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Navigating Mid-Journey Illness


Dealing with unexpected illness during travel can be challenging. Learn from one family’s experience as they faced an unforeseen health issue during their journey back from Thailand.

Embarking on a memorable vacation to Thailand with my teenage son and his friends was a great adventure.

However, our return journey brought unforeseen challenges as my son fell ill mid-journey.

Sharing our experience, we hope to provide insight into what travellers can do when faced with sickness during travel.

Our return journey consisted of a Singapore Airlines flight from Phuket to Singapore, two-and-a-half-hour layover and then a Scoot flight home departing at 2am.

My son started to feel off colour in Phuket Airport and was sick during the first flight. By the time we disembarked in Singapore he was feeling pretty awful. Being on land did not help and he deteriorated quickly during the layover with severe vomiting.

Sitting outside the gate at 1.15am with my vomiting 16-year-old son lying prone before me, I finally accepted that he was not well enough to fly. To complicate matters further we were travelling with three of his teen mates. So, what happens in this situation?

First, I snuck to the front of the queue at the gate and asked to speak to someone from the airline. The busy Scoot official came out and I explained the situation.

Not surprisingly, he had seen this before and knew exactly what to do. He agreed that we could miss the flight and advised us to see the airport doctor.

Before doing this, I needed to ensure the other boys were safely on the flight so after giving the most responsible one a pep talk on the arrival procedure in Sydney we then waited until they were through security and about to board.

We then trekked to the Medical Centre (luckily, I had been able to procure a wheelchair as Matt was bent double and unable to walk by this point!). Benefiting from the late hour the clinic was empty and the nurse was able to see Matt immediately.

If you have to hang around for 24 hours - there are a lot worse places than Changi Airport

He was given an injection and the doctor provided the all-important Not Fit to Fly Certificate. I left Matt at the clinic and headed back to the gate to show the Scoot official. This magic piece of paper provided everything the airline needed to allow us off the flight without repercussions.

Learning One: See a doctor asap and get a Not Fit To Fly Certificate

The next two hours were a bit confusing. The official informed me that they could not reschedule our flights until we had a Fit to Fly Certificate. Then I was told that all the flights were full so they could not reschedule us and then that we would be accompanied through arrivals and put in a hotel.

Then the person accompanying us told us that they would not put us in a hotel because we had chosen not to get on the flight (rather than being kicked off by the airline).

At this point I realised that nothing was going to get sorted out until the morning, so I took charge and booked us into the transit hotel for the next few hours.

Learning Two: If it is the middle of the night, nothing is going to get sorted out there and then. Find out which transfer desk to go to the next morning and get some sleep.

At 8am the next morning I left Matt sleeping and went to the transfer desk to discuss rescheduling the flight. He was still not well so I had decided that the best option was to stay another night and fly the next morning.

The staff were polite and helpful and directed us to the Scoot service desk in the departures area.

At this point there was some discussion about our bags. I was under the impression that our bags had continued on their merry way with the rest of our travelling party. The Scoot officials believed they had been removed from the plane and were in lost property in Singapore.

We went through immigration and luckily while in the baggage hall received a phone call from the other teens. They had arrived back in Sydney and had our bags.

I found the Scoot service desk. They were able to book us onto the flight for the next morning. They even gave us legroom seats. They did not mention a Fit To Fly Certificate. I deduced that this is only required if you attempt to fly on the same date as the Not Fit to Fly certificate.

If you need to travel on the same day that you weren't fit to fly, you'll need a new fit to fly certificate

Learning Three: Go with the flow and try not to get stressed. The situation is no one’s fault and the airline staff want to help.

We stayed in a nearby hotel that day. Matt was much improved by the evening and the next morning we caught our flight home.

Throughout the process all staff were very courteous and tried to be as helpful as possible. At no point did Scoot suggest we pay for the rescheduled flight and they even gave us a seat upgrade.

Once we got home and the dust settled, we found we were able to claim the medical expenses and the two-night accommodation on the complimentary travel insurance provided by Club Med.

In conclusion, encountering illness mid-journey is an unexpected challenge that travellers may face. Our story highlights the importance of prompt medical attention, acquiring necessary documents and seeking assistance from airline staff.

While disruptions may arise, proper planning and communication can help navigate through these situations, allowing travellers to eventually continue their journey with greater peace of mind.

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Written by: Jenny Evans
Published: 13 August 2023

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