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Commercial airlines’ rules for sick and injured passengers (and your safe alternative)

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Commercial airlines’ rules for sick and injured passengers (and your safe alternative)

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Is the weight of the checked baggage greater than the maximum capacity allowed? Is there a chance of getting stuck in traffic on the way to the airport? What is the likelihood of flight cancellations due to weather conditions? All of these are common concerns before boarding a commercial flight. However, another factor comes into play when it comes to the possibility of travel plans falling through: the traveler's health. Indeed, whether it is an illness or injury, commercial airlines have the authority and the practice of refusing boarding if there is even the slightest possibility of a passenger experiencing a health-related emergency during the flight. Let us tell you more about commercial airlines' policies on illnesses and injuries, when flying commercially is potentially dangerous to your health, and what your safe travel options are.

Commercial airline rules regarding sick/injured passengers

Travelling can be a stressful experience. However, traveling when ill or injured can magnify that stress!

While there are simple ways to make flying more bearable for minor illnesses such as a common cold, you must ensure that you are physically fit to fly for more serious illnesses or conditions. 

Advice: If you are concerned, contact your doctor or the airline with which you are flying. Restrictions and rules differ from one airline to the next.

The reason for this policy is simple: air travel exposes sick and injured passengers to a variety of factors that can wreak havoc on their already fragile health. Even if the majority of passengers will not experience any health complications during a flight, the risks of flying if you have certain underlying health conditions are very real.

sick person on a plane

When can commercial airlines refuse sick/injured passengers?

If an airline has to transport a passenger who they believe is physically unfit to fly, they may seek medical clearance from their medical department and, in the worst-case scenario, refuse to board him.

With this in mind, an airline may refuse any passenger who suffers from a physical or mental condition that:

  • may be aggravated by the flight;
  • could be considered a potential safety hazard for the aircraft;
  • requires special equipment or medical attention during the flight;
  • could interfere with the comfort and well-being of the flight attendants and pilots or other passengers during the flight.

It should be noted that, while flight attendants are trained to provide advanced first aid, they are not trained or authorised to administer medication. Furthermore, while the majority of them will assist passengers in reaching the aircraft's restrooms, they will not be able to provide additional personal hygiene or nursing care.

When to postpone air travel due to sickness/injury?

It is understandable that you do not want to miss or reschedule your trip. However, there are times when it is preferable to postpone your flight than put your health at risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises against flying in the following circumstances:

  • You have a casted limb;
  • You have recently had a heart attack or stroke;
  • You are traveling with a newborn (less than 2 days old);
  • You have recently experienced stomach, eye, or head trauma;
  •  You have recently undergone surgery, particularly orthopedic or brain surgery;
  • You are in your 36th week of pregnancy (32nd week if you are pregnant with multiples).

Advice: Consider carrying a letter from your doctor confirming the expected delivery date and that the pregnancy is healthy if you have passed your 28th week of pregnancy.

The CDC also advises against flying if you are experiencing any of the following health issues:

Finally, the CDC advises against flying if you have a fever of 37.7°C or higher, as well as:

  • skin rash;
  • persistent diarrhea;
  • persistent, severe cough;
  • skin and eyes turning yellow;
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;
  • persistent vomiting that’s not motion sickness;
  • noticeable signs of illness, such as weakness and headache.

Caution: Some airline companies keep an eye out in the waiting and boarding areas for visibly ill passengers. They have the authority to prevent them from boarding the plane.

woman waiting in airport

Medical Repatriation UK’s air ambulances: Your safe alternative

Long-distance patient transport is sometimes necessary for patients whose health is stable but who are unable to travel by commercial airlines due to mobility issues, oxygen requirements, or simply for ease and comfort.

Patients who are unable to travel conventionally due to a variety of medical conditions (see above) can be safely transferred from one location to another, even across continents, using our private- ambulance jets. But who exactly are we?

Medical Repatriation UK is a leading international air ambulance service provider. If you need to reach a world-class healthcare facility or relocate a loved one in a critical medical condition in the UK or anywhere in the world, we say "yes."

Our all-inclusive service is intended to alleviate the stress of medical flight coordination. In this regard, our team of friendly and knowledgeable flight coordinators is ready to plan and supervise every detail of your long-distance patient transfer, including bed-to-bed services in the departure and arrival location, and private aircraft transportation with personalized medical equipment and personnel. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

With experienced pilots, cutting-edge aircraft fleet and expert medical staff, Medical Repatriation UK ensures that your loved one is in the best possible hands during the long-distance medical flight. In addition, we have interpreters who can help with document translation and agents who can assist with applying for (emergency) visas. All of this is part of our effort to relieve as much of your burden as possible while also ensuring that you receive the care and attention you deserve from your trusted provider.

air ambulance interior

Bonus: Our services for Covid-19 patients

In response to one of the most lethal pandemics ever, we provide safe medical air transportation to Coronavirus patients to the UK and around the world. If you or a loved one tested positive while visiting a foreign country and need a medical flight home or to a healthcare facility, we can provide the air ambulance services you need while adhering to the strictest safety and sanitization standards.

Our fully equipped and meticulously maintained aircraft are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before and after each flight, and they are outfitted with cutting-edge infection control technology. Isolation capsules, for example, are used to maintain a sanitary care environment while treating highly contagious patients in flight. Using this technology, we can safely transport a patient with a medical condition other than COVID-19 just hours after transporting a Covid-19-positive patient, if the situation calls for it.

Furthermore, we want to emphasize that our dedicated team of medical professionals includes physicians, respiratory therapists, paramedics, and nurses who have clinical experience and are trained to assist critically ill patients.

Do you have any additional questions?

Many of the most frequently asked questions about long-distance patient transfer to the UK are addressed in our FAQ.

Contact us right away for medical repatriation!

Please contact our 24-hour service at any time if you require additional information or a free non-binding quote. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff can be reached at: