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How much does a Private Air Ambulance costs?

All your questions about UK air ambulance costs and charges are answered in this guide.

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UK Private Air Ambulance costs: learn everything about the charges involved

Reading Time: 14 minutes

Travelling via a private plane can be seen as a luxury for many. Indeed, there is the idea that this sort of privilege might be reserved for the elite who can afford anything they want and are living their best life. 

However, private aeroplanes are not just a marker of wealth; they have many uses besides going on vacation or on a business trip. As the term air ambulance would suggest, these are used to transport patients by air. In fact, these have been designed for this purpose only: to make sure that patients are able to fly safely. How much do they cost? Can you afford travelling via an air ambulance? This article is going to explore the charges involved so that you can have a better idea about this service. 

Why would you need a UK Private air ambulance? 

1.1 What is a Private air ambulance?

First of all, it is important to define what a private air ambulance is and when it would be needed. 

In simple terms, an air ambulance is a private aircraft that acts as an ambulance. It has been designed to transport patients from one location to another. What sets it apart from other airplanes? How would you notice an air ambulance? 

When looking at it externally, the way it is built is not much different from other aircraft. In some cases, it has markings such as the emblem of the red cross or the red crescent. However, the most important aspect of an air ambulance is the equipment with which it is fitted. These special aircraft come with the necessary medical equipment to treat and care for patients while they are flying. The equipment is similar to those used in ICUs, as such, even those needing critical care are able to travel even long distances without being worried of the impact on their health. 

Lastly, a private air ambulance is just that: private! This aircraft is dedicated solely to the patient and accompanying loved ones. As such, there are no other passengers on board. 

When are private air ambulances useful? There are two case scenarios: Medical Repatriation and Medical Evacuation. 

1.2 Medical Repatriation

A lot of British citizens and residents, (potentially more than you might think!), have had to go through medical repatriation. This is the process of getting those who are abroad back to their home country. This would typically happen when you have travelled to another country, for business or pleasure, and you have unexpectedly found yourself in a situation requiring medical care. For instance, you fell ill or got into an accident. Of course, no one plans to get sick or injured on vacation and it is completely understandable that you wish to return home, to familiar surroundings, as soon as possible. The two main reasons why someone would go for repatriation are:

  • Better medical care: In most cases, you are stuck in a country that does not offer the same quality of medical care as your home country. Let’s take the UK for example. The latter has more advanced medical equipment and medical specialists who are famous across the globe. Thus, you might wish to benefit from their expertise. Moreover, many patients wish to be treated by their own doctor since he has been working on their case for quite a long time and is more familiar with their medical condition and needs. We should not forget the cost factor: medical charges can be way more expensive in a foreign country. 
  • To be in their comfort zone: Being sick in a foreign country with no one around to offer moral support can wear you out. When you are in a weakened state, you need moral support from your loved ones and being in a foreign country, not only are your friends and family not around, but you have to deal with doctors/nurses with whom you might not be able to communicate with properly because of language barriers 

The medical repatriation process is done via a private air ambulance, which means that those who are sick/injured and need medical care en-route will have all their needs met.

happy patient

1.3 Medical evacuation

Private air ambulances are used for medical evacuation as well. Often used confusingly with the term ‘repatriation’, it is quite distinct. As previously advanced, repatriation involves getting back to your home country. In contrast, medical evacuation is the process of moving away from your current location, whether it is your home country or someplace else, to obtain better medical care. 

Typically associated with the military (evacuating injured soldiers from war zones or having them transported to treat war-related injuries) and with emergency situations (accidents or someone falling off a cliff), the scope of medical evacuation moves beyond that. First, it should be noted that this service is accessible to all; not just soldiers, celebrities or adventurous travellers. Secondly, it can be used in any situation whereby someone who needs medical care has to move from one location to another. 

Why do UK citizens go for treatment abroad? 

Someone in the UK might choose to go to another, more modern or sophisticated, medical centre in the same country to receive treatment. This can be done via ground ambulances if the trip is not going to be too tedious for the patient, via helicopters for short distances or ultimately via private aircraft. 

It may also happen that people choose to travel abroad to receive treatment. Why would someone in the UK go to another country if the NHS has one of the best medical facilities in the world? According to research, families go abroad for treatment not because they are unhappy with the services that are available, but because the situation of the patient is so critical that they are in need of hope. Sometimes, the patient is in such a condition that existing treatment is no longer effective. In these cases, people look for experimental treatment or clinical trials being conducted across the globe in the hope that something can be done for the patient. In other cases, patients have relatives and loved ones in another country and they wish to be close to their family, especially when they are in a vulnerable position. 1.4 Covid-19 

The coronavirus pandemic has completely transformed air travel. Things are no longer what they used to and you cannot just hop on a plane to go somewhere now. There are more restrictions, protocols or guidelines to follow to prevent the spread of the virus. 

For instance, face coverings for both passengers and crew are mandatory on planes. There are regular temperature screenings, more intensive cabin cleaning and passengers’ movements are limited during the flight. These measures are put in place to minimise the risk of germ transmissions and to protect everyone onboard. 

However, it should be noted that as of March 2022, no airline will take you on board their flight if you have tested positive for coronavirus. The reasons behind this decision are obvious, they would not want to expose other passengers and their crew to Covid-19. Moreover, what if a complication arises en route? There are too many risks involved. 

In this case, a private air ambulance is the only way for someone with Covid-19 to travel. These airjets can be equipped with isolation units so that even those affected with coronavirus can travel without transmitting the virus to others. Moreover, there are no other travellers on board a private air ambulance. You are accompanied only by a medical crew and the pilots, who will be wearing appropriate PPE to protect themselves. As such, private airjets, such as those by Medical Repatriation UK, are the only means of transportation via which Covid-19 patients can fly. 

flying aircraft

Factors determining UK private air ambulance costs

One of the first questions that may come to your mind is how much does a UK private air ambulance cost? Can I afford one? Private ambulance providers such as Medical Repatriation UK do not have a fixed charge to ensure a fair price to everyone. It determines a price based on your situation to make sure that you do not have to disburse additional money on surplus services that are not applicable to you. What are the factors that determine how much a private air ambulance costs for UK citizens needing medical repatriation or evacuation? 

2.1 Patient’s medical condition

One of the main reasons why people choose to travel via a private air ambulance is because their medical condition does not allow them to travel on commercial flights by airliners. They need medical supervision and care en-route which is enabled in air ambulances thanks to the medical equipment on board. 

Companies like Medical Repatriation UK, besides the usual equipment usually found in private air ambulances, can source additional devices and medications based on the patient’s medical condition. For instance, a peadiatric incubator may be needed for infants to travel safely. Certain medical conditions require so-called ‘sea-level’ flights, that is, they have to travel in a cabin that is not presssurised. These would increase the cost of the flight. 

It should also be noted that all medical flights by Medical Repatration UK have a medical crew on board. However, should you necessitate additional doctors or paramedics, there will be an additional fee. 

2.2 Patient’s location

The patient’s location is a determining factor because it is going to establish the route that the aircraft is going to take to reach the UK. The further you are from your destination, the longer the plane will take to reach it. More time in the air means that the price of the flight will also be higher, in contrast to a short-haul flight. However, Medical Repatriation UK does not have a flat rate per kilometre of the route. 

It should also be noted that longer distances do not always mean higher fees. This is because the firm’s team of advisors calculate the cost for the distance travelled on a case-to-case basis and they always work to ensure that you get the best price possible, even for long-haul flights. 

2.3 Urgency of the request

Some patients need an urgent flight. This might be because their medical condition might deteriorate if they wait any longer or because they are so overwhelmed that they do not want to spend a minute more in a foreign country. Regardless of the reason behind this decision, air ambulance providers are usually able to cater to this request and provide last-minute flights. 

Let’s take the example of Medical Repatriation UK. The company is able to arrange for a flight on the same or following day after the booking has been made, depending on your situation. However, it should be noted that urgent requests involve higher fees. This is because a particular, cheaper, aircraft might not be instantly available near your location which means that either a bigger one has to be used or the jet needs to be deployed from further away. 

In contrast, with some more time to plan the trip, the air ambulance provider might be able to find a solution that is more cost-effective for you. 

2.4 Size of the plane

For some reason or another, patients might wish to travel via a bigger aircraft. For instance, they might want to be more comfortable, and have more space in the jet, or they wish to avoid fuel stops. Indeed, for long distances, small jets might have to stop for fuel en route and a patient might wish for a direct flight to avoid wasting time. 

However, a bigger plane is more expensive than a smaller one since it burns more fuel and releases more carbon. As such, it is not that efficient in terms of both cost and fuel use and will definitely impact on the price of the flight. 

2.5 Accompanying persons

Following on the previous points, if the patient decides to have more than one person accompanying him in the aircraft, the price of the flight will consequently increase. This is because air ambulance jets are not commercial planes. They have not been built in a way to transport various passengers at one time. They are dedicated to the patient exclusively, and of course a couple of people more. 

With air ambulances provided by firms such as Medical Repatriation UK, there is always a medical team on board to care for the patient. Moreover, the air ambulance provider allows for one free accompanying loved one. While it is entirely possible to have a bigger aircraft if the patient wants more people to travel alongside, this will mean that the price of the flight will increase. 

2.6 Ground ambulance

Some medical repatriation/evacuation missions involve patients who cannot walk or who need to be constantly under medical supervision. For instance, someone with a heart disease might need to be monitored via an ECG machine at all times. In such cases, you would need a ground ambulance to take you to and from the airport where you will be transferred to your flight. The additional charges of the ground ambulance will be added to private air ambulance costs. 

It goes without saying that those who do not opt for this service, for instance, if the patient can reach the airport on its own or does not need to be accompanied by a medical team in a ground ambulance, will not have to settle the additional charges. This means that the costs of their flight will be cheaper.

Is there a cheaper alternative?

When taking into consideration all of the factors determining UK Private Air Ambulance costs, you might think that the charges might be too significant and you could start looking for an alternative method of transportation to get back to your home country. 

There are a couple of other options that might work for some patients depending on the circumstances. These are commercial flights and ground ambulances. Are they suitable for patients? 

3.1: Can patients travel on commercial flights?

Looking at the price, flying on commercial flights is cheaper than booking a private air ambulance since the cost of the ticket is shared with the other passengers on board. However, there are certain conditions involved. The most important one is the medical condition of the patients. They should be stable enough to travel on a commercial flight, and approval for this must be given by their doctor. Moreover, the final decision to have the patient onboard rests with the airline company, which has the right to evaluate the risks and determine whether or not the patient can fly aboard its plane, even if the doctor has given his approval

There are three ways via which a medical repatriation can be conducted on commercial flights. These are: 

  1. On a normal seat accompanied by a medical escort: if the patient is able to sit upright, then he can book a normal seat on a commercial flight. This is the cheapest of all options. When it comes to the safety of the patient’s health, he will be monitored by a medical escort who will be alongside him at all times during the flight.
  2. On a stretcher on a commercial flight: In case the patient cannot sit upright, commercial planes can make room for a special patient stretcher. This will be placed in the same cabin in lieu of several seats that will be removed. The patient will be separated from other passengers via a screen and a medical escort will be alongside.
  3. There is another option for patients whose medical condition is more serious. They can travel in a Patient Transport Compartment. This allows patients to fly lying down on long-haul flights. It is fitted with the medical equipment available in an ambulance. As such, even those needing critical care will not experience issues. Nonetheless, it is important to note that this is a very rare event. Most of the times, such flights cannot be carried out. 

While the costs for these options are lower than private air ambulances, they are not convenient, or even feasible, in many cases. As already mentioned, the final decision to allow patients on board the flight lies with the airliner and the company might take some time to review the case for the decision. This means that it might take some time before patients are able to fly; time which they might not have if their condition is serious. Moreover, when dealing with a commercial airliner, you have to wait for the availability of the flight if there is not one scheduled in the following days. The fact that these flights might not be available in remote locations is another issue. As such, if the patient is in need of immediate medical repatriation/evacuation, commercial flights are not ideal. 

scheduled flight

3.2 Ground ambulance 

This option only comes into play when patients are travelling from one hospital to another or from their home to the hospital and vice-versa in the same country or in neighbouring countries connected by land, if possible. However, there are certain factors that you must take into consideration. 

  • The length of the trip by ground would take much longer than by air. 
  • The trip by ground is more tedious and tiring and the patient must be in a stable enough condition to handle it. 
  • Fuel or other stops will cause delays. 
  • The patient might be uncomfortable for a considerable period of time. 

Does spending money on a private air ambulance make sense? 

Some people might look at the UK private air ambulance costs and think that they would much rather travel via a commercial flight. Besides the issues mentioned above and the fact that air ambulances are the only means via which patients can fly safely, there are several other benefits that are only offered via chartered ambulance flights. 

4.1 Air ambulances are safer

This might be the most important aspect when choosing an air ambulance. Despite the fact that patients are accompanied by a medical escort when travelling on a commercial, there is a limit in terms of equipment that can be fitted on a commercial plane. 

However, with the air ambulances of Medical Repatriation UK, the options are limitless. All the airjets come fitted with state-of-the-art equipment that can cater to the needs of even the most critically-ill patients. Moreover, the air ambulance supplier can even source additional equipment depending on the patient’s medical condition. 

Additionally, there is a team of medical staff on board each air ambulance. They will monitor the patient round-the-clock to ensure that his condition is stable and they will intervene in case a complication arises. On a private air ambulance, the staff has more space to care for the patient. The doctor is not obstructed by other passengers and is able to give more attention to the one needing care. With the high level of attention and care being given by Medical Repatriation UK’s experts, you do not have to worry about anything

4.2 The patient enjoys more comfort and privacy

The level of comfort and privacy offered by a private air ambulance is incomparable. Medical Repatriation UK gives patients the opportunity to travel via air ambulances that are dedicated to them. So they do not have to worry about the prying eyes of other passengers. 

Despite the fact that you are shielded via a screen on commercial flights, the level of privacy obtained is not at its maximum while you are in the air and it is practically non-existent when you are boarding or getting off the flight. In contrast, on a UK private air ambulance by Medical Repatriation UK, there is just you, your loved ones and the medical team on the plane. This is also an advantage in case there are interventions mid-air.

4.3 No waiting time 

Unlike commercial airlines, you do not have to wait for the availability of a flight when opting for a private air ambulance. Medical Repatriation UK can arrange for a flight for you on the same or the following day after the booking has been made. Moreover, the departure date can be scheduled according to your needs. For instance, if you want to travel on a specific date for a particular reason, arrangements can be made based on your wishes. This would not be the case with commercial airliners since they have to take into consideration other passengers. 

The swiftness of the medical repatriation mission is also remarkable when it comes to the boarding process. Unlike a commercial flight, you do not have to wait in line at regular terminals with other passengers. Instead, you will go through a dedicated one, which means that you can get onboard the plane more quickly. Thanks to this, the onboarding process is less complex and other passengers do not have to experience delays as well. 

4.4 Get flights even in the most remote locations 

Aside from waiting for commercial flights to be scheduled, there are some areas where commercial flights are not even available. This may be because of several reasons, one of them in this Covid-19 dominated era is government regulations. As such, if you are in a remote location waiting for a commercial flight, you might keep waiting for a long time before you get back home. 

In contrast, the air ambulances by Medical Repatriation UK can pick you up from wherever you are across the globe, whether it is Alaska, Bolivia, Nigeria, Mongolia or Australia. Moreover, they can even land in small airports in remote locations so that you do not have to go to major airports by road which is time-consuming and tiring. 

Who takes care of UK private air ambulance costs?

After choosing to travel via chartered flight, you might now be thinking about who is going to pay for the UK private air ambulance costs. There are three options: 

 5.1 Insurance 

In some cases, medical repatriation and evacuation are covered by insurers. You just have to get medical evacuation covering from your health insurance provider or travel insurance providers. This means that the UK private air ambulance costs will be covered by the insurer. However, you should be careful when reading the terms and conditions of the insurance plans since there are certain conditions involved. For instance, some companies will provide coverage only if there is no treatment in the country where you are at and others will cover the costs only if your life and limbs depend on the medical repatriation process

5.2 Out-of-pocket 

Even if you do not have a medical evacuation coverage plan by your travel or health insurer, Medical Repatriation UK can still conduct the mission. In that case, the client will have to settle the costs of the private air ambulance out-of-pocket. The fees must be settled during the booking process and before the flight. 

credit card payment

5.3 Crowdfunding

In case you do not have enough money to settle the UK private air ambulance costs, you can raise for funds via crowdfunding platforms. This is the process of collecting money from a large number of people via online platforms to fund your trip and many of our previous clients have been successful in doing so. Some of the sites that UK citizens can start a crowdfunding project on are Kickstarter, GoFundMe, JustGiving, Indiegogo, among others. 

Do the benefits outweigh the cost? 

Now, the question that might come to your mind is: is it worth spending money on private air ambulances?

While you might have thought of UK private air ambulances as a sign of luxury, that is not the case. In most cases, Medical Repatriation UK serves people who are desperate and in need of an urgent transportation method for themselves and their loved ones.

Aside from the various benefits that air ambulances offer, they are also the only means via which patients can fly from one location to another and this trip is not for pleasure; it is not to have a vacation in another country. Instead, it is to receive better medical treatment and care which are vital for their well-being or survival. So, when you ask those who have opted to fly via air ambulances if the benefits of air ambulances outweigh the cost, they will definitely tell you that “Health has no price”. The health of their loved ones is much more important and they prefer having their loved ones alive and in better health or at least close to them during their times of need.

Medical Repatriation UK is aware of this. That is why its most important mission is to ensure the safety of those travelling in its private air ambulances. It leaves no stone unturned to guarantee that patients receive the best medical care during the flight and are able to reach their destination within the least amount of time safely and comfortably. 

Testimonials from clients 

The testimonials of Medical Repatriation UK’s clients prove that private air ambulances are worth the costs involved. Have a look at a couple of them: 

“I cannot thank you enough. Your work was fantastic and the journey couldn't have gone better. My mother and grandmother arrived safely in Glasgow and still talk about their doctors in glowing terms! Many thanks again and best wishes to the whole team and, of course, the doctors from the plane.”

“Your air ambulance service was amazing, so professional, kind and supportive... everything you arranged went to plan, and it was an amazing experience sitting in that medical aircraft with Mum. Your Doctor, nurse and pilots took exceptional care of Mum, and all our family are so grateful and thankful that you were able to get mum back home in a stable condition.”

Contact Medical Repatriation UK to organise your air ambulance 

Medical Repatriation UK has significant experience arranging air ambulance trips for British citizens. Being an experienced player in the field, we have strong connections with all the parties involved in the medical repatriation process, such as with the British network of airports. As such, our team is best positioned to advise you on your medical flight, to determine optimal flight routes for you and to determine the most cost-optimised solutions. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us for a free, no-obligation quotation by: