Is there a doctor on the plane? Give them frequent-flyer points

Airlines want medics to identify themselves when booking so they can help in emergencies

An airline is offering frequent-flyer points to GPs who register their details so that in the event of an emergency they can be easily found.

Turkish Airlines has joined Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines in inviting medical practitioners to register their details in advance. While cabin-crew members receive first-aid training, they are not always comfortable conducting tests or administering drugs.

The carrier’s chief executive, Dr Temel Kotil, told The Independent: “We know where the medical doctors are sitting in advance, and the cabin attendants can call them to help us.”

Many inflight medical “emergencies” are minor conditions that are exacerbated by altitude, stress and fatigue, such as dizziness, fainting and gastric problems. Other conditions may be self-induced, for example by mixing sedatives with alcohol. But possible heart attacks and strokes often require the plane to be diverted – which can prove extremely expensive.

Major airlines have contracts with ground-based medical teams, such as MedAire in Arizona, which provide inflight advice by satellite phone or radio link to 115 airlines. The company says: “Adequately assessing a potentially infirm passenger may prevent an in-flight medical event and a resulting diversion, reducing the risks associated with an unplanned landing”.

A leading travel-medicine specialist welcomed the move. Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth, a GP and author of The Essential Guide to Travel Health, said: “A better attempt at preserving personal privacy would be maintained, and the casualty wouldn’t be trodden underfoot in the stampede to give assistance. Also, travelling medics who are less practised in emergency medicine might feel less guilty about keeping their heads down.”

The offer of frequent-flyer points for undergoing screening also reduces the risk that passengers might misrepresent their medical expertise. Willing volunteers on Lufthansa can register online, but must fax a copy of their medical licence to the airline’s German HQ to be checked.

One disincentive for flying doctors is the paltry pay-out of frequent-flyer points: 5,000 Turkish Airlines miles are insufficient even for a domestic flight upgrade. Dr Wilson-Howarth described the reward as “stingy,” while Turkish Airlines’ boss Dr Kotil conceded: “What we are giving is almost nothing.”

Inflight medical emergencies are becoming more frequent as the population ages. At the same time, the increased capacity of aircraft means there is a higher chance of a flight emergency. When BA starts flying the Airbus A380 later this year, the capacity of its biggest plane will rise by 36 per cent.

A spokesman for BA told The Independent that it had no plans to introduce a similar system, but added: “When we ask for additional help from any doctors or other medical professionals who are travelling onboard, we are always very grateful and will normally provide a letter of thanks.”

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week