COVID-19 Impacts Corporate Angel Network Flights For Cancer Patients

Credit: Corporate Angel Network

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Corporate Angel Network, which arranges flights for cancer patients to travel to and from treatment, was forced to make changes. 

“It seems like overnight everything shut down,” CAN senior program manager Samantha Lohse said. 

Flight departments and other companies providing CAN flights began shutting down one by one. 

“Of course, that shut down our model,” Lohse said. Before COVID-19, CAN typically arranged about 250 flights a month. Now, “we have seen a significant reduction from that number.” 

 To adjust, patients have been postponing treatments, taking part in telemedicine visits or seeking treatment closer to home. Others, however, must continue treatment at cancer centers away from home. Some have been accepted into clinical trials. If they can’t get there, the trial must be delayed.

“That means anyone coming to us is in critical need,” Lohse said. Often, critical patients are immune compromised and can’t fly commercially or make a 12-hour road trip. 

“With every patient in dire need, it puts you in a very tough position,” Lohse said. “None of us thought we would still be in this situation come Sept. 1.” 

Before the pandemic, CAN typically received upcoming flight schedules from corporate flight departments. Whenever a flight matched a patient’s travel need, CAN would match the two together and check whether there was room on the aircraft for the patient. 

Thankfully, in the meantime, some partner flight departments have offered to provide lift while performing maintenance flights or when their pilots make training flights. A few departments are still flying and continue to have business activity to perform. 

“We are trying to let our partners know if you have to get your aircraft in the air anyway, could you see if anything matches up,” Lohse said. “Instead of flying in a circle, can you fly from DC to New York. Not everyone can do it.” 

Some new partners not previously working with CAN have stepped up during the pandemic as well. 

“We’re very humbled by the support,” Lohse said. 

CAN is seeking new partners to help. 

Maybe there are charter companies that could offer dead head flights to patients or pilots that must remain current could fly someone, Lohse said. 

Lohse urges those who maybe have thought about working with CAN to explore the possibility, even if they can’t partner today.

“Maybe they have the time to explore the partnership and present it to the partners, even if we don’t work together until 2021,” Lohse said.

If anything, the pandemic has underscored the importance of CAN’s mission and the role that business aviation plays. They are more critical now than ever, Lohse said. 


Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.