Ambulance flights for patients in need of care

Ambulance flights are not only provided for patients with acute illnesses. We often also transport people in need of care who are simply no longer able to travel by themselves. Nevertheless, they have good reasons for wishing to take a flight at this time. 

Relatives often want to take care of the patient themselves or to accommodate them in a nursing home that is closer to home. Sometimes it is the patient who has a desire to return to their home country, to visit a favourite spot or simply to see the sea again. Important family celebrations such as weddings or christenings can also be the basis for the patient’s desire to travel. 

Whatever the reason, even patients needing nursing care can travel safely by ambulance flight. We will now explain the options available. 

Ambulance aircraft or accompanied scheduled flight? 

There are usually two options for transporting patients in need of care: a transfer on board an ambulance aircraft or a flight in a scheduled aircraft, accompanied by medical personnel. Theoretically, a helicopter flight would also be possible, but compared to planes helicopters are slower and cannot travel as far. In addition, when transporting patients in need of care, helicopters cannot take advantage of their greatest strength – the ability to fly directly from hospital to hospital. After all, the pick-up location and the destination are usually not hospitals, but nursing homes or private homes, which do not have their own helicopter landing sites. So only ambulance aircraft and scheduled airliners can be considered, but what are the main characteristics of these means of transport? 

Ambulance aircraft: flexibility and the highest degree of medical safety 

ambulannce jet at the airport

An air ambulance is often referred to as a ‘flying intensive care unit’ and in fact the medical equipment on board is in no way inferior to the equipment in a regular intensive care unit. As a result, even seriously ill patients can be transported safely. 

Accordingly, patients needing care will also be in very good hands-on board an air ambulance. Accompanied by an experienced flight doctor, the patient can make themselves comfortable on a special patient bed. Should a medical need arise, the flight doctor will immediately take all necessary steps. Normally, the patient can also be accompanied by a relative and thus will always have a familiar face by their side. On board larger ambulance aircraft it is possible to accommodate several accompanying persons or even a couple travelling together who are both in need of care. 

In addition to the very high level of medical safety, ambulance aircraft also offer the highest degree of flexibility. The timings are arranged individually for each flight and thus can be easily adapted to suit your schedule. This applies to the flight date as well as the departure time. In addition, ambulance aircraft are smaller than scheduled planes and can therefore fly to small airports that are not available to a large airliner. The departure point and destination of the flight will be arranged according to your requirements and the patient will land in the immediate vicinity of their destination. 

Accompanied scheduled flight: comfortable and cost-effective 

For some patients, an ambulance aircraft is not actually necessary. They can choose the considerably cheaper option of a medically accompanied scheduled flight. A patient couch can also be installed in a scheduled aircraft with a little advanced notice, so that the patient can travel comfortably lying down. In this case, a privacy screen ensures the patient is shielded from other passengers. If the patient is able to sit upright during the flight, another option is to simply book tickets in Business Class. Here, the seats can be fully reclined, which allows the patient to travel in comfort

scheduled flight

The medical safety of the patient is also ensured during an accompanied scheduled flight. An experienced paramedic or doctor travels with the patient, and monitors the health status and wellbeing of their charge. Thanks to the emergency equipment they carry, they can intervene at any time if the situation calls for it. 

However, we must point out that a medically accompanied scheduled flight cannot always be carried out. Especially on short-haul flights, medically accompanied flights are extremely rare because there is no time to install a patient bed and Business Class is so basic that the flight may not be comfortable enough for sick or vulnerable travellers. In addition, the airlines always check the patient's medical records in advance of the flight to ensure that the flight will not place too much stress on the patient. As this process requires a lead time of several days, a medically accompanied scheduled flight cannot be organised at short notice. 

In addition, medically accompanied scheduled flights will of course take place under the normal conditions of the airline. You will only be able to select your destination and flight date in line with the current flight schedules. In the case of more complex routes, it may be necessary to change planes, which is not only stressful for the patient, but also greatly increases the organisational effort and bureaucracy involved. This is because it is necessary to obtain permits for not one but several flights – possibly even from different airlines. 

Travelling to the airport 

An ambulance flight is the central element at the heart of every transfer of a patient in need of care, but it’s not the only one. The patient’s journey to the airport and their onward travel after landing must also be organised. State-of-the-art ground ambulances or other emergency vehicles are normally used for this. If the patient does not require medical supervision during the journey to the airport, they can also travel in a taxi or limousine. 

Will the insurance company cover the costs? 

Statutory health insurers and private health insurance companies very rarely cover the cost of domestic ambulance flights for patients in need of care. International patient transfer flights would, in theory, be the responsibility of international health insurance providers, but here too the chances are poor

The reason is the same in both cases: the insurance companies consider the patient’s need for relocation from a medical point of view. When transferring a patient requiring care, the patient's condition is not normally acute, therefore the insurers do not consider that there is any medical justification for the ambulance flight. So they will refuse to cover the costs in the vast majority of cases. Therefore, you should expect to have to bear the costs yourself. 

What does an ambulance flight cost for patients needing nursing care? 

The question is, of course, how much such an ambulance flight will cost. Unfortunately, this cannot be precisely quantified without knowing the details of the specific case. Therefore, we request that you describe your requirements to us first so that we can give you a quotation. When calculating the costs, we take into account: 

  • the required means of transport
  • the desired flight route
  • the health status of the patient
  • the number of accompanying persons
  • the urgency of the request.

Place your trust in the Medical Air Service 

We will find the perfect solution to bring your care-dependent relatives to their destination in comfortable and medically safe conditions. Our decades of experience enable us to tailor the transport mission precisely to your requirements. Our multilingual staff can also relieve you of all the effort of organising an international ambulance flight and will ensure a smooth ambulance flight for the patient. 

Contact us now

Our experienced team as Medical Air Service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can provide you with free information about the benefits and risks of an ambulance flight. On request, we will provide you with a non-binding offer for your individual case. Contact us now:

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