You need an air ambulance to travel if:
- You need trained medical attention during the flight, or
- You need to lie down during the flight.
Most air ambulance services for medical transportation are on a non-emergency basis. Airlifts to a trauma center are handled by local authorities. Air ambulances transfer patients between facilities or from home to a distant facility for very sick people with advanced notice. Medevac services are also common for people who are traveling internationally, get sick or injured, and need to get home to be treated in the US near their home. These “Lifeline Flights” may get some expedited handling through air traffic control, but are not given emergency clearances.
In order to fly on a regularly-scheduled commercial airline, you need to be able to sit up in your seat and fasten your seat belt for the duration of the flight. While you may travel with a nurse or medical assistant on a commercial flight, you are not able to receive medical care. You don’t necessarily need to be able to walk on your own, as wheelchair assistance is available all the way to your seat.
Scheduling an air ambulance
If you don’t meet these criteria and need an air ambulance, you need to schedule transportation with an air ambulance dispatcher. Try one of these global air ambulance companies that service routes worldwide:
How to pay for an air ambulance
Air ambulance services are very expensive, frequently more than $20,000 USD for a trip. In some cases, insurance will cover all or part of the cost. Most reputable medical air transport air ambulance companies will work with you to determine if your insurance will cover any part of the cost. If you have purchased travel insurance, especially for international travel, these policies sometimes cover air ambulance travel from a foreign destination back to the patient’s home.
Charitable air ambulance services
There are some charitable air ambulance or medical transport services available. Please refer to our directory for more information.
Why would I need an air ambulance?
Air medical transport is sometimes required when a patient is very sick, but needs to travel to a different facility. For example, specialized medical treatment, a specialist physician, a clinical trial, or an experimental protocol may be available at a distant facility. Medical Repatriation is when a person is injured or becomes sick while traveling abroad. In these cases, people need to get back to the US to get medical treatment near to their home.
Medical flight services
Even if you’re not sick enough to require a nurse or EMT’s care during the flight, you may not be able to be exposed to other people in airports or in an airplane, perhaps due to a compromised immune system. Or, if you can afford the cost, you may want to avoid the hassle of commercial travel. Many medical air transport air ambulance services offer a less expensive medical flight option. This is essentially a private flight for you and your companions, scheduled according to your needs. These flights depart and arrive an private facilities where you will not be exposed to large numbers of other people.
The medical escort option
In some cases, a medical escort option may be sufficient for your needs. If you can travel commercially (see above), but need assistance navigating the airport and the ground travel to your destination, may medical transport providers offer a medical escort option. The service provides for a nurse or EMT to travel with you and assist not only with your medical needs but also the logistics of the trip.