Flying is one of the safest ways to travel and now it’s become even safer with the widespread introduction of airlines flying with a heart AED defibrillator across the global fleet.
It’s incredibly rare for passengers to suffer serious problems on flights, but the presence of the lifesaving devices – known as automated external defibrillators (AEDs) – on planes means a cardiac arrest can be treated and in many cases reversed.
Here we look at Automated External Defibrillators (AED) on planes and how they are being used to ensure air travel is safer than ever before.
Have you got a list of airlines that carry heart AED defibrillators?
The following table shows the airlines that responded to our request for information on AEDs and whether or not their aircraft carry the devices.
The US Federal Aviation Authority has mandated that all commercial airlines operating within the US must have a defibrillator on board for passenger flights.
Cardiac arrest is caused by an abnormal heart rhythm which stops the heart pumping blood round the body. This can happen during a heart attack, but can also occur as a result of various other heart conditions. If a normal heart rhythm cannot be reinstated within in a few minutes, the person will not survive. It is sometimes be possible to keep victims alive with CPR – cardiopulmonary resuscitation – but typically a normal heart rhythm can only be restored by using a heart defibrillator. This is why many aircraft carry defibrillators.
There is no evidence to suggest air passengers are more likely to suffer from sudden cardiac arrest.
Are all UK aircraft required to carry an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)?
All airlines must train staff in first aid and all aircraft must carry first aid kits, but there is no legal requirement to carry an AED in the UK.
Elsewhere, it has been mandatory for all US commercial flights to be equipped with an AED since 2004. This applies to planes that have at least one flight attendant.
Despite not having a legal requirement to do so, it can be seen from our table, above, that many airlines flying from the UK include AEDs on their in-flight safety roster.
There’s no way of knowing the exact number because there’s no mandatory reporting of such incidents.
However, studies suggest medical emergencies occur with a frequency of 1 per 10-40,000 passengers.
Yes! Without an AED, a cardiac arrest is likely to result in a unsuccessful outcome if the plane needs to divert for treatment.
Success rates of up to 55% have been reported in people who received prompt CPR and AED use for cardiac arrest due to a ‘shockable rhythm’.
The type of device used on aircraft and other public places have automated operation, so will only shock the patient if it detects a suitable condition through sensors.
Obviously, you should speak to a medical professional before flying, but in most cases, it’s likely that you will not be prevented from flying. Read our information guide to flying with heart conditions here.
Defibrillators are typically located in the front of the aircraft and in the galley. They are easily accessible to the flight attendants
One major difference is that the cabin pressure can affect the performance of the defibrillator, so flight attendants are trained to adjust the settings accordingly.