Average Cost of a Life Flight: The Truth

What is a life flight?

A life flight, or air ambulance, is an aircraft that is specially fitted with medical equipment to transport sick or injured persons, as well as accommodate accompanying medical personnel from one medical facility to another, often in another country.  

The main types of air ambulances are listed below:

Ambulance Helicopter.

An ambulance helicopter is equipped in the same level as an intensive care ward, and comes with an experienced doctor on board, hence being able to transfer most intensive care patients for short haul flights. Due to a helicopter’s ability to take off and land vertically, it provides the benefit of quick and easy accessibility , allowing direct patient transfer from hospital to hospital.

However, despite this, ambulance helicopters have two major drawbacks. First, they are the most expensive of the air ambulance options. And second, they are limited by the distance to be covered - due to their shorter range - and the speed of transfer. For quicker transfer over longer distances, ambulance planes are the best option.

Ambulance planes

Ambulance planes are private planes that, like ambulance helicopters, are equipped to the same level as intensive care wards and are therefore able to transfer most intensive care patients, as they also carry an experienced doctor on board. The medical equipment in an ambulance jet can be fitted to a patient’s needs.

Ambulance jets are deployed relatively quickly, with deployment happening usually on the same day, or next day depending on the location. Furthermore, most ambulance jets are able to land in smaller airports, making accessibility to patients much easier. Additionally, the cabin pressure can be adjusted if necessary, for sea level flights.

Scheduled commercial flights

The final category of air ambulances is scheduled commercial flights. This is the best option for patients who are not in critical condition. The patient is accompanied on a commercial flight by a doctor or a paramedic (most often a paramedic), and can be transported in business class seated, or lying down on a stretcher depending on their condition.

In cases where a stretcher is deemed necessary, it will be specially installed in the cabin for that particular flight only, for the purpose of transporting the patient in question. The airline will determine whether it is possible to transport the patient, which takes between 1 and 2 days to decide. It is also important to note that stretchers are only applicable for use in direct long - distance commercial flights and not short distance flights or connecting flights. Despite this, scheduled commercial flights are the cheapest of the air ambulance options.

Will my insurance cover a life flight?

Insurance policies vary greatly depending on individuals and countries. It is therefore likely that your standard health insurance policy may not cover the costs of our air ambulance services. Often you may need a special travel policy to cater for medical flights.

A lot of medical insurance providers do not cover every repatriation or evacuation. They first check if the patient‘s health and the situation in their current location warrant a repatriation, which is a process that ends up consuming valuable time that the patient does not have.

In the event that the patient is not insured, or if their insurance provider refuses to cover the costs, Medical Air Service can still arrange for a patient transport.

How do I know if I need a life flight ?

The need for medical repatriation varies from patient to patient, as every case is unique. Hence, there needs to be a consultation from a qualified medical doctor to assess the state of the patient and whether repatriation via air ambulance is necessary or not. This is why it vital to request a free consultation from one of our medical flights experts to ensure you are aware of the best and most cost effective options available for you and your unique case. 

How are the costs for a life flight calculated?

There are a number of key factors that are taken into consideration when calculating the average cost of a life flight. For patients without insurance, it is critical to understand that air ambulance costs are not fixed and to know that the factors below are unique to each patient, and thus the final cost may vary from case to case.

Type of air ambulance.

As stated above, scheduled commercial flights are the cheapest option, while ambulance helicopters are the most expensive. If you take an ambulance plane, bigger models are more expensive than small ones.

Distance traveled.

The distance from the point of departure to arrival may influence the cost of a life flight, although longer distances do not directly correlate to higher costs. Rather, the cost is calculated by our team

Condition of the patient.

Patients in critical condition require more medical personnel and equipment to accompany them during flights, which raises the cost of the flight. Additionally, critically ill patients may require life flights that fly at sea level where the cabin pressure is equal to air pressure, which may increase the duration of the flight and consequently, the cost.

Urgency of the request

Booking life flights is less costly when done in advance, as the air ambulances are frequently busy attending to other cases. However, urgent medical cases will still be able to find air ambulances to transport them, but this will likely increase the cost of the repatriation, unless there is an air ambulance that is available to use and close to the point of departure.

Number of accompanying friends or relatives.

Besides the pilots and the medical crew, air ambulances have room for a travelling companion of the patient‘s choice to accompany them on the flight at no additional fee. Having more than one travelling companion might require a bigger ambulance jet or helicopter to accommodate them, which can increase the costs substantially. Our doctors have the right to deny transportation to the companions for medical reasons, which is usually communicated beforehand.

Additional factors

There are additional factors which vary depending on the circumstance and type of flight, such as travel clearance costs, airport landing charges and the need for a ground ambulance (bed to bed services), which may be optional for ambulance jets and scheduled flights, and not be necessary for ambulance helicopters.

Medical Air Service does not reveal any actual prices online. However, we do offer a free consultation where we calculate the price after learning the details of the mission and consequently presenting the most cost effective options for your case.

Why choose Medical Air Service for life flights?

  • Our team is available 24/7 for free, no obligation consultation. We assist you directly – .
  • We are a global air ambulance company providing air ambulances in any country around the world, with very short lead times. We can organise your ambulance flight – be it patient transfer on a scheduled flight or intensive care transfer with an ambulance aircraft within hours– from anywhere in the world.
  • Our operations uphold ISO: 9001 quality management standards
  • We have years of medical aviation experience, and significant experience in arranging transport from hospital to hospital, worldwide.
  • Our air ambulances come equipped with the latest medical equipment, together with medical professionals with decades of experience and specialized knowledge to cater for a wide range of medical emergencies.
  • Not only do we facilitate transfer of patients, but we also guide patients regarding their travel documentation . We ensure that trips are organized in the most quick, secure and economical way possible by using the most appropriate means of transport.
  • Our staff ensure direct, straightforward communication with patients, relatives and medical personnel internationally, regardless of language barrier.

Contact us now

Contact us today for all your air ambulance inquiries as well as to get a quote.

  • 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: info@medical-air-service.com
  • By contact form
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