What happens when the worst happens and you get sick or injured on vacation? If your condition is so severe that you can’t fly back on a commercial airline then you will need to book an air ambulance to get home. Most likely this isn’t an area that you have thought about or have any background knowledge on. So, what are the questions to ask, and do’s and don’ts you need to know before booking an air ambulance?
Do make sure you reach out to an air ambulance company as soon as you can once your need arises. For a true emergency situation the travel insurance will reach out to whatever company is the closest. Otherwise they will reach out to several companies to get quotes and it can take one to two days to book an air ambulance and handle approvals on the insurance side.
Typically, the travel insurance company receives quotes from about three different air ambulance companies, and then chooses which one has the lowest cost. Most of the time, these decisions are 100 percent cost driven when chosen by the travel insurance provider – the providers verify licensure, but have no direct validation of ongoing quality assurance measures. Additionally, while the FAA regulates air ambulances in the U.S., if you are hurt out of the country, it might not be a U.S.-regulated company that is chosen as your air ambulance by your insurance provider. But, a patient can request which air ambulance company they would like to work with.
When choosing between companies a few good questions to ask are how many medical attendants will be on your flight, finding out the safety measures that are in place with the air ambulance company, and knowing whether you will be in a jet or prop plane. There are a few key differences between a jet and a prop plane that you will want to know prior to booking. Prop planes are a less expensive option compared to a jet and are restricted to flying at a lower altitude due to their smaller size. Because jets are larger they are able to fly at a higher altitude and avoid most weather conditions. Jets often provide a smoother ride and travel faster, getting patients from point A to point B quicker than a prop plane.
Another important must-do is knowing who is responsible for providing transportation to and from the air ambulance – you as the patient, your insurance or the hospital. This varies situation to situation, depending on your travel insurance coverage.
Make sure that you don’t leave home without your prescription information and all necessary medical documents that you have for any preexisting conditions, especially when traveling outside of the country. It’s helpful to have these items packed in two separate places – keep copies in your carry-on and checked luggage in case any bags get misplaced or delayed on arrival. Then, if you do see a doctor away from home, even if it doesn’t lead to needing to take an air ambulance home, be sure to keep notes and records from that visit so you can update your regular doctor.
A good rule of thumb is thinking about an air ambulance as you would when finding a new doctor. A company’s history and reputation is extremely important, you wouldn’t ever pick a surgeon just because they are the least expensive option.
Hopefully you won’t ever require the services of an air ambulance. But, when it comes to your health, it’s always important to consider the options. Being informed and educated about air ambulance services is the most important thing you can do before your next vacation. Before packing your suitcase, be sure to pack in all the knowledge you can to ensure a safe trip.
About the author
Aero Jet Medical president and CEO, Danielle S. Wilson, is an accomplished health care executive with over two decades of air medical experience. Aero Jet Medical is an all-inclusive provider of worldwide air ambulance transport services. The company provides patients with clinical excellence and operational expertise.
In addition to Aero Jet Medical, Danielle is also the president and CEO of parent company United Medevac Solutions. United Medevac Solutions provides a full range of aviation specialty programs, health care supplementation and emergency response for the federal government, the Department of Defense and private sector organizations.
Self-termed a “global nomad,” Danielle has a passion for exploring new cultures during her extensive world travels.