Charity Organizations that will Fly you To your Cancer Treatment
Do you live in a tiny town hours from the nearest commercial airport and need transportation to a comprehensive cancer center a thousand miles away? Maybe you are worried about traveling on a crowded plane when chemo has wiped out your immune system. Perhaps the expenses of cancer treatment mean that you can not afford a plane ticket for a new treatment not available in your area.
Don’t despair. Check out the many charitable flight services available. I had heard of an organization called Angel Flights, but until I began researching this story, I didn’t know how many different organizations help patients and their families who need transportation. The Air Care Alliance lists more than fifty air charities who provide air transportation for patients and family members. Most involve pilots flying their own small airplanes as volunteers, so they can fly from small communities far from major airports, and patients can avoid the crowds on a commercial flight. Usually patients can bring a family member along to help.
Each has a slightly different mission and requirements, but in general you are probably eligible to use one of these services if you can document that:
The treatment you need is far enough away from home to require a flight
You can get on an airplane without assistance
You are healthy enough to fly in an unpressurized small plane.
Because the pilots are usually flying their own airplanes at their own expense, demonstrating financial need is often a part of the application process.
Bob McConnell, a volunteer pilot for Angel Flights NE, says, “I have met the nicest people while flying Angel Flights. People are often apprehensive about flying and they do it because they need to get somewhere. Often times just talking with people, explaining what will happen during the flight and sharing something personal, makes people feel comfortable about the flight. Once comfortable, people often share their story and begin to enjoy the flight looking out the windows.”
Bob has only praise for Angel Flight. “The folks at the main office for Angel Flight truly want to help if they can. They work hard to coordinate flights and make sure that pilots and passenger get what they need. It’s a terrific organization, merging two groups of people. Pilots who love to fly and want to help others, and passengers who need transportation. It works very well!”
One potential drawback to using this service is that small planes are more vulnerable to weather, so you need a back-up plan in case storms prevent flying. Also you need to schedule well in advance.
The Corporate Angel Network provides a similar service from a corporate perspective, explaining on its website, “Corporate Angel Network is the only charitable organization in the USA whose sole mission is to ease the emotional stress, physical discomfort and financial burden of travel for cancer patients by arranging free flights to treatment centers, using the empty seats on corporate aircraft flying on routine business.”
One advantage to using this service is that you do not need to document financial need. The plane would be flying anyway, and the business is offering you a seat that would otherwise be empty. A disadvantage is that you need to make your application for a flight one to three weeks in advance. If it turns out there is no match between your needs and business flights, you may not find out until one week before you need the flight, so you need a back-up plan.
Most of the air charities work with patients with any medical need, not just cancer patients. One recent case I saw involved flying a dying man back to his home country so he could die surrounded by his family. Many charities will also fly family members to be with a critically ill patient.
If you need to fly for medical appointments, it makes sense to look into these charities. In the cancer world, we hear so much bad news, so it is good to know there really are angels who donate their time and planes help those in need.