Are Private Air Ambulance Services the right option for you?

Traveling abroad when not in a good physical shape can be a daunting prospect. Being unsure of how to obtain proper medical care can cut short your vacation or time away. If you are injured in a foreign country or if your pre-existing medical condition has worsened, medical repatriation via a private air ambulance is often the quickest and safest way to return home. The same applies for medical evacuation, that is, if you need to be flown from your home country to receive better treatment abroad. However, do you really need a dedicated air ambulance or can you fly commercially? To help demystify your options, Medical Air Service has outlined the most common questions that you may have at this early stage.

What are private air ambulance services?

Roughly speaking, air ambulances can be likened to flying intensive care units. They entail the medical repatriation or evacuation of a patient and his loved ones via a private air vehicle, such as an aeroplane or a helicopter. Specially designed to provide medical support to patients while in transit, they are fitted with cutting-edge life-saving technology and equipment. Private air ambulances also come along with a dedicated medical team comprised of medics, paramedics, and/or highly qualified doctors.

Good to know: A team of medical professionals on board Medical Air Service's air ambulances carefully monitors the patient's health status during the flight. They are prepared to provide the necessary care to stabilise his condition until he is safely returned to his home or a nearby hospital in the event of a medical emergency. Along the same lines, we have all of the necessary equipment and medications on our flights.

air ambulance

Commercial flights are a common alternative for medical repatriation by air travel. If your health condition requires it, a medical escort can pick you up from the local hospital and supervise you throughout the flight. Aside from Medical Air Service taking care of the administrative paperwork, we arrange for the necessary medicine to be carried onboard the commercial airliner. Upon arriving in your home country, our team will accompany you to your preferred hospital and ensure that you are settled in and that the handover goes smoothly.

A number of factors influence the choice between the two.

When would you require a private air ambulance?

It is possible to distinguish between two scenarios:

Medical evacuation (MedEvac)

It usually involves transporting one or more people to the nearest health care facility. MedEvac is frequently required in situations that may or may not always require immediate intervention, such as when a medical condition cannot be treated adequately on a local level. It usually entails transferring a patient to a foreign facility that provides a higher level of care.

Good to know: It is important to recognise that medical evacuation does not always imply returning the patient to his home country. Sometimes, it may be more appropriate to transport him to a location with quality medical care within the same region.

Medical repatriation

Although the two terms appear to be interchangeable, there is a significant difference between them. As such, medical repatriation refers to the transport by air of a patient, whose home country is too far away for ground transportation. Medical repatriation services can also be linked to providing travellers with emergency medical treatment in-flight. In such cases, they are typically transported aboard a fixed-wing aircraft accompanied by a specialised medical team.

Depending on the severity of your illness or accident, and the urgency of your return to your home country, you have several possibilities for repatriation. If you are not in a worrying state of health, you can usually be medically repatriated on a scheduled flight. Using a wheelchair to help you move around the airport or requesting one of our medical escorts (doctor or paramedic) can all be part of our service. 

Good to know: It is best to be cautious in these situations because, aside from stretchers if necessary, commercial airliners do not offer medical care

In more severe cases, you may need to be flown back to your home country by a private air ambulance via an Intensive Care Unit installed into it.

icu equipment

Top ten reasons why you might need a private air ambulance

Be it a trauma such as fracturing your elbow or breaking your leg, or a medical emergency, like having a stroke or heart attack, the reasons why you might need a private air ambulance are numerous.

Thereon, an air ambulance is particularly useful when victims of a fire, of injuries or suffering from a serious medical condition cannot walk and:

  1.   Necessitate medical equipment;
  2.   Are unable to operate a wheelchair;
  3.   Are unable to ascend the stairs and take their seat on a charter flight;
  4.   Have burn injuries that cover at least 50% of their total body surface area, and require close medical supervision;
  5.   Have a potentially fatal pathology, such as a heart attack or stroke, multiple haemorrhages, or hypoxemia.

Private air ambulances are outfitted with all of the medical equipment needed to monitor and treat emergencies, even if you can walk, such as in the following case scenarios:

  1.     If you must fly after eye surgery, only a cabin pressurised at sea level should be considered to avoid severe damage to the affected eye. Other than a dedicated air ambulance, this is unlikely to be possible in any aircraft. The same is true for pneumothorax.
  2.     If you have an infectious (Covid-19) or parasitic disease and are not allowed on board a commercial flight. At the same time, innovative safety measures can only be provided for by private air ambulance companies to protect their medical teams/flight crews from contamination;
  3.     You have gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, are at risk of preterm labour, or are showing signs of miscarriage as a pregnant woman;
  4.     Your child needs paediatric intensive care during the flight;
  5.   To transport sensitive organs, such as kidneys or livers, to the recipient in a timely manner, or to transport the organ transplant recipient to the location where the organ awaits.

What makes up the cost of an air ambulance flight?

In order to find the best solution, our medical transport experts consider the mode of transport (medical plane, airliner, helicopter, or ambulance), the length of the journey, the number of accompanying persons, the medical urgency, as well as the transport of luggage and medical equipment (e.g., wheelchairs, portable oxygen concentrator, etc.). Based on these requirements, we select the appropriate mode of transportation and form the medical team. The airports involved, as well as any refuelling stops, all have an impact on the cost.

Do you have any questions?

If you are considering medical repatriation for yourself or a loved one, read our FAQs section to become aware of our all-inclusive services.

Contact us now

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss your situation and learn about your options. You can request a free, no-obligation quote to get a better idea of what is involved. You can get in touch by 

By phone: +44 (0) 20 / 3514 8813 (UK) or +1 646 / 783 9963 (USA). Please see below for phone numbers to call if you are trying to reach us from another country.

By email: 

By our contact form

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