Emirates has shared information about the cost of inflight medical emergencies. It is the largest airline by international traffic, operating nearly 200,000 flights in 2016. In that year it handled more than 60 flight diversions due to medical emergencies.
A single flight diversion can cost a carrier anything from €47.000 ($50,000) to over €570.000 ($600,000) depending on the nature of the diversion. Those cost include fuel, flight catering, landing and ground handling fees, air navigation cost, passenger rebooking costs and onward connection as well as other associated costs to care for crew and passengers.
Airlines handle medical emergencies differently, as there are no international regulations on this front. In 2016, Emirates delivered nearly 23,000 hours of medical training for cabin crew and pilots to prepare them for assisting passengers on board.
They need not only to be able to recognize common situations, but also to handle rare but life-threatening events. Training topics include basic life support (CPR); medical conditions including asthma, heart disorders, seizures and allergic reactions; trauma related topics; and emergency childbirth.
In addition to emergency medical kits Emirates has a 24/7 satellite medical advisory service that connects crew to specialist aviation medical consultants, who can help assess the passenger’s situation in real time.
Emirates crews make about 20 calls to the medical advisory service per 100,000 passengers. Most calls do not result in a diversion. However, the professional consultation helps the operating crew to make better decisions and offer the right support to the affected passengers, particularly when there are no volunteer medical professionals on the flight.
Emirates’ Executive Vice President, Mr. Al Redha, cautions that in case of diversion the location selected may be some place where medical costs are expensive. Thus, travelers should always purchase appropriate insurance before they travel.