Air travel as a diabetic: What do I need, what do I have to take care of?
If you are a diabetic and would like to travel by plane with your injection and measuring equipment, there are a few things to consider. On the one hand, of course, all the necessary utensils must be thought of before the start of the journey, on the other hand, it must be ensured that all the necessary items can be taken on board the plane.
Those who search the internet for answers will find a lot of information that is partly contradictory, outdated or not complete. I have got to the bottom of the matter and provide you here with templates for certificates and ID cards and write down what else you have to pay attention to.
Generally applicable rules and documents – Not found
The first time we dealt with this topic we found a lot of information on various websites, but there was no comprehensive solution: certain information was missing in forms for certificates, and we also found contradictory information regarding the handling of diabetes patients on various airlines. We found horror stories, half-truths and outdated information: On a website it was described that one should inform the airline days before the trip that one plans to take injection equipment on the plane as a diabetic, which would make every last minute flight impossible. Probably absolute nonsense, after all we want to carry medicine, not import uranium.
In addition, there are no internationally recognized and official forms or ID cards that clearly identify and authorize a diabetic as such. Actually, it is strange when you look at the number of patients suffering from diabetes worldwide. And from this lack of standards, a veritable proliferation of requirements, templates, ID cards, etc., is then created.
I could not really believe some of the information. So I got behind it and try to collect all the information here. Surely you help one or the other to live and travel better with his illness. Furthermore you will find here a complete and useful form to fill out by the attending doctor.
What do I need as a diabetic to fly with my medical equipment?
On the internet we found several forms for this certificate, but often certain parts of the accessories were missing, which in turn can lead to the refusal of boarding. Almost none of the forms available on the internet contained a placeholder for cooling batteries to cool the insulin on board. However, this is required by many airlines, see the section “Dealing with diabetes on various airlines”. You can download my completed certificate as a template here, fill it out and have it stamped and signed by your doctor.
The certificate used in each case should be no more than two years old. Therefore, renew it regularly with your doctor.
I recommend carrying two original copies of this document with you: One with your hand luggage for presentation at security checkpoints, one close to the insulin supply in your luggage.
Diabetic identity card
There is no so-called “diabetic card” at all – at least not as an official and internationally recognized document. Instead, it is issued by pharmacies, health associations, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and doctors, but looks different every time, depending on the issuer. What I mean to say is that the appearance of the diabetic card varies, what is important is the existence of such a document and the correct information on the card.
Forms for this are also available on the Internet:
Cooling bag for insulin in hand luggage and luggage
Insulin must be cooled. However, there are no cooling facilities available on the plane, so we have to make sure that the insulin in hand luggage and checked-in luggage is sufficiently cooled ourselves. It makes sense to use thermo-insulated containers and bags and to use gel cooling batteries, provided that these are also certified by the doctor.
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- Platz: drei Fächer für alle notwendigen Utensilien
In order to prove that the syringe, sensor or test strips you are carrying are indeed regular medical products, it may be useful to carry their packaging folded. In case of doubt, you can assure the security staff that the sensor you are carrying is really a glucose sensor.
Dealing with diabetes at various airlines
I wanted to be sure and rule out the possibility that one of the airlines I use most often would make demands on diabetes patients that we had not considered before. With the following text I therefore turned to Eurowings, Lufthansa, British Airways, SAS and Emirates.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
next year I plan to fly with my best friend with %Placeholder for name of airline%.
My friend is a type 1 diabetes patient and therefore has to carry insulin, blood glucose meters and sensors, syringes, glucose and other vital accessories with him on flights.
Since we want to prepare ourselves optimally, I would like to ask you to answer the following three questions:
Are there any special requirements at %Placeholder for name of airline% that we have to take into account when travelling?
As an airline, do you recommend a special form as a certificate from the doctor treating you about the illness?
Is it possible that the board personnel can store the insulin carried in their hand luggage in a cool place, e.g. a refrigerator, during the flight?
Many thanks in advance for your efforts!
The answer from Lufthansa’s “Special Service” department is just under an hour away:
Good morning, Mr. Beckemeier,
thank you for your email. Your friend is welcome to take the syringes, insulin and equipment into the cabin. If he has a diabetic card, this is sufficient and we do not need another certificate. You are responsible for cooling the medication yourself. There are no refrigerators on board.
With kind regards
Aha: So here you need a diabetic card. Exciting, because a “diabetic card” does not exist as an official document, as described above. Instead, it is issued by pharmacies, health associations, health insurance companies and doctors, but looks different every time, depending on the issuer. My tip: Just get such a passport somewhere and be prepared for everything. Make sure that the passport is multilingual and can also be read abroad.
Forms for this are also available on the Internet:
The reply from the British Airways Passenger Medical Clearance Unit reaches me only 5 minutes after I have sent my request. Impressively fast, friendly and meaningful.
Good morning Mr Beckemeier,
Thank you for your email. Here are the answers to your questions.
We do not have any special requirements, medical clearance is not required for Diabetes.
We recommend that you carry a Doctor’s letter to carry the medication and supplies through the airport security screening.
We do not have any refrigeration facilities onboard. If you need to keep the insulin cool we recommend that you travel with a cool bag. If you are taking gel packs in the cool bag, the Doctor’s letter must refer to this.
Please let us know if you require any further information.
Kind regards, XXXXX
Passenger Medical Clearance Unit
British Airways therefore only requires a completed letter from the attending doctor.
A cooling of the insulin carried along cannot be offered, instead one should use a cool bag for cooling oneself. An important note is also included: If there are gel pads in the cool bag, these should also be explicitly mentioned in the letter from the doctor.
There are no contact forms or contact email addresses for written enquiries on the Emirates website. However, the following practical information is provided on the website:
In the sections “Practical advice” and “Known health problems” you will find the following lines:
- Take medication that you need regularly with you in your hand luggage.
- Do not forget to take the necessary prescriptions with you and ask your family doctor for written confirmation that you need the appropriate medication. This will help you avoid problems with the customs authorities.
- Ask your doctor for a letter describing your health problems and usual treatment (including special medicines and their dosage).
- Take a sufficient quantity of the required medication with you and carry it in your hand luggage.
- Please note that we cannot keep any medication refrigerated for you. Please make sure that you keep your medication refrigerated, for example in a cool bag or thermos flask.
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