Choosing the services of air ambulance provider especially during a stressful time can be a daunting task. Thankfully, the advent of the internet with its powerful search engines has made this task much easier to ensure you are getting an air ambulance provider. Easy- right? Wrong!

Your search may lead you to an air ambulance broker who portrays themselves as an actual air ambulance operator with websites showing images of aircraft and making promises of providing their “own” aircraft, medical staff and flight crew, when in reality they simply broker these requests while charging hidden additional fees.

The services of a broker can save precious time and may boast valuable first-hand expertise, but be aware there are potential pitfalls of using brokers and the fact that perception doesn’t always reflect reality.

Knowledge is power and knowing the following key points will help spot whether you have contacted a broker or an actual air ambulance provider.

1. If a website has images of aircraft on it, check if the aircraft tail numbers correspond to the model of aircraft and in turn the company purporting to operate or fly that aircraft. This information can be found on Be cautious of aircraft on websites with no tail numbers. Photoshop is a powerful tool.

2. Ask for a copy of the air ambulance provider’s “DO85”. This operations specification lists the aircraft the company is authorized to operate. If the picture on the website does not match the DO85-then it is not their aircraft.

3. Caution should be urged where the wording on an air ambulance company’s website is ambiguous-“we have access to Learjet 35 aircraft” is far removed from “we own and operate Learjet 35 aircraft.”

4. Search engine optimization (SEO) is another one to be aware of. Typing in “air ambulance” into an Internet search engine can show results of companies that are more expert at engineering websites to achieve high rankings than they are at providing air ambulance flights. If you have any doubt about who exactly is behind the company’s website you are looking at, it may be revealing to check the domain name registration service to see who owns the site.

5. The company should have a physical mailing address rather than just an anonymous P.O. Box and have local/geographic phone numbers, not just a toll-free number.

6. Is there a copy of the Air Operator Certificate available on the company’s website? If not, ask for a copy to be sent to you. No company can operate aircraft without this certificate, typically known in the industry as a Part 135 Certificate.

Brokers may offer a valuable service for those who have never booked an air ambulance service, but be aware of the potential for being misled by those who’s focus lie in profit- not patient care.

Doing your due diligence will enhance your chances of success in choosing an air ambulance provider who owns and operates their own aircraft while having has the necessary experience to provide safe patient care during transport.

Look for our upcoming article on “The potential pitfalls of using a broker.”