Emergency medical kits on board commercial aircraft: a comparative study

Travel Med Infect Dis. 2010 Nov;8(6):388-94. doi: 10.1016/j.tmaid.2010.10.008. Epub 2010 Nov 13.


Background: In cases of critical medical situations on board commercial aircraft, access to emergency medical kits can be lifesaving. Thus, this comparative study investigated acute care medication and equipment supplied in emergency medical kits on board both low-cost carriers and full-service carriers.

Methods: Thirty-two European airlines (sixteen low-cost carriers and sixteen full-service-carriers) were asked to provide anonymous data on the contents of their emergency medical kits. All emergency medical equipment and medication carried on board were subject to a descriptive analysis with regards to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for emergency medical kits, as well as variation and differences between low-cost carriers and full-service carriers.

Results: A total of twelve airlines (seven full-service carriers and five low-cost carriers) participated in this study. None complied with ICAO standards. Emergency medical kits from both full-service carriers and low-cost carriers exhibited a high degree of variability. Two European low-cost carriers were assessed as being insufficiently equipped for a medical emergency requiring acute care.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates the high degree of variability in the contents of emergency medical kits. Additionally, some airlines were equipped insufficiently for a critical medical situation on board their aircraft. Frequent checks of national authorities and further evaluation of acute care equipment are required to prepare for potentially life-threatening critical conditions occurring in special environments, such as in airplane during flight.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft*
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards*
  • Emergency Medical Services / supply & distribution*
  • Europe
  • First Aid / instrumentation
  • First Aid / standards*
  • Humans
  • Travel