Air ambulances are aircraft that have been specifically outfitted to transport people in need to a medical facility. They have the same intensive care tools as an ambulance, including a flight stretcher, medical equipment, medication and a full team of professionally trained medical care professionals.

Air ambulances are used to reach locations that are inaccessible by ground transport or to take patients distances of over 250 miles quickly. They can also bring patients who are elderly and/or who cannot travel commercially to rehabilitation centers, medical facilities or home.

Top 8 Best Rated Air Ambulance

Acadian Air Medical Transports is an air ambulance company that serves the Louisiana and Gulf of Mexico area. Headquartered in Lafayette, LA, the company has been providing air ambulance services since 1981.
Angel MedFlight is an air ambulance company that was formed in 2007. The company serves patients worldwide, and it helps customers handle the entire air ambulance process -- from medical care to dealing with insurance claims.

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What features matter most?

Customer service

Air ambulance companies must interact with customers in high-stress or emotional situations, and they have developed systems by which they conduct their customer service practices, including incoming calls from passengers.

  • Call center: Air ambulance companies that utilize a call center have passengers call a large call center to arrange their medical flight, and a representative at the call center handles communication directly with medical representatives.
  • Case managers: Some air ambulance companies have customers speak directly to a case manager, who can help arrange the air ambulance flight.
  • Medical professionals: Nurses and other medical professionals handle the calls directly at some companies, so they can give customers medical advice and instruction from the first call.

Flight staff

Companies that fly air ambulances have different staff members onboard, including medical staff and flight staff.

  • Contracted staff: Companies with contracted staff hire outside pilots and medical staff for their air ambulances.
  • Company medical staff: Some air ambulance companies have their own medical and flight staff who fly air ambulances and are present on every flight.
  • Mixed contracted and company staff: Some companies use a mix of company staff and contracted staff, like company medical practitioners paired with a contracted pilot.

Aircraft types

The type of aircraft used by air ambulance companies ranges from company to company, and it can effect a passenger's experience.

  • Non-pressurized aircraft : Some air ambulance companies use non-pressurized aircraft to transport medical patients from one place to another.
  • Large pressurized aircraft: Large pressurized aircraft, like jets, are bigger and have more solid construction, and they are often considered safer and better for long distances than non-pressurized aircraft.
  • Small pressurized aircraft: Some air ambulance companies use smaller pressurized aircraft, like twin turboprops.

Accreditation

There are many kinds of certifications that air ambulance companies can get, and a customer can verify certain aspects of a company's service and quality by evaluating its accreditations and certifications.

  • CAMTS accredited: CAMTS, or the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems, certifies air ambulance companies that meet a certain standard of competency and safety.
  • FAA certification: Most air ambulance companies have an FAA Part 135 Certificate, which certifies that the FAA has allowed them to fly an air ambulance.
  • ARGUS rating: ARGUS rates and certifies chartered aircraft providers that demonstrate a certain level of safety and knowledge.

Passenger capacity

Air ambulance companies that transport patients fly planes of different sizes, and they have different rules about how many passengers can fly on a plane.

  • One medical professional: Some air ambulance companies only fly planes that have the capacity to take one patient and one health care provider on a flight.
  • Multiple medical professionals: Many air ambulance companies have the capacity to take multiple healthcare professionals on a flight to provide care for the patient en route.
  • Medical professionals and a passenger: Air ambulance companies with large planes can often take a medical team, a patient, and a loved one of the patient to fly as well.

Training

Air ambulances require healthcare professionals to fly and tend to patients, and the training of these professionals and the pilots that fly the planes can affect a patient's flight experience.

  • Specialized air emergency training: Some air ambulance companies use medical professionals with special emergency training for air ambulances, like advanced life support and neonatal care.
  • Standard training: There are companies that simply use staff with standard training--like nursing degrees--to care for patients during a flight.
  • EMT training: Air ambulance companies often utilize professionals with EMT training, who have been a paramedic or had experience transporting people in an on-ground ambulance.

What are different types of air ambulance companies?

Military air ambulance companies

The military commonly uses air ambulances to airlift injured soldiers out of dangerous territory. There are air ambulances that cater solely to military situations.

Non-profit air ambulance companies

Non-profit air ambulance companies operate ambulances to serve as a charity and service for those patients who are in need, rather than a company that operates ambulances to make a profit.

For-profit air ambulance companies

Some companies that offer air ambulance services operate as standard, for-profit businesses offering individuals the ability to charter a medical emergency flight.

Trauma transport companies

Trauma transport companies only exist to serve patients with traumatic injuries. They are often equipped with special medical equipment for life-threatening situations.

Medical escort companies

There are air ambulance companies that do not operate their own aircraft. Instead, the company sends medical professionals and equipment on a standard commercial flight with a patient in need.

Who's it for?

Patients who need to reach medical care that is far away

Patients who need to reach a medical facility that is many miles away can use an air ambulance to reach that destination more quickly.

Elderly patients

Elderly patients who are not strong enough or well enough to travel by car or traditional airplane can utilize air ambulance services.

Patients who need medical help in remote or hard-to-access terrain

People who become injured or ill somewhere that is hard-to-reach or inaccessible by road often rely on air ambulances to remove them from the situation and get them to medical help.

People who are ill or injured abroad

People who need medical care and are outside of their country are often transported by air ambulance back to their country for medical care or rehabilitation.

Company reviews

  • Acadian Air Medical Transports

    Acadian Air Medical Transports are known for flying first-response medical flights. The air service launched in 1981 in the Gulf of Mexico.

    • Best for Patients who need to reach medical care that is far away,, elderly patients and patients who need medical help in remote or hard-to-access terrain.
  • Angel MedFlight

    (Date Published: 4/23/2015) Angel Medflight offers air ambulance services across the world. The company was founded in 2007 and offers patients in emergency situations bedside-to-bedside service.

    • Best for Patients who need to reach medical care that is far away, elderly patients,, patients who need medical help in remote or hard-to-access terrain and people who are ill, or injured abroad.
  • Air Ambulance Worldwide

    Air Ambulance Worldwide is a small, privately owned air ambulance company. It's headquartered in Palm Harbor, FL.

    • Best for Patients who need to reach medical care that is far away, elderly patients, and people who are ill or injured abroad.

  • Jet Rescue Air Ambulance

    Jet Rescue provides worldwide air ambulance services, particularly in Mexico and Central and South America. The company has been in operation since 1994 and is based in Boca Raton, FL.

    • Best for Patients who need to reach medical care that is far away, elderly patients,, patients who need medical help in remote or hard-to-access terrain , and people who are ill or injured abroad.

  • Travel Care International

    Travel Care is an FAA-licensed provider of air ambulance services internationally. The Charleston-based company began operating in 1980.

    • Best for Patients who need to reach medical care that is far away, elderly patients, and people who are ill or injured abroad.

  • Advanced Air Ambulance

    Advanced Air Ambulance was established in 1990, and it's become a leading air ambulance company in the U.S. The company is headquartered in Miami, FL.

    • Best for Patients who need to reach medical care that is far away, elderly patients,, patients who need medical help in remote or hard-to-access terrain and people who are ill, or injured abroad.

  • AirCARE1 International

    AirCARE1 is an air ambulance company started by RN Denise Wayne and business partner Jake Jacobsen. The company is known for also providing holistic care, in addition to simple emergency attention.

    • Best for Patients who need to reach medical care that is far away, elderly patients , and people who are ill or injured abroad.

  • AeroCare

    AeroCare is a medical transportation company that has been proving air ambulance services since 1989. The company was first started in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and now has three satellite bases of operation.

    • Best for Patients who need to reach medical care that is far away, elderly patients, patients who need, medical help in remote or hard-to-access terrain and people who are ill or injured abroad.