Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: In the face of long flight delays, what advice do you have for a diabetic?

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Q You have reported some extremely long flight delays in the past few months. I am a diabetic, and therefore have to take the necessary insulin and the associated equipment wherever I go. I have just decided to start flying again after a long lapse. What precautions must I take?

Name withheld

A Before you go abroad, look at the excellent advice for travellers with diabetes from the NHS, for which I have created the following short link:

The main points: before you travel, ask your GP for a covering letter that explains why you have to carry insulin, needles and syringes, etc. This will make life much easier at airport security and overseas customs.

When choosing travel insurance, declare your condition to the insurer. Diabetes UK has some good policies ( – though the NHS points out, “Many regular insurance companies do not charge extra for insuring people with diabetes, if they have no complications”. In any event, for European travel you should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC, through

Now to flight delays: hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Assume you will never see your checked-in baggage again, and carry all your essentials in hand luggage (with that letter from your GP). Don’t pack your extra supplies of insulin in baggage for the hold, in case temperature changes cause degradation.

Some airlines will take items such as insulin and syringes away from you during the flight and return them at the end. “Be prepared for any eventuality e.g. delays, cancellations, re-routing or stopovers,” says the NHS – advising that you “Carry extra food and snacks to ensure adequate intake or perhaps supplement airline food”.

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