Free Flights for Cancer Treatment

Depending on where you live, you might have to travel near or far for cancer treatment. Appointments that require air travel can get really expensive really quickly, even if you're only going such a distance for treatment a few times a year. Luckily, there are flight assistance programs that provide free plane tickets for cancer patients, helping to ease the additional worry of travel costs.

Small boy looking out of airport window
Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Several organizations help with flights by coordinating their network of volunteer pilots or snagging seats on commercial or corporate jets for free or at a reduced cost. Some are financial need-based organizations, but many are not.

It's worth exploring these options even if you don't think that you'll meet their requirements. What is considered "financial need" may be different from organization to organization, so be sure to check out all of the fine print details of each program.

Here are five reputable organizations worth checking out.

Air Charity Network

This organization coordinates a network of regional flight assistance programs throughout the United States that are operated by volunteer pilots who donate their time and aircrafts to ensure passengers in need get to their destination.

Air Charity Network is a need-based organization and requires that applicants demonstrate a financial or physical need for its services, such as when traveling commercial is cost prohibitive or not safe for certain patients that are immune compromised.

Corporate Angel Network

This organization provides flight assistance to cancer patients, bone marrow recipients and donors, and stem cell recipients and donors by utilizing empty seats on corporate and private jets that are donated by businesses and individuals.

To qualify, patients must fall into one of the above categories, be ambulatory, and not require in-flight medical support or assistance. There is no limit to how often someone can fly with Corporate Angel Network, and assistance is not dependent on financial need.

Angel Airlines for Cancer Patients

Angel Airlines provides free or reduced commercial airline tickets for cancer patients and their families in need. Patients must express a financial need in order to participate in this program, as well as provide their doctor's certification that there is a medical need.

Angel Flight helps patients traveling to medical facilities for evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment all across the United States.

Lifeline Pilots

Lifeline Pilots provides air transportation, courtesy of volunteer pilots, for a range of medical purposes, from diagnosis to treatment. These flights are for cancer patients, as well as those with other diseases.

The organization serves a 10-state area including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. For those who reside outside of the 10-state area, Lifeline Pilots will help coordinate options with other volunteer flight assistance programs.

There is no limit on the number of flights that a patient can utilize. However, you must establish a financial need and be medically stable for the flight.

Mercy Medical Angels

Mercy Medical Angels coordinates free commercial airline tickets by using donated frequent flyer miles as well as utilizing its network of volunteer pilots. The organization has been providing patients and their companions with free flights since 1972, which has amounted to hundreds of thousands of trips over the course of its decades in service.

Mercy Medical Angels also offers a ground transportation program with bus and Amtrak tickets, as well as gas cards if a patient has a car available to them.

Patients must demonstrate financial need and require little or no medical assistance in transit, depending on the type of transportation. Mercy Medical Angels also has a special program for veterans.

By Lisa Fayed
Lisa Fayed is a freelance medical writer, cancer educator and patient advocate.