Air Europa Blog

The AirEuropa Blog

25 July 2019

Is it OK to fly after scuba diving?

A lot of people who scuba dive know that you need to wait a certain amount of time between diving and getting on a plane, but they’re not always clear about the reasons why. So we’ve set out to explain exactly why you have to wait.

The air we breathe is made up of 78% nitrogen, which is also present in our blood and tissues. And the nitrogen levels in our body remain balanced unless there are any changes in pressure. 

However, this balance is disrupted when we dive under water. The pressure increases rapidly and the amount of nitrogen in our body also increases in line with the depth and length of the dive. That’s why divers need to resurface slowly, so that their body can progressively eliminate as much of the nitrogen as possible that has built up during the dive. 

Once they’re back on dry land, the diver will have eliminated most of the excess nitrogen, but because each body reacts differently, some people may take several hours to reach a perfectly balanced state.

This means that if you jump on a plane straight after a dive, you could be at risk of decompression sickness. Because the air pressure decreases on a flight, the nitrogen is liable to form bubbles in the body’s tissues which could obstruct the blood flow, with serious consequences.

To give an analogy, imagine what happens when you open a can of coke quickly – it bubbles out of the can immediately (because of the change in pressure). But if you open it slowly, the gas also comes out slowly and the liquid stays inside the can. 

What’s the minimum recommended time you should wait before flying after diving?

  • If you’ve done a non-decompression stop dive, you should wait for at least 12 hours before getting on a plane.
  • And if you’ve done several dives over a number of days, this period goes up to at least 18 hours.
  • However, if you’ve been on a deep dive requiring a controlled ascent, the minimum recommended period is 24 hours.

Whatever the case, what you always need to bear in mind is that the longer you wait between diving and flying, the better, which is why it’s generally a good idea to always wait 24 hours before getting on a plane after a dive.

Now you know the reasons why you need to wait to catch a flight after diving, let’s take a look at the diving equipment you’re allowed to take with you on the plane. A basic diving kit consists of:

  • Wetsuit/ BCD/ Socks
  • Mask
  • Boots
  • Torch
  • Nets
  • Knife
  • 1 empty diving tank
  • 1 regulator

Bear in mind that sports diving equipment can’t be checked in with the rest of your luggage. Also, oxygen tanks must be empty and must be checked in, and the bulb and batteries must be taken out of the torch and wrapped separately (and may only be carried as hand luggage).

Where’s your next diving destination? Tell us where your headed!

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Alicia Ratto