enhancing devices, and POCs, ventilators and respirators that use non-spillable batteries, as long as they comply with applicable safety, security and hazardous materials rules”. However, since the definition is pretty broad, many things may qualify as an assistive device.
So if your medical equipment fits into those parameters, it will not be counted against your baggage allowance. If the equipment is packed in a suitcase, you should not pack anything else in that bag. It’s also a good idea to label it as “medical equipment”, so it won’t be mistaken for luggage.
And if you have any questions, I would contact the airline directly, to determine if medical equipment can be categorized as an assistive device.