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Flying with pneumonia: is it possible?

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Flying with pneumonia: is it possible?

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Pneumonia can be a very serious illness: every seventh case has to be treated in hospital and between 3% and 5% of cases are fatal. Therefore, patients with pneumonia naturally want the best possible treatment. However, anyone who has contracted pneumonia on holiday or on another trip abroad must be careful. Usually, they will only be able to take a flight home once they have recovered from the illness.


Why can flying with pneumonia cause problems?

If the illness is severe, symptoms include a high temperature, coughing and fits of shivering, among other things. Breathing often gets faster because the lungs can no longer perform at full capacity. Therefore, the supply of oxygen to the body is already restricted, even under normal circumstances. In a regular airliner, this situation can get worse. Inside the cabin, conditions are similar to those at the top of a 2,400-metre mountain. The air pressure is lower and the air the passengers breathe contains less oxygen. A healthy person will barely notice this difference during the flight. Unconsciously, they will just start breathing a little faster.

However, if the breathing rate is already accelerated due to pneumonia and the traveller is unable to take in enough oxygen, this situation, and thus the patient's condition, can deteriorate further. This is why the attending doctor often does not recommend flying in a scheduled airliner and refuses to certify the patient as being fit to fly.

Is a patient flight home still possible?

Nevertheless, this does not mean that you are stranded abroad if you come down with pneumonia there. It is still possible to fly home – but only in an ambulance aircraft. In these specially equipped aircraft a ‘sea level flight’ can be carried out. By implementing technical measures and flying at a slightly lower altitude, the air pressure can be kept at the ground level value. As a result, the air also contains as much oxygen as on the ground and the passenger's breathing is not affected.

In addition, a specialist doctor accompanies the flight and can thus ensure the safety of the patient at all times. State-of-the-art medical equipment enables excellent monitoring and care of the patient. If necessary, their breathing can also be supported, for example, by administering additional oxygen. In this way, even passengers requiring intensive care can travel back to their home country.

Will the insurance company cover the costs?

Whether the insurance company covers the costs of returning the patient home depends on the individual case. In principle, however, there is only a chance that the costs will be covered if a travel insurance policy that includes health insurance is in place. Standard private health insurance or statutory national health insurance does not include cover for repatriations.

Whether or not your insurance company will actually take over the costs will be decided on the basis of what is included in your insurance policy, the severity of the illness and the medical situation in the country you are staying in. In general, the following can be said: if the insurance policy covers only medically necessary cases, it must be impossible to obtain appropriate treatment in the country you are staying in. Only then will the costs be accepted. If the policy also includes medically reasonable cases, the costs are also covered if treatment of the illness in the home country ‘merely’ promises better results. If the insurance company refuses to cover the costs, if the decision-making process takes too long, or you do not have appropriate insurance cover, a privately financed medical repatriation may be the solution.

How much does a medical repatriation cost?

If the cost of a flight in an ambulance aircraft has to be paid for privately, the question naturally arises as to how expensive it will be. We can only calculate these costs individually as they depend on too many specific factors. In particular, the following questions must be clarified:

  • How long is the route on which the flight is to take place?
  • How severe is the patient's pneumonia? Is it a severe or a mild case?
  • How urgent is the medical repatriation? Do we need to deploy an ambulance aircraft with a longer positioning flight in order to be able to fly on with minimum delay?
  • How many people will accompany the patient? Will this mean that a larger aircraft is required?

We would be happy to discuss these questions with you as part of a free consultation. Simply contact us.

Medical repatriation with Medical Repatriation UK

In case of pneumonia or other serious chest infections, you can rely on Medical Repatriation UK. We are committed to assisting people in need and will organise a fast and safe medical repatriation from abroad. Thanks to our decades of experience and our extensive international network, we can help you anywhere in the world. Our international team will overcome all language barriers for you and relieve you of the effort of organising the flight.

We will organise your medical repatriation from bed to bed. This means that we will pick up the patient from hospital in an ambulance or emergency vehicle and take them to the airport. After that, our ambulance aircraft will fly them back to their home country, where another ambulance will be waiting to take them to the receiving hospital.

Contact us now for your repatriation flight

Our 24-hour service is always available to assist you. We will be happy to advise you and, upon request, will provide you with a non-binding quotation for your medical repatriation. Contact us now: