How Prepared Are Airlines for In-flight Medical Emergencies?

How Prepared Are Airlines for In-flight Medical Emergencies?


Having a medical emergency while in the air can be a scary experience. You are far from a hospital, there may not always be a doctor on board, and if the plane is diverted so that you can land ahead of schedule is often dependent on the decisions of the pilot, medics on the ground who can’t even see you, and an airline that is always looking at the bottom line – and diverting a plane is expensive. 

Before you panic, know that the research says only 0.3% of medical emergencies on planes end up being fatal. While the sky-high location is not an ideal place for something to go wrong, things may not be as dire as they seem. Your odds of having a medical emergency during those few hours in the air are fairly low as well. The researchers found that there is approximately one medical emergency per every 604 flights.

As for how these types of emergencies are dealt with in the air, according to Bloomberg, flight attendants for Southwest Airlines are given training in basic care and have iPads that come with manuals and a way to contact medical consultants on the ground.

The ground consultants are hired by the airlines and have a much lower rate of asking for a plane to be diverted when compared to a medical doctor onboard the plane. While they can walk attendants through basic care and assessment of a flyer’s medical condition, if you are ever having a health problem on a flight, you might really want a doctor onboard.


There are laws protecting doctors who offer medical assistance on a plane, but that does not stop them from feeling that their sudden unexpected patient comes first, unlike an airline consultant who may be trained to take more factors than just your health into consideration. 

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Catherine Marucci
Catherine Marucci

A dedicated writer of health, technology, and internet phenomenon news.

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