Background: Commercial aircraft cabins provide a hostile environment for patients with underlying respiratory disease. Although there are algorithms and guidelines for predicting in-flight hypoxaemia, these relate to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and data for interstitial lung disease (ILD) are lacking. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of simulated cabin altitude on subjects with ILD at rest and during a limited walking task. Methods: Fifteen subjects with ILD and 10 subjects with COPD were recruited. All subjects had resting arterial oxygen pressure (PaO2) of >9.3 kPa. Subjects breathed a hypoxic gas mixture containing 15% oxygen with balance nitrogen for 20 minutes at rest followed by a 50 metre walking task. Pulse oximetry (SpO2) was monitored continuously with testing terminated if levels fell below 80%. Arterial blood gas tensions were taken on room air at rest and after the resting and exercise phases of breathing the gas mixture. Results: In both groups there was a statistically significant decrease in arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2) and PaO2 from room air to 15% oxygen at rest and from 15% oxygen at rest to the completion of the walking task. The ILD group differed significantly from the COPD group in resting 15% oxygen SaO2, PaO2, and room air pH. Means for both groups fell below recommended levels at both resting and when walking on 15% oxygen. Conclusion: Even in the presence of acceptable arterial blood gas tensions at sea level, subjects with both ILD and COPD fall below recommended levels of oxygenation when cabin altitude is simulated. This is exacerbated by minimal exercise. Resting sea level arterial blood gas tensions are similarly poor in both COPD and ILD for predicting the response to simulated cabin altitude.