AF Association
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Flying long haul after episode of Atrial flutter the previous day

Hello all first time poster and need to gain some opinion on the above. In October we were due to fly with Virgin to Orlando for 2 weeks as a Silver anniversary holiday to spend 2 weeks in Disney with our daughter and grandson. My wife suffers with Atrial Flutter and had her latest episode approximately 3 weeks before our holiday.

During the early hours before our flight she went into Flutter and made our way to airport on the chance it would revert. Unfortunately this was not the case and she had to be taken to hospital for treatment. The flutter was brought under control without the need for a cardioversion and she was discharged within 5-6 hrs with a fit to fly note from the doctor who was aware that we were due to fly long haul.

Virgin had put our seats for the next day and I emailed the fit to fly to their special assistance team that evening. We also had clearance from our insurance company to continue with the holiday.

The next day we presented ourself at the airport however had not heard back from special assistance. A call was made by Virgin on our behalf however didn't think there would be a problem as we had a fit to fly note from the hospital. To our horror we were advised over the phone that Virgin would not allow my wife to fly until 7 days had passed and as a result our holiday had to be cancelled. The reason cited was that there need to be a period of stability with her condition.

We cannot understand this and are seeking some answers to satisfy ourselves that this would have been an acceptable decision by Virgin? At the point of her heart rhythm returning to normal then surely this is stable? It seems very unfair that the airline can override the opinion of the medical team who provided her treatment. I do understand that the airline can decide who they leave embark but surely there should be medical guidelines they should align with before refusing the flight?

Sorry for the long post but if anyone can point us in the direction of any guidelines that determine a refusal to fly then at least it will be easier to take.

17 Replies
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I do not think that this is within the remit of this forum and whilst I sympathise with your situation we can not advise.. In my personal view this is something you need to discuss with a lawyer but I DO know that airlines can refuse to fly ANYBODY that they feel is unfit to fly regardless. I know some airlines will only allow a set number of disabled passengers onto any plane so wide is their remit.

Good luck.

Bob

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Hi Bob, thanks for the reply. I am not looking for legal advice but really wanted to gain an understanding of this situation from people who may have been in the same situation.Appreciate that airlines can deny someone right of passage however surely if the physician responsible for someone's care signs a document to declare a person is fit to fly then surely that should be the case? We don't want to be in this position in the future so to be forewarned is to be forewarned so to speak.

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Sorry but I cant give you any more advice on this. Everybody is different and sadly the airlines have the upper hand. No amount of medical advice or anecdotal evidence will help I'm afraid once they set the rules, which they can of course change at will. This is why I suggested taking legal advice.

Out of interest I wonder if things would have been different had you not pulled out of the first flight thereby alerting them of a problem. I have flown numerous times whilst in AF with no ill effect other than what would have been normal had I been at home. These conditions are after all chronic rather than life threatening for the most part.

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This is interesting. I'm sorry you had such an unfortunate experience. I'm unable to answer the question in your last para. However I can appreciate the airline's position..unfair though this may appear. Requiring 7 days stability before a long haul flight in the circumstances you descibe sounds quite reasonable to me.

I had alot of problems with A flutter last year and was advised by A&E doc to cancel cruise I was due to embark in 48 hrs as my rate would not drop below 130. 10 days later I went into fast AF and was cardioverted. AF and flutter can be so unpredictable and personally I find that it tends to come in clusters which leads me to be of the opinion that asking for 7 days stability is not unreasonable.

You may well find though that different docs may have conflicting advice to give you!

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Thanks Yatsura. As per my previous reply it would be easier to take if there was guidance that dictated an airlines policy. The reason why this is playing with is is No one has been able to point us to the area of stability and where the 7 days come from. Generalbadvice regarding ablation suggests you can fly the next day. Not the same thing granted but is there such a thing as stable AF? Our understanding was that upon heart rate returning to normal rate then this is the stable part?

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I wouldn't have thought that flying long haul the day following an ablation would be very wise....yikes !!

I'm not medically trained ..just have 25 + years experience dealing with all the vicissitudes of AF. If you are talking about Stable AF then I would have thought that the nearest to that would be someone in permanent AF soldiering along with a slightly raised heart rate....irregular of course. Just my opinion you understand.

Once you are back in normal sinus rhythm you are not in AF although as we all know it can be triggered again and again . Some of us know what our triggers are. Mine can be planning for a holiday ...

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Hopefully and fingers crossed it might be a thing of the past as she had an ablation two weeks ago. As we are all aware we will only know if it has been a success over the passage of time. AF is such a horrid thing, never knowing when the next episode is going to strike. It plays on the mind especially when planning a big event such as a holiday. It certainly has with us. Thanks again.

We didn't realise this site existed and it is such a wealth of information. We will probably spend many hours looking through all the posts and we are glad that we have found it.

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Pleased that you are finding this site useful. As you plough through you will find thst very many people find that they experience flutters, ectopics and other ' funnies ' in the weeks following an ablation so it is not surprising that your wife was affected in this manner.

Sandra

PS just realised that the ablation was after the proposed holiday so ignore some of the above! Hope all goes well now.

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Hi stephentreharne,personally I don't think I would have told the airline in the first place. If my Dr's gave me the ok to fly that would be good enough for me. Who are these people making these decisions and based on what? Don't need more people supposably looking out for my best interest. Pretty sure I can do that myself. What will it be next? Hope the ablation works out and all is good. I just had one a couple days ago and all went according to plan so just have to wait and see. Best wishes, Shaun

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There was no choice but to inform the airline due to being in flutter at the airport. We had to arrange our seats to be moved forward onto the next day as a result.

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As most people have said, we are not experts but airlines have to look at the possibility of passengers being ill on board and having to re route to off load for emergency treatment. Not only is this very costly for any airline, not just Virgin, but half way across the Atlantic would be a nightmare decision for the Captain with a plane full of unhappy passengers despite your wife being ill. As others have suggested I wouldn’t have told the airline and would have gone on the first flight. Maybe it was the stress of the day that triggered the event. I have had a similar experience but once on board my heart must have realised we were off on our holiday and it went back into rhythm. I’m sure your insurance company will refund costs involved but put it down to experience and start planning the next trip.

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I have flown long haul when in AF with a letter from my EP to say it is ok. But this is for the insurance company. The airline is not a medic and has no need to know.

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Very upsetting that your family celebration didn't happen.

Is there small print in our airline tickets that gives us guidance about health issues?

Last time I flew I had AF and didn't mention it to anyone, including my travelling companion. It was a shortish flight - an hour and three quarters - and I gave it no thought.

Obviously in certain circumstances one should or must declare a health issue but where does the line get drawn? We have tended on the forum to encourage people to be brave and travel.

I recall Beancounter telling us a tale a year ago about how welcome he was made on a flight when he was well away from his usual self.

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I have PAF and went into AF whilst overseas and the day before flying home. I phoned my GP in the UK who said I shouldn’t fly still in AF without an ECG in case anything else was happening but fortunately it resolved itself. It seemed sensible advise.

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Can someone please explain the difference between AF and atrial flutter.

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AF irregular heartbeat, generally fast. AFlutter fast heartbeat, NOT irregular.

Pip

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Thank you.

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