AIRLINES remain vague on the protocol if a passenger dies on board
When Carrie Fisher had a heart attack fifteen minutes before her plane landed in Los Angeles from London on December 23 last year, the world stood still, wishful for a speedy recovery.
This was not the case and four days later the 60-year-old passed away.
The passenger sitting next to Carrie on the flight reported that she had “stopped breathing” and
another performed CPR until paramedics arrived.With eight million people boarding planes every day, three billion taking to the skies each year, death on a plane is not common but still an important topic.
“Considering the sheer volume of people who fly every day and the growing number of elderly people who fly, I’m surprised it doesn’t actually happen more often,” pilot Patrick Smith told Business Insider.
Death on plane is one of the only procedures most airlines remain vague about as all airlines have different protocols on what to do in the instance a passenger dies.
“We have procedures in place to treat a passenger in medical distress,” spokesperson for America airlines, Ross Feinstein told Travel and Leisure.
“Only a medical professional can pronounce someone deceased.”
This means, unless there is a doctor on board, no one can officially die while air bound.
However, if a passenger does die mid-flight, the flight crew will attempt to confirm the death by checking their vital signs, yet no official announcement can be made.
The dead body will then be moved to an empty row of seats and strapped in, usually covered with a blanket.
If there are no empty rows of seats, the passenger will remain in their seat and covered with a blanket.
Singapore Airlines used to have a cupboard on their no-longer-active Airbus A340-500 fleet which was re-named the “corpse cupboard”.
If the death occurs shortly after take-off, the plane could return to the airport it departed from.
Unscheduled landings after the death of a passenger are rare but there have been reports of it before.