The drastic reduction in flight operations due to COVID-19 has far-reaching complications, especially for people battling cancer. During this time, Corporate Angel Network (CAN) continues to provide donated flights for patients who need to travel for their ongoing treatments. “The world pressed pause and found a new way of living, but cancer didn’t stop,” said Samantha Lohse, CAN Senior Program Manager.
CAN is a charitable organization whose mission is to help cancer patients access treatment by arranging travel on corporate aircraft at no cost to them. They work with participating corporate flight departments to match their empty seats with patient requests.
CAN’s services are offered to patients who have a cancer diagnosis as well as donors and recipients of bone marrow and stem cells. Patients must be able to board without help and not require medical assistance in flight. CAN confirms the patient’s medical status and every appointment before arranging flights.
CAN’s flight donors include 500 of America’s top corporations, including half of the top 100 in the Fortune 500. These flight departments donate empty seats on scheduled trips to cities where a cancer patient has an appointment at a nationally accredited cancer institute. This process can often determine whether a cancer patient receives needed treatment or not.
“Business aviation provides access to those who otherwise couldn’t receive the care they need,” Samantha explained. “This is an opportunity for companies with corporate aircraft to provide a wonderful community service by merging business activities with social responsibility.”
The ability to travel allows cancer patients to receive care in the hospitals best equipped to treat their diagnosis. It is not surprising that the most requested destinations are the top cancer treatment facilities in the country such as MD Anderson in Houston, Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
This extended mobility also enables patients to participate in medical trials that are conducted far from their homes. These trials offer advanced options to patients, but they also help develop new treatments that may benefit others in the future.
The COVID pandemic has put a spotlight on the importance of CAN’s mission. Not only do cancer patients need to continue with their treatments, but many have compromised immune systems that make it difficult to travel on a commercial airline. “Being exposed to any germs or diseases puts the patient at risk. The pandemic has given us a small glimpse into what it’s like to travel while undergoing cancer treatment,” said Samantha.
One CAN beneficiary explained their situation, “I am severely immune-compromised. We had investigated other travel arrangements and could not find anything suitable or affordable.”
Not only does Corporate Angel Network take care of all travel arrangements for patients, but they offer these services at no cost. “Our main goal is to get the patient to the care they need as stress-free as possible,” Samantha disclosed.
With their network of corporate donors, CAN coordinated over 3,000 flights in 2019. Scheduling flights with patients is a complicated process. CAN uses up to 30 volunteers to help coordinate travel for patients. Whenever possible, they try to arrange for patients to fly in pairs.
In one example, NetJets Business Aviation Ltd. donated owner hours on a private plane to transport one patient and their family from California to Arizona. The group joined two other families on a flight provided by Executive Jet Management Inc. to New York. From there, CAN arranged ground transportation to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for one of the families. The generosity of flight operations like NetJets and Executive Jet Management, both ARGUS Platinum Rated Operators, is crucial to CAN’s ability to help cancer patients.
Like the rest of the aviation industry, CAN has felt the impact of COVID-19. With the number of flights drastically reduced, CAN has needed to adjust their normal model. They are currently working with partners who have donated dedicated, maintenance, or routine flights to fulfill patient requests. Flights are needed from destinations all over the United States.
Signing up as a corporate donor with CAN is easy. CAN requires all aircraft carrying patients on donated flights to be pressurized and flown with two pilots. There is no cost or minimum flight commitment to join its network. Participating flight departments simply provide a schedule of available flights to CAN. When a flight matches a patient’s need, CAN verifies the availability and arranges the flight. Flight departments may also request to receive a weekly list of CAN destination requests.