The continued need for transportation assistance in a post-pandemic world

By Ayesha Azam, Vice President of Medical Affairs at the PAN Foundation, and Kristinia Luke, Executive Director at the Air Care Alliance

Studies show that when patients can’t get to appointments, they are less likely to start and stay on treatment plans. In 2017, 5.8 million Americans delayed medical care because they did not have transportation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these concerns have escalated. For patients living with serious conditions, no transportation could mean forgoing life-saving treatment.

Living with a serious or chronic illness comes with a host of logistical concerns. There are treatments and prescriptions, adapting to lifestyle changes, and trips to various doctors and specialists—sometimes at great distances.

The costs associated with transportation to and from appointments can be significant, and for people living with some serious and rare conditions, travel can recur weekly or monthly. Many patients, especially those living with chronic conditions, require treatment over a span of years and over time the cost of just getting to appointments can become unmanageable.

Finding financial assistance for transportation

Charitable assistance is available for transportation, but it’s not always easy to find.

PAN Foundation patients have reported spending hours a day searching for assistance funds that can help them afford their medications and transportation to access medical care. In conjunction with the launch of the PAN Foundation Transportation Assistance Program last year, PAN created a transportation financial resources directory, cataloging other possible transportation options for patients, even if they did not receive a grant at PAN.

Organizations belonging to the Air Care Alliance offer free flights to connect patients of all ages and diagnoses with distant doctors and treatments—volunteer pilots donate their time and cover the costs. There is no limit on the number of flights a patient can take, and patients are typically able to bring caregivers or family members with them. A new online referral system that launched this year has made it even easier for patients in need to find volunteer pilot organizations and other support.

But patients need to connect with these resources to take advantage. More resources are needed, both to provide help to patients and connect them with existing support.

The post-pandemic prognosis

Around the U.S., restrictions are starting to lift, which could mean an uptick in travel needs for some patients. It’s unclear how telehealth appointments will continue.

While it may be more common for people to start taking public transportation again, it may not be an option for those who are immune compromised or live with mobility limitations. Even after the effects of COVID have faded, transportation needs will remain.

At PAN and the Air Care Alliance, the biggest challenge is often reaching the populations in need. There are many reasons patients don’t know about these programs, whether they lack time to search, internet access, or they struggle with healthcare literacy.

Getting medical care should not be one of the worries facing patients with serious illnesses.

About the AirCare Alliance

The Air Care Alliance (ACA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public service organization supporting the work of volunteer-based charitable organizations whose members fly to help others. ACA is devoted to fostering, enhancing, and promoting public benefit flying in the United States and other countries.

Featured ACA resource

ACA connects patients with free air transportation to treatment through a simple online referral tool. Flights are provided by qualified charitable aviation organizations through volunteer pilots flying private aircraft, or through commercial airline partners. Learn more at

Featured PAN resource

The PAN Foundation Transportation Assistance Program provides financial support to patients with life-threatening, chronic, and rare conditions so they can access affordable and reliable transportation to and from their medical care and/or pharmacy.

Whether or not patients qualify for PAN’s assistance program, the transportation resource directory is available to all at