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medical-conditions

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Travelling if you have a medical condition

White cross on green background.

Travelling if you have a medical condition can be daunting but most of the time you can travel without doing anything any differently. Sometimes you may need to take precautions and this information will help you understand what you need to be aware of.

We also recommend you buy suitable medical insurance as medical charges and repatriation costs can be very expensive depending on the country you are visiting. We offer you the opportunity to buy travel insurance as part of your flight booking but it is only available for some countries. If it's available you will see the option when you are confirming and paying for your flights.

Medical clearance and fitness to fly - am I fit to fly?

Some medical conditions mean you need to talk to us before your flight so we can make sure you are fit to fly.

Conditions that may require medical clearance are:

  • recent illness, hospitalisation, injury or surgery
  • existing unstable medical condition
  • need for additional oxygen or use of medical equipment on board
  • travelling for medical reasons or treatment

You will need to complete part one of our MEDIF form and ask your doctor to complete part two. Once you have sent the form to our Passenger Medical Clearance Unit (PMCU) we will be able to consider your request and tell you whether you are fit to fly.

Download the MEDIF form (pdf, 650kb, English only)

We assess your fitness based on internationally accepted criteria so we can be sure you have a safe and comfortable flight. In some cases we may ask for additional information or ask you to travel with a medical escort or supplementary oxygen.

World Health Organisation fitness to fly information (pdf, 84kb, English only)

Passenger Medical Clearance Unit (PMCU) contact details

British Airways and OpenSkies have a dedicated Passenger Medical Clearance team who process all completed medical paperwork. They will assess your fitness to fly and advise accordingly.

Passenger Medical Clearance Unit contact details
Telephone + 44 (0) 20 8738 8268
Fax + 44 (0) 20 8738 9313
Email safety.1.safety@ba.com

British Airways Safety team

If your medical equipment contains batteries there may be restrictions that apply. British Airways has a dedicated Safety Team that will advise whether your electrical medical equipment can be carried on the aircraft. If you're flying on OpenSkies, please contact OpenSkies direct.

Safety team contact details
Telephone + 44 (0) 20 8738 8357
Fax + 44 (0) 20 8738 9313
Email

Email the Safety team

collapsedshowFlying after an illness or an operation

You need to be very careful if you're considering flying after an operation or illness. Please consult with your doctor before booking your flight to confirm they're happy for you to fly.

The details below are a guide to the minimum time you must leave before you can travel and also whether you need to tell us about your condition; if you are in any doubt, please contact us.

Medical condition You can travel after: Do you need to contact us?
Major chest, abdominal or cranial surgery. Middle ear surgery. 10 days  
Cataract surgery and corneal laser surgery. 1 day  
Other eye surgery. At least 6 days If you have had gas introduced into your eye (e.g. for treatment of detached retina) please
contact our PMCU* who may require reports from your treating doctor.
Tonsillectomy. 6 days  
Appendectomy or abdominal keyhole surgery. 4 days  
Heart conditions
Angioplast. You can usually fly after 3 to 5 days if the procedure went well. Contact our PMCU*
Heart surgery. If you feel well you can travel after 10 days but we suggest you wait until after 4 weeks if possible.  
Heart attack. You should not fly within 7 days and then only fly if it’s essential to do so. We suggest you are better to wait until after 4 weeks.  
Angina sufferers. If you don’t have regular attacks you can fly at any time but always carry your medication in your hand baggage.  
Chest conditions
Stable asthma. You can travel at any time but always carry your inhalers with you in your hand baggage.  
Chronic bronchitis, emphysema or other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If you can walk 50m, without oxygen and getting breathless, you should be fit to fly.
If you can’t walk this far you may need supplementary oxygen in flight which must be pre-booked.
Even if you are intending to use your own POC, please contact our PMCU*.
Pneumothorax (deflated lung). You cannot fly unless the condition is fully resolved for at least 7 days. Contact our PMCU* if you’ve suffered this condition within a month of the date you want to fly.
Neurological conditions
Stroke. If you are feeling well enough and your symptoms are stable or improving you can fly after 3 days. Contact our PMCU* if you’ve had a stroke within 10 days of the date you want to fly.
Epilepsy. You should not travel within 24 hours of a grand mal fit (seizure).  
Ear conditions
Ear or sinus infection. Do not fly if your ears or sinuses feel blocked.
You may suffer severe pain or perforate your eardrum causing long term damage. The air in your middle ear and sinuses needs to be able to stabilise when you fly by allowing your ears to pop.
 
Other conditions
Broken bone.

If you suffer a broken bone and have a plaster cast fitted you cannot fly within:

  • 24 hours if your planned flight is less than two hours
  • 48 hours if your flight is longer than two hours

If you have a full leg cast you can travel in our First and Club World cabin.
To be able to travel in all of our other cabins you will need to buy an extra seat, with moveable armrests, so you can elevate your leg.

In some circumstances these restrictions may not apply but you need to contact our PMCU* to discuss your individual case.

Anaemia. If your haemoglobin is below 7.5g/dl please let us know. Contact our PMCU*
Infectious disease. International Health  Regulations stop us carrying you if you are suffering from an infectious disease while it is still contagious. Contact your doctor or contact our PMCU* to find out the infectivity period of your illness.
Travelling with a medical escort. Sometimes, even if your medical condition is serious, you can still travel but it must be with medical escort. We recommend you book this through a recognised medical assistance company who specialise in this type of work.  
*Passengers Medical Clearance Unit

 

 

collapsedshowIn-flight oxygen

If you need to use oxygen on board you must book it in advance. We can only provide oxygen to one passenger per flight so availability may be restricted. The medical information form needs to be completed by you and your doctor before we can clear you to travel. We cannot provide oxygen on the ground at any airports.

How to request Medical clearance

collapsedshowTravelling with medicines or medical equipment
  • Always remember to pack your medication in your hand baggage, if possible in its original packaging.
  • We cannot help you keep your medication cool. Please talk to your pharmacist about your options.
  • If you are flying with medical equipment you may need to contact us for clearance. There are more details further down this page.
  • All equipment must be able to work from a battery, as we cannot guarantee a power supply on board.
  • In most circumstances you can use authorised medical equipment on board, except during taxi, take-off, approach and landing.
  • If you need to use essential medical equipment at your destination that will exceed your luggage allowance, please contact our PMCU.

If you have any additional questions please contact our PMCU.

Nebulisers

You can use a battery-operated nebuliser on board except during taxi, take-off, descent and landing. It is not possible to supply mains power.

CPAP machine

  • You do not need medical clearance to travel with or use a CPAP machine for sleep apnoea.
  • These machines can use an adaptor to plug into a laptop power point if it’s available. We do recommend using a dry cell battery to operate your machine just in case the power point near your seat is not working.
  • The maximum power output of our laptop point is 75 watts. If your machine needs more power than this then the power point will automatically switch off.

Portable dialysis machines

Most of the time you can take this equipment on board or pack it in your checked baggage. If this means you will exceed your free baggage allowance, contact our PMCU otherwise you may be charged at the airport for your overweight bag.

Portable Oxygen Concentrators

Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POC) can be used on board if they are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The POC is included in your cabin baggage allowance.

Please obtain medical clearance in advance of travel by completing our medical form and returning it to PMCU. You should carry sufficient back up battery supply to cover a minimum of 150% of the planned flight (including transiting time).

Hand baggage allowance

collapsedshowDisposal of medical equipment

If you need to dispose of needles, lancets, syringes or empty insulin cartridges on board please ask the cabin crew for the sharps box; do not leave the items in the toilets or seat pockets.

collapsedshowTravellers' thrombosis (DVT)

Traveller’s thrombosis or deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a vein, usually in the lower legs. Research has confirmed that if you are sitting in an aircraft, car, bus or train for more than four hours the risk of a blood clot forming may increase.

Factors increasing the risk of DVT include:

  • being over the age of 40
  • suffering previously from DVT or a pulmonary embolism or someone in your close family suffering from it
  • use of oestrogen-therapy, oral contraceptives ('the Pill') or hormone-replacement therapy (HRT)
  • pregnancy
  • recent surgery or trauma, particularly to the abdomen, pelvic region or legs
  • cancer
  • some inherited blood-clotting abnormalities and other blood disorders

If you think any of the factors above may affect you, seek medical advice before travelling. You may be advised that compression stockings or anti-coagulant medication may help to avoid the possibility of DVT.

You can reduce the risk of DVT by:

  • drinking normal amounts of fluid
  • avoiding alcohol and caffeine
  • avoiding smoking
  • avoiding crossing your legs when you’re sitting down
  • taking a walk around the cabin regularly
  • standing in your seat area and stretching your arms and legs
  • doing regular foot and leg exercises during the flight
  • wearing loose fitting comfortable clothes when you’re travelling
collapsedshowTravelling when you are pregnant

We understand that pregnancy is not a medical condition but for your safety, and your baby’s, you cannot fly after:

  • the end of the 36th week if you are pregnant with one baby
  • the end of the 32nd week if you are pregnant with more than one baby

After 28 weeks you must carry confirmation from your doctor or midwife (such as a letter or certificate, in addition to your pregnancy record) confirming your approximate due date and that there are no complications with your pregnancy.

collapsedshowGuidance for Diabetics

If your diabetes is stable you can fly with no restrictions, however you need to take care that you look after yourself during your trip.

  • If you are crossing time zones make sure you know how to manage your insulin regime throughout the trip.
  • You should carry your insulin in your hand baggage otherwise it may freeze in the hold.
  • Your insulin should be in the original packaging, easily identifiable and accessible during the flight.
  • Always carry a prescription or supporting letter from your doctor to avoid delays at security or customs.

Advice from Diabetes UK

collapsedshowAdvice for food allergy sufferers

Food allergies vary by type and severity. Common allergies include peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, dairy, shellfish and strawberries. You can request a special or medical meal to exclude a variety of potential allergens e.g. seafood, dairy and gluten.

Travelling with food allergies

Special meals we can offer you

Anaphylaxis campaign website

Severe allergic reactions on board are rare, but if you suffer from a severe allergy you may want to consider the following precautions before you fly.

Cabin environment

We cannot guarantee a nut free cabin, or prevent other passengers from bringing their own food on board. We use the recommendations of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for allergen sensitive passengers to make sure your flight is as comfortable as we can make it.

Always speak to your doctor before you book to travel to discuss the potential risks and how you can minimise becoming ill on your trip. If you have been prescribed an epinephrine/adrenaline auto injector like Epipen, Anapen, Twinject or Jext make sure you carry this with you in your hand baggage, clearly labelled and accessible throughout the flight in the seat pocket or on you personally. We also recommend you tell the people around you where you have placed the medication and what to do in an emergency just in case.

Being prepared

Please talk to your doctor about the many things you can do to be prepared in case you come into contact with an allergen.

Here are a few examples to think about:

  • Wear a medi-alert bracelet.
  • Advise cabin crew and the people seated next to you of your allergy.
  • Ensure your medication is easily accessible.
  • Cabin crew are trained to recognise symptoms of anaphylaxis and administer treatment but if you are travelling with family, friends or guardians they would be expected to treat you first.
  • Clearly label your medication to show who it should be administered to.
  • Carry an emergency treatment plan and a letter signed by your doctor so you can minimise delays at security going through the airport as you will have your medication in your hand baggage.

British Airways are unable to heat or cold store any food items you might bring with you, so if you do prefer to consume your own food, non-perishable food is best. You should also check the different quarantine laws of your transit and/or destination with respect to food types permitted into the country.

collapsedshowSpraying the cabin

We are required by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to spray the aircraft cabin on arrival into certain destinations to prevent the risk of insects spreading highly dangerous disease, such as malaria and dengue fever.

On routes where we are required to spray, cabin crew will read out a brief statement advising you that spraying is about to take place. This will give you the opportunity to cover your eyes and nose if you wish.

The spray clears from the aircraft in a few minutes.

Contents of the insecticides

The sprays contain synthetic pyrethroids, which are widely used.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) assesses the safety of insecticides and recommends the use of the following synthetic pyrethroids:

  • D-phenothrin, which has lethal effects on domestic insect pests. It is used against mosquitoes, houseflies and cockroaches.
  • Permethrin, which is a broad spectrum insecticide used against a variety of pests.

N.B. Aircraft entering Australia and New Zealand need to be sprayed twice - initially with Permethrin residual insecticide and then with a Phenothrin spray.

BA flights which require disinsection
BA flights arriving into the UK
Country Flights departing from
Algeria Algiers
Angola Luanda
Argentina Buenos Aires
Azerbaijan Baku
Bahamas Nassau
Brazil Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo
China Beijing, Chengdu, Hong Kong, Shanghai
Egypt Cairo
Ghana Accra
India Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai
Jamaica Kingston
Kenya Nairobi
Liberia Monrovia (after departure from Freetown)
Mexico Cancun, Mexico City
Nigeria Abuja, Lagos
Saudi Arabia Riyadh, Jeddah
Sierra Leone Freetown
South Africa Cape Town, Johannesburg
South Korea Seoul
Thailand Bangkok
Uganda Entebbe
BA flights departing from the UK
Flights to: Flights arriving at: 
Argentina Buenos Aires
Barbados Barbados 
India Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai 
Jamaica Kingston 
Kenya Nairobi 
BA shuttle routes outside the UK
Flights departing from: Flights arriving at: 
Antigua Tobago 
Colombo Maldives
Grenada St Lucia 
Maldives Colombo
Muscat Abu Dhabi
Port of Spain St Lucia
Punta Cana Antigua
Singapore Sydney
St Lucia Grenada
St Lucia Port of Spain
collapsedshowMASTA Travel Clinics and vaccination records

Our preferred travel partner for health services is MASTA (Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad). As a health provider they have a network of travel clinics across the UK. They provide expert travel medicine advice and treatment including a comprehensive immunisation service and a wide range of anti-malarial drugs.

Useful information about their central London clinic

  • Situated close to Oxford Circus at 52 Margaret Street.
  • Open six days a week offering appointments and walk-in service.
  • Appointment telephone number: 0845 600 2236 (from the UK).

More about MASTA and their network of clinics

 BA Travel Clinics vaccination records

If you were vaccinated at one of our BA Travel Clinics before they closed in August 2006, we may have copies of your vaccination records. If you need a letter confirming these, please write to the address below stating your name, address, data of birth, contact number and enclose a stamp addressed envelope.  Please note that information will only be traced back as far as 2002.

However, we do provide duplicate current Yellow Fever certificates.  Please write to the address below stating your name, address, date of birth, contact telephone number, month and year of your Yellow Fever vaccination and enclose a stamp addressed envelope.  An administrative charge of £10 is made for this service which should be paid by cheque made payable to British Airways Health Services.

British Airways Health Services - Travel Clinic records
British Airways Plc
Europe House
Waterside (HMAG)
PO Box 365
Harmondsworth UB7 0GB

collapsedshowHealth and vaccination information

Visit the IATA website for vaccination requirements and information regarding your country of travel and any medical information that you need to know about before you fly.

IATA Travel Centre