Flying with a broken leg, arm, or other bone


Most broken bones on arms and legs are treated with some form of cast – these can be plaster, fibreglass, pneumatic or resin – but anyone hoping to fly with a damaged bone should make sure they know the rules, or they could be stopped from boarding the plane. Here travel journalist and expert Pete Barden looks at what major airlines flying from the UK say about passengers attempting to travel with broken bones.

Broken bone and flyingFind out if you can fly with a broken leg, arm, or other bone (Credit: /

I am not in pain, so will I be allowed to fly?

Checks are made when fitting casts to make sure they're not too tight and won't impede blood circulation to surrounding tissues and areas beyond the injury. However, tissue swelling can subsequently occur around the site of injury. Because of the increased risk to the vascular system – and possible DVTs – many airlines won't allow passengers to fly within 24 – 48hours of a cast being fitted.

I need to fly straight away 

For those who need to fly right away, airlines will usually require the cast to be split over its full length. This will help ensure any subsequent swelling won't affect circulation. Check this is acceptable with the airline, then visit a hospital to have the cast split. However, you’ll need to have it re-sealed when you arrive at your destination and that’s likely to cost you if it’s at your destination rather than returning home.

Is a pneumatic splint okay for flying?

Pneumatic splints are plastic sleeves or socks that can be placed over a broken limb and inflated to form a rigid splint. They are not suitable for air travel, because the pressure within is affected by changes in cabin pressure. So if you have this type of dressing, then you should contact your airline as soon as possible to discuss your options. 

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My broken bone happened a long time ago

In order to avoid airline problems when boarding with an un-split cast, ask your medical team to provide a letter to confirm the date of your injury and when the cast was fitted. It could save problems at check-in.

Make sure you have cancellation cover

If an injury means you can’t travel, you could lose your money – that’s flights, hotels, trips and car hire etc. Airlines are not under any obligation to offer a refund. Cancellation cover will typically add a few pounds to your premium, but is likely to cover you for having to abandon a trip due to injury, illness and other factors. Check the small print.

Don’t leave travel insurance to the last moment

Cancellation cover will only be of any use if you buy it before you’re injured – and research from insurance price comparison site,, has found that millions of Brit travellers are missing out on this cover because they’re leaving buying their travel insurance the last minute. A staggering 27% of us leave purchasing insurance until the day of departure. The majority of travel insurance policies offer cancellation cover from the date of purchase – not departure. Remember to read the terms and conditions to make sure cancellation cover is included.

Should I book an extra-legroom seat?

Anyone travelling with a broken bone may be tempted to spend a few pounds upgrading to an extra-legroom seat – just make sure you pick one you'll be allowed to sit in.
Passengers with a broken arm or leg won't be allowed to occupy the roomy emergency exit-row seats – these are reserved for able-bodied travellers who could help others in the event of an emergency evacuation. Speak to the airline and explain your condition to see if they can help. 

If your leg is in a plaster cast below your knee and you can bend your knee, you will be allowed to sit in a normal seat.

If your plaster cast covers your knee, you won't be able to bend it, so you'll need to talk to your airline about making special seating arrangements.

Some airlines may require you to purchase additional seats in such circumstances.

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Author: Pete Barden:

Twitter: @pete_barden

Pete Barden is a qualified journalist who has written and produced for publications including The Sun (, New Statesman Media Group, Whatcar? ( Stuff Magazine (, Fastcar Magazine (, Maxim Magazine and UK broadcast stations within the Heart network (Formerly GCAP). Pete specialises in motoring and travel content, along with news and production roles. You can find out more about Pete Barden on LinkedIn.

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