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People Who Died Mid-Flight

Updated February 24, 2020 164.1k views13 items

What's it like when there's a death mid-air? When a passenger, crew member, or even pilot unexpectedly passes away, the rest of the crew has to figure out how to handle a death in an airplane. Unfortunately, this has happened more times than you might think.

There's no official FAA protocol for an unexpected death on a flight (nor is there a requirement that a public record of the incident is released). However, flight stewardesses have been trained to move the body if there's room. It used to be the case that when someone passed away there were a certain number of seats always left open on flights so they could either move the body or the passengers around it until they could land safely. In 2015 that's no longer the case. As well, in the early days of commercial flight all stewardesses had to be nurses - this is also no longer the case.

Sometimes it's a crew member or a passenger, sometimes it's the pilot. No matter who tragically passes away on board, there are all too many stories of this happening. This list includes information on deaths on planes and the individuals who have passed away.
  • 23 Year Old Dies on International Flight

    A young Woman from Newark, NJ died on her United Airlines flight home from London in December of 2014. Though she was only 23, she apparently had prior health conditions.

    Little else is known about the incident. "We offer our condolences to the passenger’s family," Mary Ryan, a spokesperson with United Airlines, said in an email. "For privacy reasons, it would not be appropriate for us to comment further."

  • An Elderly Woman Trying to Make It Back to Her Homeland

    Betty, author of Yahoo "Travel’s Confessions of a Fed-Up Flight Attendant" column, had only seen one death in her 30 years air travel experience. It was that of an elderly woman who passed away mid-flight. For everyone's best interests Betty and all the other flight attendants did nothing, and carried on as usual.

    “We had each realized what had happened and individually, without speaking a word to each other, had come to the same conclusion that it was best for the rest of the passengers and for the family to keep our mouths shut and let them return their dead mother to Mexico and grant her dying wish to return to her homeland.”

    Source: Yahoo
  • Continental Airlines Pilot Has Heart Attack Mid-Flight

    A 60-year-old pilot of a Boeing 777 making a transatlantic flight had a heart attack over the ocean and none of the 247 passengers knew a thing. His quick-thinking co-pilots were able to keep the incident quiet so as to not panic the passengers and successfully landed the plane safely near NYC.

    Long international flights, such as this one from Brussels, often have a second co-pilot to relieve the other two. Thankfully this one did and the story didn't end with more tragedy.

  • Man Has Asthma Attack and Tragically Passes Away During Flight

    Abid Husain had an asthma attack on an international flight between Athens and New York. A doctor friend onboard tried CPR and then an epinephrine shot, but nothing could save him. Worst of all this all happened right in front of his wife and 10-year-old daughter.

    His wife, Rubina Husain, said, “It felt like a never-ending flight. I felt like: Why doesn’t this plane just crash and kill me? Why don’t I just die?”

    The body was covered and placed in a rear galley for the duration of the flight.

    Source: Seattle Times