Author's headshot
Cathy Carothers
Customer Service Representative
Mar 1 2019

Denied At The Gate

What To Do When Your Injury Prevents Travel By Commercial Airline

Traveling is always fun and almost never results in an injury. If a traveler does get injured while on a vacation or on a business trip, how you transfer a patient home can become very complicated very quickly.

Recently a fun trip to Costa Rica for one of our patients ended with an air ambulance transport home. While on vacation our patient fell and fractured his leg in two places. After a consult between the surgeon in Costa Rica and the surgeon in the patient’s home hospital, it was determined that the patient should return home to the United States for surgery. Because the patient’s leg was casted and only needed to be elevated, the family decided to fly a family member to Costa Rica to assist the patient home. The family member arrived, transported the patient to the airport, assisted him through security, and arrived at the gate for departure. It was at this point that things became complicated.

On every domestic and international commercial flight the pilots, flight attendants, and gate personnel have the discretion to deny a passenger boarding if they believe that transporting the passenger presents a risk to the passenger or any other passenger aboard the aircraft. Because this patient was in obvious pain, needed to keep his leg elevated throughout the flight, and the seating on the aircraft would not allow for this, he was denied boarding. This obviously caused undo stress for the patient and much expense and stress for the family. Ironically, we had received a call from a friend of the family the day before the flight asking if we would arrange ground ambulance transportation for the patient once he arrived via the commercial airline.

At that time our international flight coordinator alerted the caller of the scenario where the patient would be denied boarding. The family decided to give their plan a try because the tickets had already been purchased and were not refundable. The coordinator encouraged the family to have a backup plan including a place where the patient could rest and to call our number right away so we could begin our process of assisting the family in getting the patient back home for further treatment.

Fortunately, the family did call Global Air Ambulance and we worked quickly with the family to arrange a private air ambulance to transport the patient from Costa Rica to the United States. We contacted the patient and the family member in Costa Rica to alleviate their concerns of how they were going to return home. We provided an itinerary to the family both in Costa Rica and the United States. We arranged for a ground ambulance to pick up the patient and the family member and transport them to a private terminal at the airport in Costa Rica where our aircraft and medical crew were waiting. We were able to position the patient on our medical stretcher and begin administering pain medication to make him comfortable throughout the flight. The family member was seated at the foot of the stretcher and their luggage was properly stowed. Upon our arrival at the patient’s home airport, a ground ambulance was waiting to take the patient and passenger to the desired hospital for surgical care. This situation ended well, and all of us at Global Air Ambulance were grateful to be able assist the patient and the patient’s family.

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