Complex Made Simple

Medical emergency on board planes costs Emirates up to $600,000

In June last year, a San Francisco-bound Etihad flight made an emergency landing in Manchester due to a medical emergency.

Two months earlier, Sharjah-based budget carrier had an unexpected stopover in south Indian coastal city of Goa on its journey to nearby metro city Chennai after a woman passenger fell ill onboard.

Shockingly, Dubai’s Emirates Airline made more than 60 flight diversions due to medical emergencies in 2016.

Although it is a tiny figure compared to more than 194,000 Emirates flights last year, the airline says flight diversions are costly and the number of inflight medical events is on a rise as more people tend to travel by air.

Cost of emergency

More shockingly, a single flight diversion can cost Emirates between $50,000 and $600,000.

The hefty amount is made up of fuel, flight catering, landing and ground handling fees, air navigation cost, passenger rebooking costs and onward connection. It also comprises other expenses spent towards care for crew and passengers.

“Airlines handle medical emergencies differently, as there are no international regulations on this front,” says Adel Al Redha, Emirates’ Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

“We can never hope to recover the costs of a flight diversion, but the wellbeing of our customers is always our number one priority.

Unlikely huge investment

The airline made a staggering $7 million investment in medical equipment on board. Annual maintenance of equipment, which include emergency medical kits, oxygen bottles, resuscitators, a defibrillator, a telemedicine unit as well as a round the clock satellite medical advisory service that connects crew to specialist aviation medical consultants who can help assess the passenger’s situation in real time, alone costs the company an additional $1.7 million.

It also invests significantly on training crew for medical emergencies.

“If there is a medical emergency on board, our crew has the training and equipment to help them assess the situation, and deliver the best possible outcome for the affected passengers,” says Al Redha.

Last year, Emirates delivered nearly 23,000 hours of medical training for cabin crew and pilots.

Interestingly, your flight attendants hands on training to handle  medical conditions including asthma, heart disorders, seizures and allergic reactions. They can also even assist delivery on board.