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How to Deal with In-Flight Medical Emergencies

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On February 27, 2018

In last few years a drastic increase in plane passengers has occurred.  More and more people choose to travel by plane.  On average 2.75 billion People are flying annually via commercial flights. Only in Canada, a 27 % increase in passengers has been noticed since 2009 till now. Increase in passengers has increased the complexities to manage the load and maintain the same level of quality services.


Medical Emergency

Facing a medical emergency during flight is not rare anymore. We hear about such incidences in our day to day life. If you are a Doctor, what would be your first thought on hearing the announcement ”Is there any Doctor on board?”  You may be reluctant to take the responsibility because of nervousness. You may back foot hoping for somebody else to offer the service. It is natural phenomena to make any physician anxious on such height.


Reasons for Medical Emergency

The question is how to deal with such emergency situations and what are the reasons leading to it. As there are no accurate parameters to identify emergencies during flight, it’s difficult to track the mishap rates. However, according to Air Canada, there is one emergency situation per 7,700 passengers. Here are the few reasons:

  • The most obvious reason is an increase in passenger traffic.
  • The stress on the body caused by the long duration flights.
  • The increase in old age passengers.
  • Pre-existing medical problems.


Types of Medical Emergency

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of Breath/ Respiratory problems
  • Cardiac Problems
  • Nausea /Vomiting
  • Height Phobia/Nervousness


Initiative Taken

The possible actions are needed to tackle the situation. This issue was highlighted by assistant professor Dr. Alun Ackery from St Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto this year 2018. The Professor Stated:


“We wanted to provide a better understanding of what to expect and how to respond if you’re called to assist in one of these emergencies.”




An initiative has been taken by the Canadian airline Air Canada and West Jet. They have given an overview of the medical emergencies and the possible ways of tackling. What are the legal and ethical responsibilities of the cabin crew? Although the crew is trained about the first aid, the atmosphere and treating patients in the already stressed environment is a different experience.  The airline has set a standard. It’s compulsory for every aircraft having at least 100 passenger seats to carry the medical kit. They also outlined the minimum requirements for the medical kit.


Complete details of medical kit can be found here:

Last modified: April 3, 2018

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