Sick on vacation: medically accompanied return flight

Many travelers feel that their vacation is the best time of the year: Depending on your preferences, you can finally relax during the trip, possibly get to know a new culture abroad or pursue your favorite leisure activities. But all the joys of a vacation can be brought to an abrupt end by a serious illness. Suddenly you have to seek medical treatment far away from home and a return flight under your own power is impossible.


Sick on vacation: medically accompanied return flight


Since the medical situation in many popular vacation countries does not meet the standards to which they are accustomed from home, many sick tourists would still like to cut short their vacation and return home quickly. The solution: a medically accompanied return flight.

How is a medically accompanied return flight carried out??

Depending on how ill the patient is and how urgently he wants to travel home, there are different options for a medically accompanied return flight. For serious illnesses and urgent cases, there is every reason to use an air ambulance. If intensive medical care is not necessary and a certain lead time is not a problem, a medically escorted scheduled flight can also be taken – provided it is not a contagious disease that poses a risk to other travelers.

Return flight in an air ambulance

In an air ambulance, the patient is treated under the same conditions as in a modern intensive care unit. The medical equipment is state of the art and an experienced doctor is responsible for the patient's well-being throughout the trip.

Because ambulance aircraft are based around the world and can land easily at smaller regional airports, they are always available quickly – regardless of where the patient is located. In this way, the medically accompanied return flight can often be carried out on the same or the following day.

Return flight in a scheduled airplane (lying down)

If the patient has to be transported lying down, but his illness is less serious, he can also take his return flight in a scheduled aircraft on some routes. He or she is accompanied by a physician or paramedic who carries emergency equipment and intervenes immediately if necessary. The patient spends the flight on a patient couch, which is built into the airliner especially for him/her. A privacy curtain separates him from the prying eyes of his fellow passengers.

Expect a lead time of 1-2 days for a recumbent return medical transport on a scheduled airplane. During this time, the airline checks the patient's medical situation and decides whether to agree to the patient's return transport. The installation of the patient couch takes in most cases only a few hours. Although the installation time is relatively short, it means that a prone patient transport is usually only possible on long-haul flights. On short routes, airliners make their return flight as quickly as possible, so there is no time to install a patient couch.

Also, transfer connections are rarely used. Coordinating the individual flights is very time-consuming and missing the connecting flight would lead to unacceptable complications for the patient. On the other hand, it is conceivable to combine a long-haul flight in a scheduled aircraft with a shorter feeder flight in an air ambulance.

Return flight in a scheduled airplane (seated)

If the patient can even sit for a longer period of time (at least for the duration of the take-off and landing phase), a seated return flight in a scheduled airplane is also possible. Just as with a prone transport, the patient travels with a doctor or paramedic who provides immediate medical assistance if needed. As a rule, the sick vacationer and his medical flight attendant are given contiguous seats in business class. Here the patient can adjust his seat to a reclining position and thus travel comfortably and gently. In addition, business class allows the medical flight attendant the necessary freedom of action if his intervention becomes necessary.

The described conditions in business class are especially common on long-haul flights. Shorter distances usually involve smaller aircraft that do not have their own business class. Instead, an economy class section is sectioned off, where only every second seat is allocated. Whether these conditions are sufficient to offer the patient a medically safe, gentle return flight must be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Even in the case of a seated return transport with a medical flight attendant, the scheduled airline must approve the patient transport. The airline checks the medical documentation of the patient with a lead time of 1-2 days. Direct connections are to be preferred for seated patient transports. Whether connecting flights are also possible is examined on a case-by-case basis.

Sick on vacation: Does the insurance pay the return flight?

If you fall ill on vacation and need a medically accompanied return flight, you will be confronted with costs that were not planned in your vacation budget. The private or statutory health insurance is not responsible here, only a foreign health insurance may cover the costs. However, here too, each individual case is carefully examined. Most policies cover return airfare only in medically necessary cases. Such a case exists if no adequate treatment of the illness is possible in the country of residence.

Since most illnesses can now be treated in principle in many countries of the world, despite the often lower standards, only a few repatriation transports are still classified as medically necessary. Much more common are medically reasonable cases where treatment at home promises better results. This happens comparatively often, but only a few insurances cover the costs of the return flight even for medically reasonable cases.

Return flight at own expense

If there is no insurance coverage, the insurance company refuses to cover the costs or the decision-making process takes too long, it is also possible to bring the patient back from vacation at one's own expense. Private service providers such as Deutsche-Auslandsruckholung will be happy to help you and take care of the organization. The costs have to be calculated individually for each patient due to many variable factors. In particular we take into account

  • the required means of transport
  • the route to be covered
  • the present illness and the state of health of the patient
  • the urgency of the request
  • the number of accompanying persons

In a telephone consultation we will be happy to calculate a non-binding guide price for you.

We are here for you

A serious illness on vacation usually means that the ill patient cannot take care of organizing his return flight himself: His state of health requires him to take it easy. Our experienced team is on duty 24 hours a day to provide you with maximum assistance in all matters.

Our international staff can communicate with hospital staff in their native language in many countries, thus overcoming language barriers. Excellent contacts and many years of experience enable us to plan your return flight quickly and coordinate it precisely. Thanks to our bed-to-bed service, even the journey to the airport and onward transport from the destination airport to the hospital are no problem: we organize ground transport and coordinate all pick-up and drop-off times.

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