How to save on your air ambulance costs?

Reading Time: 17 minutes

Air ambulances: a luxury or a necessity? 

What are air ambulances?

In simple terms, air ambulances are airplanes that are actually ambulances. They come fitted with medical equipment and are used to transport patients, especially over long distances, making transcontinental patient transportation possible. 

An important factor distinguishing air ambulances is the fact that they are private. Chartering an air ambulance implies that you will be having an aircraft all yourself while traveling. Designed for individual use, they ensure a level of comfort and privacy that cannot be offered by commercial airlines. This is applicable not only during the flight, but while checking in as well. This means that the patient is able to travel away from prying eyes, avoiding what might have been an uncomfortable and embarrassing situation for many. 

Chartering a plane always depicts the idea of grandeur and luxury. It is assumed that this type of service can only be accessed by those who are extremely well-off financially. Indeed, the cost of booking a private plane is considerably higher than taking a scheduled flight from a commercial airliner. Booking a private jet can be considered a luxury, something accessible to only a few. 

Nonetheless, this presupposition is biased when it comes to air ambulances. While they are definitely private jets, their usage and the situation involved in the booking of an air ambulance is different. Air ambulances have been designed to transport patients who need constant medical supervision and care. Generally, these passengers are incapable of flying commercially since scheduled flights do not have the medical equipment or crew needed to cater to patients’ demands and to ensure that they reach their destination safely. 

Consequently, in a lot of cases, air ambulances are the only means via which patients can travel. In many cases, these trips are deemed to be essential for their health. They are either traveling to obtain treatment for their condition, to visit a loved one or to come back home from a trip abroad. In such cases, air ambulances are seen as a necessity. There is nothing luxurious about having to book an air ambulance because you are too sick or injured to fly commercially. In fact, those having to opt for air ambulances are distressed and in an unfortunate situation asking for support, sympathy and understanding from others. 

air ambulance abroad

Why are air ambulances more expensive than commercial flights? 

It goes without saying that booking an air ambulance will definitely cost you more than booking a seat on a commercial flight. Nonetheless, there are several factors that justify this variation in fees. These are the same reasons that demarcate an air ambulance from a commercial plane and that ensure patients are able to be transported safely overseas.

 Why is an air ambulance more expensive than commercial flights? 

  • It is a private plane
  • It is fitted with medical equipment
  • It has medical personnel on board
  • A sea level flight is possible 

A private plane 

An air ambulance is not provided by usual air companies. These are private flights that can be chartered for patients, which means that for the duration of the trip, they are exclusive to a particular patient and accompanying persons (if any). There are no other passengers on board the flight, which is an advantage in itself since it will bring an added level of comfort and convenience. The patient, regardless of how vulnerable he is, does not have to worry and feel uncomfortable about the inquisitive glances of other passengers and the doctors on board have more freedom to provide treatment and care.

Moreover, chartering an air ambulance means that there is no need to wait for the availability of a flight from a commercial airline. Chartering implies the flexibility of being able to depart or land on any date that is convenient to you. Usually, air ambulances can be made available fairly quickly after the booking has been done. When working with Medical Air Service, we strive to make sure that the patient can be transported as soon as possible. This is usually on the same or following day of the booking being made. Nonetheless, this means that the cost of the entire trip is borne by one person only. It is not shared among other customers, which will, without any doubt, lead to an increase in the price of the flight. 

Medical equipment on board 

The most significant factor distinguishing an air ambulance from a normal plane is the medical equipment with which it is fitted. As its name suggests, it can be considered as being similar to a ground ambulance, with the exception that it flies and can travel much longer distances within a considerably less amount of time. However, when it comes to their interior, both ground and air ambulances can be comparable, being similar to one another. An air ambulance is equipped with medical appliances that can be found in an ICU, enabling the transportation of patients needing intensive care. Instead of a normal seat, the patient is given the opportunity to lie down on a medical stretcher bed. It should be noted that in many cases, due to an injury or any other medical condition, some patients cannot sit upright at all. 

medical equipment on plane

In contrast, the medical equipment available on commercial planes is elementary, if not nonexistent. It is highly probable that the scope of equipment available does not go beyond the basic first-aid emergency kit for these flights. In comparison, besides the equipment already available in the air ambulances, some aeromedical companies can even bring in additional appliances depending on your need. 

For example, when it comes to the transportation of newborns and babies, Medical Air Service equips its medical planes with pediatric incubators so that little ones can travel safely. The same effort will be deployed for other passengers, regardless of their age, needing any extra special equipment based on their condition. However, this increases the air ambulance cost. 

Personnel on board

The personnel on board a commercial aircraft consists of stewards and air hostesses. Their role is to make sure that passengers have a safe and comfortable journey. This involves tasks such as welcoming passengers on board and directing them to their seats, informing them about safety procedures, ensuring all luggage is safely stored away, checking seat belts and galleys and making announcements on behalf of the pilots. However, when it comes to the safety of passengers, their tasks are pretty much limited to those mentioned above. Of course, they are trained in offering basic first-aid, but this might not be adequate for someone who is sick and injured. 

In contrast, an air ambulance is equipped, in terms of personnel as well, to provide treatment and care for patients. Instead of the usual crew consisting of stewards, you will find doctors and paramedics on board a medical flight. The physician is qualified and experienced in delivering care while being mid-air. An air ambulance doctor requires more extensive training than hospital doctors since they operate in a completely different environment. Being a doctor on board a plane implies that you cannot call for backup in case of an emergency. This is why they should receive special training. Moreover, companies like Medical Air Service are able to provide you with a specialist doctor based on your medical condition. Being able to benefit from a high level of medical care while flying comes at a higher price. 

Sea-level flights 

Certain medical conditions prevent flying commercially because of the inability to withstand the change in air pressure. The air pressure inside the cabin of a regular flight is different from that of the usual environment on the ground. This change in pressure might go unnoticed by a healthy person but it might be detrimental, even fatal, to someone with a medical condition. With the cabin pressure not being pressurized, less oxygen is taken up by an individual’s blood and gases within the body expand. This can be very dangerous for patients suffering from pneumothorax, intestinal obstruction or even those who have recently had surgery. 

Nonetheless, the patient can be transported in an air ambulance which is capable of flying at “so-called” sea level. In these types of flights, the cabin pressure is modified to closely mimic the air pressure at ground level. Moreover, the medical jet flies at a slightly lower altitude than commercial flights do to ensure the patient's safety at all times. These adjustments are impossible in commercial aircraft. 

How much does an air ambulance cost? 

One of the first questions that you have when trying to plan patient transportation is “what will be the price of the air ambulance?”or “How much will the whole process cost?”

A trip on a medical flight is dependent on several factors and unlike a scheduled plane from a commercial airliner, the price is not predetermined for everyone. This is because the requirements of each patient differ. A trustworthy and caring air ambulance provider will calculate the price based on your needs and offer a customized quotation. This ensures that you are not spending money on services that you do not need, thus making unnecessary expenses. 

This is exactly what Medical Air Service does. It calculates the price of your air ambulance trip based on your specific needs and route. Taking into consideration the factors that are peculiar to your case, our agents design an individualized quotation that is free and non-binding. What are the factors that Medical Air Service takes into consideration when preparing a quotation for you? 

The price of an air ambulance depends on the following factors: 

  • Patient’s location and destination
  • The type of aircraft to be used 
  • Additional medical equipment and personnel 
  • Ground ambulances
  • The urgency of the mission
  • Administrative and clearance charges

Patient’s location and destination

These play an important part since they will determine the route taken by the air ambulance, hence the amount of fuel needed to cover the journey. While in certain cases, the price correlates with the distance between the two points, that is not always the case. More significant than the distance from point A to point B is the route that the medical flight will take after departing from one location to reach the patient’s destination. At Medical Air Service, we make sure to optimize the transport by choosing the most optimal route, while taking into account factors such as fuel stops and the patient’s comfort. 

The type of aircraft to be used

Some people have the misconception that all air ambulances are the same. In fact, while they are all fitted with medical equipment, the type of aircraft that we use for missions varies. The distinction lies not only in terms of helicopters and airplanes but also in the distinct models that we have. 

boeing aircraft

When carrying out medical evacuations or repatriations, we can deploy models such as:

  • Bombardier challenger 300
  • Boeing business jet 
  • Bombardier Learjet 36
  • Hawker Beechcraft 800
  • Cessna Citation 650 II
  • And others. 

When choosing an air ambulance for a medical transfer, we take into consideration our patients’ requests. For instance, they may wish for a bigger airplane to have more accompanying persons or to avoid fuel stops. However, a smaller aircraft will be cheaper and help you save some money. 

Additional medical equipment and personnel 

Our priority being the patient’s health, we make sure that there is no inadequacy whatsoever when it comes to the medical care being provided during the transport. This entails bringing in additional medical equipment or specialized doctors if needed depending on the patient’s condition, besides the standard ICU equipment in our air ambulances. 

For instance, when conducting medical flights for infants, we leverage pediatric incubators to provide a safe and controlled space, with the perfect temperature and the appropriate amount of oxygen, humidity and light, that are vital for the proper development of organs, during the flight. 

Similarly, while all of our air ambulance flights involve a doctor and a paramedic, we also have specialist doctors who are always on hand to provide extra care to patients suffering from a serious illness. Just one example is the air ambulance flight of a little baby with breathing difficulties. For this case, we brought in a pediatric team specialized in breathing conditions on board the plane. 

Using ground ambulances

Our bed to bed service ensures that patients have a completely smooth and stress-free journey. This involves picking them in their home, hotel or a hospital in a ground ambulance, with medical professionals, and taking them to the airport. Upon landing, another ground ambulance will already be waiting for the patient and will take him to his final destination, which can be a hospital, a relative’s place, his home, a hospice or any other facility. This ensures that patients do not have to worry about organizing ground transportation

Our ground ambulances are included in our offer. This also means that if patients choose, they can arrange for the ground transportation themselves and accordingly, the price for the air ambulance mission will decrease. 

The urgency of the air ambulance mission

It is entirely possible for Medical Air Service to organize a last-minute air ambulance mission, depending on the urgency of the situation and the patient’s condition. In fact, we can usually have a flight ready for you within one day of the booking being made.

Nonetheless, sometimes an urgent request for an air ambulance means that we have to deploy an aircraft that is quite far away from your location, due to other aircraft, closer to your location, being engaged with other missions. Deploying a flight from a distant location will add to the original costs of the air ambulance mission. 

Administrative and clearance charges 

Planning an air ambulance mission involves several administrative tasks that are taken care of by our aviation experts. For instance, they handle all of the paperwork, in compliance with other countries’ regulatory agencies, to fly in their airspace and land at their airports. Besides administrative charges from regulatory bodies, airports have landing charges and de-icing fees (if necessary). If the medical evacuation/ repatriation mission involves traveling to a high-risk area or a conflict zone, Medical Air Service also takes care of obtaining the necessary permits. All of these charges, which are from external bodies, are taken into consideration when we calculate the cost of an air ambulance. 

No hidden fees with Medical Air Service

Transparency is an important element at Medical Air Service. We aim to be as straightforward and as honest with you as possible. 

One of the horror stories that you may have heard about air ambulances is the client receiving a hefty bill days after the journey has been completed. This is a nightmare for someone who just went through the process of organizing a patient transport for someone, implying that one of their loved ones is sick and in need of medical treatment and care. The impact of that on the person’s mental health can be significant. 

At Medical Air Service, our goal is to reduce your mental strain and burden, not to add to it. That is why we take care of all the organizational processes of the air ambulance trip and we provide you with a quotation upfront. 

During a free consultation with our aviation expert, our agent will assess your situation, devise the best air ambulance solution for you, advise you on the best way forward and provide you with an estimate price of the air ambulance mission. This is free of charge and non-binding. If you decide to go forward with the patient transfer, you will receive a written quotation with all the charges involved. You can rest assured that nothing more will be added to it, unless you require additional services, and that no bills will be coming your way after you make the payment

How to pay for an air ambulance? 

In cases where an air ambulance is a necessity and the patient decides to proceed with an air ambulance mission, the next answer that comes to his mind is “how to pay for an air ambulance?” or “Where do I find the funds for an air ambulance?”. There are several financing options that you can consider. These are: 

  • Out-of-pocket : cash, credit/debit card or bank transfer
  • Medical or travel insurance, if covered
  • Crowndfunding platforms
  • NGOs

air ambulance cost


The most common and preferred payment option of our clients is out-of-pocket. They settle their air ambulance bill themselves. Why so? Because this expedites the process of organizing the air ambulance flight, especially since in many cases, time is of the essence. More often than not, patients are in a critical situation and they wish to organize the air ambulance flight as quickly as possible. 

Thus, paying out-of-pocket is the preferred method since it is the most rapid way of confirming the booking, in contrast to having to wait for the approval of a medical insurance company. If you wish to settle the bill yourself, you can: 

  • Send us a bank transfer
  • Pay by credit or debit card
  • Pay by cash in our office in Germany

Insurance coverage

While it is often expected that any health-related emergency will be covered by your air ambulance company, this is not the case for air ambulance missions. In a lot of cases, medical evacuations and repatriations are not covered by standard medical or travel insurance. In cases where the companies do provide coverage, they often add a clause of providing coverage only if the patient transfer is a medical necessity. 

Consequently, it is always recommended to go over the clauses in your contract meticulously. Very often, patients have to take additional air ambulance cover for medical repatriation or evacuation. Those planning to go abroad, whether on holiday, for business or any other purpose, are advised to purchase travel insurance providing coverage for air ambulance flights

At Medical Air Service, we will provide the necessary documents required by the company to process your claim and  remain available, even after the flight, if you need additional assistance/documentation. 

Note: After the insurance has approved your claim, the company can either settle the bill directly or you can settle the air ambulance fees out-of-pocket and claim the money from your insurer. 

Crowdfunding platforms 

Crowdfunding is the process of raising money for a particular purpose, cause, project or venture online. There are several internet platforms on which individuals can post their particular project or case and raise money from different individuals across the globe. The benefit of crowdfunding platforms is that they allow you to target a massive number of individuals from across the globe, hence being able to raise more money, even from people you do not know. 

Some of the top crowdfunding platforms for medical purposes on a global basis are: 

  • GoFundMe
  • CoFund Health
  • Ketto
  • Fintech for Health
  • Tree of Hope

Of course, you can raise money on different platforms, both local and international, for a maximum impact. 

Success story: Agata’s transport was funded by a crowdfunding campaign 

If you were wondering whether creating a crowdfunding campaign for a medical treatment is worth it, our missions will certainly give you the answer you need. One of our patients was named Agata, little girl of 7 years old who was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She underwent a surgical operation in Katowice, Poland but that was not enough. 

The little girl needed specialized radiotherapy at Rady Children's Hospital in the US. Considering her condition, Agata could not travel on a commercial plane and needed an air ambulance to get to the US. While it was impossible for little Agata’s parents to meet the expenses involved, they did not give up hope and instead launched a crowdfunding campaign via the Polish platform Siepomaga. Soon enough, they were able to raise enough money for the air ambulance trip and even for the hospital costs in the US. 

Thanks to the crowdfunding platform, little Agata was able to obtain treatment in the US. 


Another possibility of obtaining air ambulance funding is via NGOs or other non-profit institutions designed to help those in need. These might be local ones, targeting people in a specific country and international ones, helping those in need across the globe. 

As such, it is always worthwhile to look into NGOs as a possible option for your medical evacuation or medical repatriation mission. One of our recent cases was funded by an NGO, which contacted us to organize the patient transportation of a baby. It was the Polish NGO Cor Infantis who took care of organizing and funding the air ambulance flight, which was a blessing for the little boy’s parents who did not have the means to pay for the medical flight. In fact, Medical Air Service has been working with this organization for quite some time. It is a foundation that helps patients with coronary heart disease and other related complications raise money for their treatment abroad. 

How to save on your air ambulance costs? 

While at Medical Air Service, we try to make the air ambulance flight as affordable as possible for patients, there are definite costs which are out of our control and which may be too expensive for some clients. Fortunately, there are tips and tricks that can help you make some savings when planning a patient transport

To save on your air ambulance costs, you can 

  • Opt for a smaller airplane if possible
  • Fly to a destination closer to where you are 
  • Be flexible on the departure date

Opt for a smaller airplane 

Smaller airplanes need less fuel, reducing the operating costs involved in the air ambulance trip. As such opting for one, if there is the availability and possibility, would help you make some savings.

Why then do people travel via a bigger plane. First of all, the space on a smaller plane is limited, thus allowing for only one or no additional passengers. Some patients may need their loved ones beside them, requiring a bigger aircraft with more seats. The reverse situation would have the same logic applicable: it could be that the patient’s relative wishes to travel alongside to put their mind at ease, especially since the situation is already a stressful one.

However, it should be noted that all of our air ambulance flights have two medical professionals on board to care for the patient. As such, patients or their relatives can remain reassured that the patient will always be cared for. 

Additionally, some patients wish for a bigger airplane to avoid fuel stops on the way to their destination. Smaller planes would have to stop along the way which might increase the duration of the flight. 

If you are willing to make compromises on these two factors, having no accompanying persons and the possibility of having to stop for fuel, then you can make some savings by opting for a smaller airplane if possible. 

ambulance flight

Fly to a closer destination 

Medical evacuation or medical repatriation involves traveling to another country or to your home country to obtain higher quality medical care and treatment or to be closer to your loved ones. In case you are traveling abroad for treatment, being flexible on your destination can impact on your air ambulance cost

There are two case scenarios that can be explored here: 

  1. You wish to travel to a foreign country to obtain treatment because the quality of care in your home country is not adequate. 
  2. You are in a country with low-quality healthcare, is suffering from a medical emergency and you wish to get back home to benefit from a better healthcare system.

In both cases, if you have no particular reason that requires you to imperatively travel to a specific country, you should look into options that are closer to where you are right now. For instance, 

  1. If you are in Poland, instead of going to the US for treatment, you can travel to Germany which has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and is closer to your home country. 
  2. In case you were vacationing abroad, instead of traveling back to your home country via air ambulance, you can opt for a medical flight to a closer destination with good quality care to obtain initial treatment, recover and complete the rest of the journey on a commercial flight once you feel better, if this option is more cost-effective. 

Decreasing the distance to be traveled and having a shorter route in the air ambulance will definitely decrease the costs of your air ambulance flight. 

Be flexible on the departure date 

Being flexible on your departure date would help you make savings on your air ambulance flight since it would give us more time to plan your flight. With more time ahead of us, we can devise the most cost-effective solution for you. For instance, if we have another mission closer to your destination or in the country that you are currently in, we can schedule your departure date to coincide with this mission. This will help you make some savings. As such, it is best to book your flight well in advance so that we can work out the logistics issues with ample time and help you reduce the costs. 

Nonetheless, we do realize that some situations require an urgent flight and that not all patients have the luxury to wait. It should be noted that we can conduct urgent flights. Depending on the situation, we can usually organize a flight within one or two days after the booking has been made. 

Medical escort: a cheaper alternative 

Medical Air Service has a cheaper alternative for patients needing medical supervision while flying. This is our medical escort service. However, this solution is contingent upon certain conditions. These are: 

  • The patient must be in a stable enough condition to fly commercially
  • The patient must be in a position to wait for a scheduled flight
  • The airline company must give approval for the patient to be onboard 

What exactly is our medical escort service? 

Our medical escort service involves appointing a medical professional, acting as a medical escort, to accompany a patient on a commercial flight. The doctor will oversee the patient’s health and provide emergency care if needed. 

medical escort

At Medical Air Service, we ensure that the medical escort is someone experienced in providing treatment and care mid-flight. As such, you do not have to worry about the safety of the patient. Moreover, we select someone who is compatible with the patient’s personality so comfort and reassurance is also provided and the flight is an enjoyable one. Acting as a companion, the medical escort is also equipped with emergency equipment. 

A medical escort might be essential for patients because commercial flights do not have a doctor or a paramedic on board and the cabin crew is usually only trained to provide basic first aid care. 

However, we should stress that even our medical escort might not be allowed to bring certain equipment on board a commercial flight. For instance, a lot of airlines  do not allow portable oxygen on their plane. 

Who can opt for our medical escort service

As previously advanced, our medical escort service is for patients who are stable enough to fly commercially. This means that they should not be patients in a critical condition. Who can opt for our medical escort service?

  • Patients needing assistance after an injury
  • Patients with non-life threatening medical conditions that requires medical supervision
  • Patients with mental health issues such as dementia
  • The elderly, especially if travelling alone
  • Pregnant women
  • Patients who have had a surgical procedure (unless a sea-level flight is necessary)
  • Those who are anxious about flying
  • Patients who need certain treatments to be administered by a medical professional only

 Drawbacks of our medical escort service 

While the medical escort option has the benefit of being the most affordable air ambulance service, there are certain drawbacks that you should be aware of: 

  • You have to wait for a flight from a commercial airliner
  • You have to wait for the airline company to give its approval for the patient transport, which might take a couple of days
  • You are restricted to airports that are accessible to commercial flights 
  • There is little privacy
  • In certain cases, you have to go through time-consuming boarding processes. However, you will be assisted by the medical escort
  • A lack of medical equipment on board the commercial plane
  • The medical escort is limited in his abilities to administer treatment.

Air ambulances: are they worth the cost?

While this might be the question that many ask themselves, for some it does not even arise. Unfortunately, the situation that they are in requires an air ambulance. To put it simply: Their survival or that of their loved ones is dependent on the medical flight

patients and doctors

Traveling is often associated with vacations or holidays, but for patients, especially those in life-threatening conditions, traveling is linked to medical care and treatment that is obligatory for their wellbeing, but unavailable in their current location. It is no surprise that developed countries like Great Britain or the US benefit from the advancements in the medical sector and the latest tech. These technological developments, tools or medical equipment are not always available in developing countries

However, quality healthcare and the chance to fight and survive must be made available to everyone. The solution for patients with a dearth of health services in their home country is medical tourism. This involves traveling to another country. With flying commercially being impossible, air ambulances are leveraged for patient transportation. Not only are air ambulances worth the cost, but they are the only means via which patients can access the necessary treatment for their survival. 

If you ask the question “are air ambulances worth the cost?” to our clients, they will unanimously reply ‘Yes’. Because the health and life of their loved ones matter the most. 

What people are saying about our air ambulances? 

The following testimonials from our clients are proof that air ambulances are worth their cost and that booking an air ambulance service with us is the right choice. 

My father was taken ill whilst on holiday and it was clear that he would need to be repatriated by air ambulance. I used Medical Air Services who organised all of the transport needed to get him home in a very short time frame. The logistics were quite complicated but the team excelled keeping me in touch the whole way. Nothing was too much trouble for them.

The service from MAS was exceptional from my very first phone call to my fathers touchdown in London and arrival at the clinic. A big thank you to Ana, Sarah and Devi for always being there and putting my mind at ease during a very stressful time.

I would have no hesitation in recommending MAS to anyone who unfortunately finds themselves in a similar situation.”

“I will never be able to thank you and your team enough for the miracle work you have done for my family. Thank you a thousand times over for everything. You have gone above and beyond.”

I can’t tell you how grateful we are that you were on call with us for 48 hours and so generously offering alternatives. I am especially grateful to you for having answered all of my questions and explaining everything so calmly and clearly.

So many thanks!"

Contact us for an air ambulance 

If you need an air ambulance, regardless of where you are across the globe, do not hesitate to get in touch with Medical Air Service. Operating worldwide, we are always available to answer your questions and to assist you by devising the best air ambulance solution for you. Our aviation experts will listen to your needs, work on a customized solution and provide you with a free, no-obligation quotation. They are available round the clock every day of the week. 

Get in touch now