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Flying Doctors Keep Their Feet On The Ground

British Airways is to enhance in-flight medical care for passengers with the appointment of emergency healthcare specialists, MedAire.

Within the next two months, the Phoenix-based company, which is a leader in remote medical advice and patient care, will be helping the airline’s pilots and cabin crew deal with medical emergencies on-board aircraft.

Pilots will be able to speak directly to one of 16 trained doctors via a direct radio or satellite link to the MedAire control centre in Arizona. The doctors provide instant medical expertise from diagnosis and treatment to advice on whether an emergency diversion is required.

The MedAire doctors have access to information on medical care facilities at more than 5,000 airports worldwide. MedAire also provides after-care such as talking with the patient’s family and making arrangements for repatriation for people being treated abroad.

Doctor Mike Bagshaw, Head of Medical Services for British Airways, said: “The safety and welfare of our passengers is our number one concern. While British Airways has been offering a similar in-house service for several years - MedLink takes this a step further. It combines a faster response time for crew with comprehensive care for passengers. The number of in-flight medical emergencies is low, but we still want our passengers to have access to the best medical support we can provide if they are taken-ill.”


As well as significantly enhancing medical care available it is hoped the new system will cut down the number of precautionary diversions and the inconvenience this causes other passengers. In 1997, 34 million passengers flew on British Airways mainline services with 3,000 in-flight medical emergencies, resulting in around 80 medical diversions.

“Our cabin crew are well-trained in medical care and do an excellent job, often with the help of passengers who volunteer their medical expertise using on-board medical kits,” said Doctor Bagshaw. “The ‘MedLink’ system provided by MedAire will provide our crew with greater and more immediate access to medical advice, giving everyone the benefit of real-time expertise at 35,000 feet from doctors on the ground,” he added.