Fit to Fly: Guard against medical emergencies

By Elizabeth Ziemba, JD, MPH, President, Medical Tourism Training

More than one billion passengers fly every year and many of those passengers are traveling to receive medical treatments. Other may have medical conditions that put their health and safety at risk. Individuals with disabilities can require special attention to their needs during travel. The airlines, through organizations like the International Air Transport Association, establish policies and guidelines for airlines to follow to assess the physical and mental health of passengers to ensure the highest levels of health safety for everyone traveling.

These guidelines help doctors and airline personnel determine if passengers pose a health threat to themselves or others. Your doctor will be familiar with these guidelines to advise you when you will be able to fly. Every person is different so if you have any medical or health concerns about flying, consult your treating physician before you book your ticket. These guidelines are invaluable for individuals and entities that organize travel for dental and medical tourists to ensure patient safety.

“Fit to fly” does not mean “in perfect health”. Individuals who require special meals or need some assistance with devices like wheelchairs, oxygen, and lifting services can generally be accommodated if the airlines are notified in advance. If you are booking your own ticket or for someone who needs assistance, make sure to request these services when making your reservation. Many people utilize these services and using them will not disqualify you from travel.

Medical tourists and the people helping to coordinate travel and treatment should be well versed in the Fit to Fly rules as they apply before and after treatment. The surgeon or physician who is responsible for your treatment will play a key role in advising you when you are fit to travel. Fitness to travel depends on you, your overall health, the complexity of your treatment or surgery, and other factors. Because each person is different, the time before you can fly home may change. For this reason, consider purchasing a ticket with an open return date that can be changed without penalty in case it takes longer to recuperate than expected.

If you have any concerns about your well-being or that of your clients, be sure to consult the appropriate physician before booking your ticket for your outbound flight or before confirming return home travel. The decision about your fitness to fly is in the capable hands of your treating physician.

For a comprehensive look at this issue along with tips to ensure safe and healthy travel, download the brochure, “Traveling with a Medical Condition”, created by Loyd Davis available in the Resources section under Articles or click here. Mr. Davis prepared this document for Insurance with but kindly allows us to use this document for informational purposes only.

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Elizabeth Ziemba

Elizabeth Ziemba

President at Medical Tourism Training
With a diverse background in public health, law and business, Elizabeth brings a unique set of skills and experience to Medical Tourism Training with services including assessment tools, online and onsite training, workshops, and consulting services for governments, providers, facilitators, associations and others involved in medical travel.