Flight diversion, medical emergency cost Emirates up to N300m


• Sets new standards for on-board healthcare
A single flight diversion, often due to inflight medical emergencies, costs Emirates Airline an excess of N2.5 to N300 million ($50,000 – $600,000), airline source has said.

The heavy cost depends on the nature of the diversion, which includes 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.

To cut loses, Emirates has introduced new set of standards for on-board medical care, coupled with urge on travellers to acquire appropriate insurance before travel.

Globally, flight diversions due to inflight medical emergencies make up a tiny portion of the millions of flights operated yearly, but it is costly for airlines.

With more people traveling by air, the actual number of inflight medical events has been gradually increasing over the years.

Emirates, the largest airline by international traffic, operate over 3,500 departures a week or more than 194,000 flights in 2016. In those 12 months, the airline handled more than 60 flight diversions due to medical emergencies.

Emirates’ Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Adel Al Redha said the airline never hopes to recover the costs of a flight diversion, but the wellbeing of our customers is always our number one priority.

Al Redha added: “Airlines handle medical emergencies differently, as there are no international regulations on this front. At Emirates, like everything else we do, the safety of our passengers comes first. If there is a medical emergency on board, our crew have the training and equipment to help them assess the situation, and deliver the best possible outcome for the affected passengers.”

In 2016, Emirates delivered nearly 23,000 hours of medical training for cabin crew and pilots, ensuring they are ready to assist passengers on board.

All Emirates cabin crew go through a comprehensive initial training programme which is required by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority, recurrent training to keep their skills up to date, as well as additional specific training for the use of on board medical equipment.

The medical training that Emirates cabin crew undertake includes both theory and practical aspects. It prepares them to recognise and deal with common situations, but more importantly handle rare but life-threatening events when time is of essence.

Al Redha noted that on the average, Emirates’ crew make about 20 calls to the medical advisory service per 100,000 passengers flown. Most calls do not result in a diversion, but 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.

The Vice President said: “If we have to divert a flight, our aim is to get medical attention for the afflicted passenger as soon as possible. Via our medical advisory consultants and Emirates’ own operations control team, we identify the best location where the passenger may receive appropriate care, and where the airport can adequately support the passengers and aircraft.

“The diversion location selected may be someplace where medical costs are expensive and travellers should consider procuring the appropriate insurance before they travel.”

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