I enjoy snorkelling but I’ve never tried SCUBA diving. I wouldn’t mind trying it but I don’t really like being organised and given instructions while on holiday. I also don’t want to be among ‘that group’ who learn with an instructor in the hotel pool. But for those of you who are planning to dive on holiday and then fly home, I thought I’d tell you something I found out from an off-duty flight attendant on my flight last night…

I was in Seat 1C and a flight attendant, who I knew from previous flights, was in 1D across the aisle. I was mostly watching Doctor Who that I’d downloaded to BBC iPlayer using the lounge Wi-Fi. But we had a couple of conversations, mostly about the idiosyncracies of flying – she’d noticed that I often don’t put my empty plastic water bottle into the rubbish cart. I explained that I like to tighten the cap prior to descent and then see how crushed the bottle is when we land – a small physics experiment that shows how the pressure difference. We talked about the effects of flying and I was asking how this affected her as cabin crew.

She then told me that one of their airline rules is that crew aren’t allowed to fly within 18 hours of SCUBA diving. I’d never heard this before, nor read about it on any travel blogs so I did a bit of Google investigation.

What is Decompression Sickness?
Also known as “the bends”, decompression sickness is a condition caused by excess Nitrogen in the blood and body tissues forming tiny bubbles when a diver ascends to the surface (decompresses).

Flying after Diving Rules
You cannot take a commercial flight directly after diving, as the ambient pressure in the cabin is too low and can lead to Nitrogen bubble formation. The latest recommendation is to wait at least 18 hours after multiple dives before flying.

Here’s the full recommendations from PADI and DAN:

  • Single dives – A minimum pre-flight surface interval of 12 hours
  • Repetitive dives or multiple days diving – A minimum pre-flight surface interval of 18 hours

So if you’re planning a holiday that involves SCUBA diving, you should allow a non-diving day at the end.

For those of you who didn’t know, SCUBA an acronym for Self-Contained Under Water Breathing Apparatus.