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Medical Repatriation: Private air ambulances v/s commercial flights for British Citizens and Residents.

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Medical Repatriation: Private air ambulances v/s commercial flights for British Citizens and Residents.

As surprising as this might seem, a lot of British citizens abroad need medical repatriation to the UK, especially in this era dominated by Covid-19. So, what exactly is medical repatriation? It is the process of transporting someone, ill, injured or with another medical condition, from a foreign country back to their home country so that they can receive better medical care or so that they can be closer to their loved ones for moral support. 

Medical transport options for British Citizen

If you are stuck abroad and you wish to come back to your home country, Medical Repatriation UK will take care of everything for you, regardless of where you are across the globe. We offer two main options that you can choose from to be repatriated back to the UK: 

Option 1: Commercial airline repatriations with medical escorts

This might be the most cost-effective option for patients, depending on their medical condition. It involves travelling on a commercial flight with a regular airline. The patient is accompanied by a medical escort who will be equipped with a carry-on medical kit so that he can care for the patient en-route and provide adequate treatment in case of any inflight complications.

They can choose to travel between the three following options: 

  • Medical Escort Services in a normal commercial airline seat: if the patient can sit upright and does not require intensive care, the cheapest option is to book a normal seat either in economy or business class. Our medical escort service will ensure that they are given the proper care and treatment throughout the flight since he will be accompanied by a medical expert. Should a complication arise, the latter will give the patient the necessary care, so they do not have to worry about their safety. 
  • Travelling on a commercial airline stretcher: If the patient is not in a serious medical condition but he needs to lie down all the time, Medical Repatriation UK offers the option of flying on a commercial flight on a stretcher. Seats are removed for the stretcher and patient privacy is ensured by a screen, separating other passengers. In this case, as well, a medic will be alongside the patient at all times. 

  • Patient Transport Compartment: Some patients require intensive care, but their case is not time-sensitive. In these cases, they can fly via the Patient Transport Compartment. This is a compact mini-cabin that is designed to transport intensive care patients. They are fitted with the equipment in an ICU to ensure that the patient is well-cared for during the flight. But it will take some time to prepare for this flight. Moreover, it should be noted that there are very few Patient Transport Compartments available, which means that this type of transport is very rare. 

Option 2: Private air ambulance


This is the most efficient option for patients requiring intensive care and who need a flight to come back to the UK as soon as possible because of their medical condition and risks of complications in a commercial flight. Medical Repatriation UK offers several types of aircraft that are fitted with the latest medical equipment so that even intensive care patients can travel safely. The patients will be accompanied by trained medical professionals who will provide care en-route and who will intervene in case of an emergency.  

medical repatriation via airplane

Commercial airline repatriations: the pros of this option

  • Low-cost: this is the cheapest option since you will travel by a commercial flight from an airline with other passengers, in comparison to a private air ambulance plane all by yourself. 

  • Privacy via a screen: Patients can enjoy privacy from other passengers since either they will be protected via a screen or they will be in a PTC. 

  • Perfect for direct flights and non-urgent cases: This option is the most appropriate one for direct flights with no transits for non-urgent cases whereby the patient can afford to wait for flight availability.

Commercial airline repatriations: cons of this option

  • Might have to wait before the flight: Preparing a flight to accommodate a stretcher or a Patient Transport Compartment might take one or two days or more. Even if a stretcher is not needed, the airline takes some considerable time to review the patient’s case and give its approval to have the patient onboard the flight. We must not forget that you have to wait for flight availability if there are no flights scheduled in the upcoming days, which might be a problem if your case is urgent.
  • Flight unavailability: There are some areas where you might not even obtain a direct flight to come back to the UK. In contrast, a private air ambulance can come to pick you up wherever you are. 
  • Airline refusal: An airline company has the right to refuse to have a patient on board, even if he is declared ‘fit-to-fly’. The firm might not be willing to risk its staff and other passengers. 
  • Delays or cancellations: When flying on a commercial flight, a patient is bound to experience delays or cancellations by the airliner, which, unfortunately, is beyond their control to predict or manage. 

Private air ambulance: the pros

  • Readily available and flexible on departure/arrival: A private air ambulance, as the term itself, would suggest, is dedicated to you exclusively. So, you do not have to wait for flight availability, which is perfect for time-sensitive cases since the patient might need immediate medical treatment. Medical Repatriation UK can arrange for a flight to take you back home within a few days. This also means that you can select the departure date based on your situation/condition. 
  • Latest medical equipment and experienced staff: Our air ambulance jets are fitted with the latest medical equipment. This means that even patients needing intensive medical care can fly safely. Moreover, there is a medical professional on board who will care for them during the flight. Thus, patients do not have to be worried about their health deteriorating. 
  • More privacy and comfort: A private air ambulance offers more privacy, whether it is while you are boarding the flight or during the trip itself since there will be no other passengers on board. Moreover, the patient will feel more comfortable and the medical team will have more space to intervene in case of an emergency. 
  • Direct long-distance flight: Our private air ambulance can pick you up from wherever you are and take you back to the UK in a direct flight. There is no need for stop-overs or transits which might be stressful for the patient. 

private air ambulance

Private air ambulance: the cons

While private air ambulances are convenient and offer patients maximum comfort and safety, they can be more expensive than commercial flights. However, in some cases, especially if there is no adequate medical treatment available where you are nowadays, your medical insurance might cover the cost of the private air ambulance. Moreover, you can raise money for the flight via crowdfunding. 

Contact us

If you are not seriously ill or you do not need immediate care, then travelling via a commercial flight is appropriate for you. However, this might not always be feasible depending on your condition, flight route and the urgency of the situation. Time-sensitive cases usually require a private air ambulance. If you are confused about which option is appropriate for you, contact us. Our team of experts will offer a free no-obligation consultation. You can reach us :

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