Airline pax medical emergency 2023 survey results

Airline pax medical emergency 2023 survey results

In August 2023, the AFAP surveyed members on airline passenger medical emergencies with a good response rate. The most recurring messages were for improvement on response times on the ground and information flow amongst parties involved in managing an emergency.

The AFAP survey on airline passenger medical emergencies conducted in August 2023 gathered responses from 411 participants (93.7% from Australian airline pilots). Out of these, 251 of our members completed the survey. The answers provided were interesting even though not completely unexpected, with the most recurring suggestions for improvement being response times on the ground and information flow amongst parties involved in managing an emergency. Additionally, feedback received suggested that, whilst flight crews are trained to follow the SOPs, they are not medically trained and do not receive appropriate and sufficient training to make informed decisions when faced with a medical emergency onboard.

Key findings included:

  • Sightly over one-third (38%) of completed surveys reported experiencing some form of passenger medical emergency in the preceding 12 months.
  • The majority of ATC PAN calls (63.5%) were made to ATC (mainly BN CEN or ML CEN), followed by a call to company (30%), with 20% of respondents notifying two or more different stations.
  • Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth – being the busiest Australian airports in passenger movement numbers – accounted for two-thirds of passenger medical emergencies.
  • Two-thirds of respondents rated the response from company/airport/ATC ARFF in handling their medical emergency situation as satisfactory or very satisfactory. The remaining respondents’ feedback was that the response received was either unsatisfactory or very unsatisfactory.
  • ARFFS and Ambulance/Paramedics were the primary first responders attending the aircraft, followed by company or airport various representatives (not necessarily medically trained).
  • About two-thirds of respondents felt the first responders attending the scene were qualified to handle the situation.

Main suggestions for improvement included:

  • Enhancing response times, including waiting for an ambulance on arrival or its no-show,
  • Improvement of information flow, such as information about ambulance ETA and availability of medical emergency services at various airports, as well as clarification on and confirmation of responsibility for organising services and attending the medical emergency scene,
  • Having ambulances or medically trained personnel on standby at major airports, and
  • Utilizing ARFFS instead of ambulance services for minor medical emergencies.

Flight crews are not medically trained and rely on third-hand information to decide whether to declare a medical PAN or not, and which medical services to request upon arrival. Some feedback received suggested a need for more specific airline training targeted at handling onboard medical emergencies which would facilitate and help to improve pilots’ decision-making process. At the time of survey only Qantas had MedLink services available to their flight crews to use onboard.

Overall, the survey highlighted several areas for improvement in response procedures and communication during passenger medical emergencies, particularly in enhancing response times on the ground and providing better information to flight crew to assist them with informed decision-making how to handle a passenger medical emergency.


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