Medical repatriation – getting you home safely

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patient with doctor

An unexpected illness during a holiday, or an accident on a business trip can happen very quickly. Suddenly, you are dependent on medical help abroad and realise that the medical conditions in your home country are significantly better. This can quickly lead to patients and relatives wishing for transport home by air ambulance. But medical conditions abroad are not the only factor: being in your own familiar environment can be an important psychological factor for the recovery process and communication with hospital staff is much easier in your own language.

At the same time, medical repatriation is an unfamiliar topic for many patients, who suddenly find themselves having to get to grips with it all under time pressure and in a stressful situation. That's why we have put together the most important information for you.

Will my insurance company pay for a patient transfer from abroad?

Only those who have a valid travel insurance policy that includes medical cover can hope to have their medical travel costs covered. If the patient is insured, the insurance company carefully checks the medical situation and makes a decision, taking into account the exact insurance conditions. Many insurance companies will only cover the cost of transporting patients from abroad if it is medically necessary. This means that, in the country in which he or she is staying, the patient cannot receive appropriate treatment.

Today, the fact is that this would rarely happen, because in most countries almost all conditions can, in principle, be treated, perhaps just not as well as at home. For cases in which treatment in the home country would achieve better results, insurance companies refer to 'medically reasonable medical repatriation'. Unfortunately, there are few insurance policies that cover this type of patient transport from abroad.

If the patient is not covered by international travel insurance or if the insurance cover does not apply in a specific case, one option still remains: organising the medical repatriation via a private service provider.

What is the cost of a medical repatriation?

The cost of the patient transport home from abroad must be borne privately if the insurance does not cover such costs. As every medical repatriation is individually planned and calculated, there are no flat rates here. Instead, upon request, you will receive a quotation that takes the exact situation into account. The following factors are particularly important when drawing up the quotation:

  • Chosen mode of transport
  • Transport route and duration
  • Health status of the patient
  • How soon the patient needs to travel
  • Number of accompanying persons

What's the most suitable means of transport for a medical repatriation?

The patient's state of health, the intended transport route and the urgency of the medical repatriation determine which means of transport should be chosen for your patient transfer from abroad. Every patient transport is accompanied by an expert medical team to ensure the patient's well being at all times.

Ambulance aircraft

Even seriously ill patients can be transported quickly, safely and flexibly in an ambulance aircraft. The equipment on board ensures similar conditions to a modern intensive care unit. An experienced medical team, under the direction of a specialised flight doctor, takes care of the patient during the flight. As a result, many intensive care patients can be transported without complications.

In addition, an ambulance aircraft is the best option in urgent cases. It can be deployed very quickly anywhere in the world and can land at smaller regional airfields as well as the large international airports. This means that it can be available very quickly in the patient's area and in most cases can land close to the destination hospital. This way, time-consuming and stressful road journeys can be reduced to a minimum. An ambulance aircraft can often be made available on the day the order is placed, or on the following day. Due to ambulance jets having a long range, long-distance patient transports are just as easy as short-distance journeys.

Scheduled airliner

On long haul routes, a patient transport on board a scheduled airliner, can be a cost-effective option, but is only possible if the medical situation is not acute. The patient can be transported lying down on a patient stretcher bed, or seated in Business Class, and is accompanied by a doctor or paramedic. If necessary, this medical flight attendant can intervene immediately.

Every patient transport in a scheduled aircraft must be approved by the airline concerned. Therefore, documents about the patient's medical situation are carefully checked, which usually takes 1 to 2 days. If the medical repatriation is more urgent, another means of transport must be used.

Please bear in mind that a medical repatriation on board a scheduled airliner is not possible on every flight route. Transfers and connecting flights require a high level of coordination and there can be many potential complications. For this reason, patient transports on scheduled aircraft are almost exclusively carried out on direct flights.

Above all, scheduled aircraft are a good choice for long-distance medical repatriations. On short-haul routes there is often not enough time to install a patient stretcher bed, because the aircraft needs to take off as soon as possible for the return journey. In addition, Business Class offers less comfort than on long-haul journeys – for example, the seat cannot be fully reclined. As a result, the stress on the patient is potentially higher and each case must be individually checked to determine whether a seated patient transport on board a scheduled flight is possible under these circumstances.


In most cases, a helicopter can fly directly from hospital to hospital, thus saving time that would be taken going through airports. The medical conditions on board are similar to those in an ambulance aircraft, including a flight doctor accompanying and caring for the patient. Therefore, even intensive care patients can be safely transported.

Even so, a helicopter is only rarely the best means of transport for a medical repatriation: its range is very limited, so it is only an option for short distances – for example, for patient transports from a neighbouring country or for domestic patient transports.

Ground ambulance

A long journey in an ambulance is a major strain for most patients. The journey tends to be bumpier/less comfortable and more unpredictable than a flight and can be delayed by traffic jams or detours. Therefore, using an ambulance for longer distances may not be advisable from a medical point of view. However, for short distances a ground ambulance is still a viable option, especially on a limited budget.

Medical repatriation with Medical Air Service

Medical Air Service is your reliable partner for patient transports from abroad. Our experienced international team will efficiently organise a swift and safe medical repatriation for you. For medical repatriations aboard aircraft, we will also organise the ground transport to the airport and from the destination airport to the destination hospital as part of our 'bed-to-bed' service. This allows us to coordinate all patient pick-up and handover times in the most efficient way and to keep the patient's journey times as short as possible.

Customer Service

A personal contact partner is available to assist you with any questions you may have, and our office is staffed 24/7. If needed, we can also support you when communicating with the hospital staff on site: our international team is able to overcome all language barriers. Give us the chance to convince you of our capabilities during a free consultation.

Contact us

We are happy to advise customers regarding our bed-to-bed services. Our team is available 24/7 for a free, no-obligation consultation. Within hours we can organise medical repatriation from anywhere in the world.

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