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Can you fly when injured?

There is never a good time to pick up an injury. However, breaking a bone just before a holiday or business trip can be particularly stressful. With different airlines enforcing different rules when it comes to flying with plaster casts, not to mention the additional hassle of having to organise disability assistance with the airport and airline you are using, planning ahead is vitally important when flying with an injury. 


With this in mind, here at LJLA we’ve put together this handy guide that tells you if you can fly with a range of common injuries and what extra planning you may have to do before your journey.


Can you fly with a broken bone?


If you have suffered an injury that has resulted in a broken or fractured bone, it is still very possible to travel by plane. That being said, there are a number of factors you must consider beforehand. For example, you should always talk to a doctor or another qualified healthcare professional to see if they believe it would be safe for you to travel with your injury. Additionally, it is important to assess yourself and make a sensible decision based on how physically limited the injury is making you. After all, if you are really struggling with mobility for example, despite getting the all-clear from a doctor, you may not think yourself capable of flying. Finally, it is important to speak to your chosen airline to ensure they are happy with you travelling in your injured state. This is crucial as different airlines have different policies when it comes to injured passengers.


Below we look at a number of common broken bone injuries and detail some of the additional planning that may be necessary before boarding a plane.


Can you fly with a broken arm?


Although, as stressed above, it is important to always check with your specific airline when travelling with a broken arm, most providers will require you wait at least 24 hours after a plaster cast has been added for flights two hours or less, while you may be asked to wait 48 hours for long haul flights. The reason for this is that there is a risk that if you fly immediately after a cast is fitted, your arm can swell and this can affect your blood circulation, which in turn can lead to an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and/or compartment syndrome. If you need to travel before a 24 or 28 hour settling period, you may have to have your cast split by a doctor and then replaced when you have reached your destination.


Can you fly with a broken leg?


As with a broken arm, if your leg is in a plaster cast, you will need to speak to both your GP and your airline to ensure you are safe to fly. Once again, it may be recommended that you wait 24 or 48 hours after the cast has been fitted, or that the cast is split for the duration of your flight before being replaced when you reach your destination. It is important to note that if you have broken both of your legs, it is unlikely you will be allowed to fly due to safety and insurance reasons.


Aside from the flight itself, it’s also important to consider navigating an airport with a broken leg. If you require a wheelchair you should call your airline ahead of your travel date. They can ensure wheelchairs are provided at the airports at both ends of your journey. Additionally, if you are using crutches, it is important that you let your airline know you will be travelling with these ahead of time. However, it’s important to note that these will likely be stored in the hold during your flight, meaning you won't be able to use them until you have landed at your destination.


Finally, if your mobility has been severely affected due to a broken leg, booking convenient airport parking should also be a top priority.  


Can you fly with a broken nose?


Most airlines will allow you to fly with a broken nose, however, it’s always worth contacting your chosen airline before travelling to double check. You may feel more congestion than usual when in the air, and you could experience a nose bleed. For this reason, having a packet of tissues and anti-congestion nasal spray is always a good idea.


Can you fly with a broken jaw?


Typically you can fly with a broken jaw. However, once again it is important you speak to both your doctor and the airline in question before your date of travel. This is especially important as flying with facial injuries can be painful due to the increase in pressure we experience when we fly. For this reason, a doctor may prescribe painkillers to make your flight more comfortable. Additionally, if you have had to have your jaw wired shut to help it heal, it is important to call your airline in advance to let them know. They can advise you on what you need to do ahead of your flight and let the airport know that you have specific needs when going through security.


Can you fly with broken ribs?


As cracked ribs cannot be easily supported during the healing process, flying in the days, or even weeks, following the break can be very painful. For this reason, it is important to take advice from your doctor and speak to your airline if you break ribs less than a week prior to flying. If you have been given the green light by both the airline and a medical professional, you need to think about ways to make your journey more comfortable. This could include taking painkillers, booking more spacious seating and requesting additional airline assistance.


Other conditions to avoid flying with

In any case, it’s best to check with your GP or other medical professional before booking a flight if you suspect you have a condition or injury which may have an impact. You may need to avoid flying if you have:


  • An infectious disease
  • Decompression sickness (also known as the bends)
  • An ear or sinus infection
  • Had a recent heart attack or stroke
  • A chronic respiratory condition
  • Had a recent operation
  • Sickle cell anaemia

What are the types of disability assistance in airports?


From easy pick-up and drop-off parking options to wheelchair services, assisted boarding and priority baggage claim, there are lots of disability assistance services that injured passengers can make use of at most airports. So, if you or anyone in your party is injured, and has been cleared to fly by both a doctor and their chosen airline, simply get in touch with your selected airport and airline ahead of time to make arrangements.