Death is an inevitable part of life. It's coming for all of us, and it can strike in the oddest of places. Image taking your last breath in air transit? It's an occurrence that happens more than you'd think; as if flying isn't anxiety inducing enough! We all think about death from a plane crashing but who prepares for death while the plane is moving along quietly? Air employees and passengers have to be ready.
Redditor u/w-oo wanted to hear from the flight staff and travelers of the world by asking.... Flight attendants, and travelers... Have you ever had to deal with a person dying mid flight? How did you go about it?
Recently there was a guy who died mid-flight, was flying with his daughter who was 16 or so (can't quite remember the exact age). He had a stroke or some kind of a heart failure. The daughter had flown half a flight with him dead by her side thinking he was sleeping.
They only noticed it when the plane landed. Can't even imagine the pain. And the thought that the last thing you'd do with your father would be boarding on a flight. Wasn't even a nice airline. But I believe they were flying from a holiday. At least a nice last memory I guess. simplestuserz
The Last Trip....
My mother died on a plane. My mother had cancer and she took one last trip to an island she loved and on the way back she was just too weak, so she fell asleep and never woke up. My father was with her. When he boarded the plane he actually heard the steward say to his colleague that they had a death candidate on board, referring to my mum.
The stewardess then came and told my father to tell her if there was a medical emergency and she would tell the pilot to do an emergency landing. Mid flight (3h flight) my father realized that my mother was dying and he didn't say anything because he knew it was not gonna make a difference anymore. So when they landed my father informed the stewardess that my mother had passed away and she totally freaked. She said that all passengers had to stay in their seats and wait until a doctor came.
My father was so embarrassed because he did not wanted to let people know that my mother had died. But apparently it is standard procedure so they had to wait until the doctor came and declared my mother dead and then all the passengers were allowed to leave. I still remember that one passenger actually send us condolences and I felt so bad for them to have experienced something like that. KG1219
Is There a Doctor Onboard?
Somewhat relatable: I was on a flight from NY to London. We were about two or three hours in when the captain came on and said that due to a medical emergency, we'd be landing at St John's Newfoundland. We got there close to midnight. The airport was empty, and there was snow everywhere.
As for the medical emergency, it was an older lady. I think she must've had a stroke. The flight attendants asked if there was a doctor on board. There wasn't, but there was someone studying to be one, a young guy. He was with her the entire time.
We waited on the tarmac for the ambulance to arrive, which took quite a while. They carted her off. At that point she was still alive. I don't know anything beyond that. Once she was off, the attendants brought the medical student to first class.
Then we waited as the captain got together a flight plan to continue to London. It took several hours. In total, we were on that tarmac for four hours. The_Tell_Tale_Heart
It happened to my mother.
A mom was taking her son who was dying of AIDS back home to Mexico City to die with his family. On the way he went to sleep and never woke up. The mom looked over at my mother midway through the flight and said "He's not sleeping is he?" It was very sad. They played it off like he was just sleeping so as not to alarm the other passengers.
The captain radioed ahead to the ground crew who had the mortuary services ready to take the body. They waited till everyone had gotten off the plane before having the mortuary come and take the body away.
They decided not to do an emergency landing because he was going home to Mexico anyway and if they did an emergency landing the family would then have to arrange transport to Mexico City anyways. mezlabor
Off to Lebanon.....Giphy
There was one time where my mom and brother were flying to Lebanon and at one point in the flight an older man died. What they told me was they pretty much just left him where he was and put a sheet over him. Afterwards they just made an emergency stop in Canada so they could take the body off the plane. Master10113
I was on a flight with my mom and dad who are both doctors. There was a medical emergency asa passenger was having chest pain. My parents gave him all the first aid possible but his health quickly deteriorated, and my parents basically took turns for an hour or two along with the air hostess trying to stabilize him and give him CPR. He didn't survive unfortunately. Turns out was returning home after a renal surgery from another country and had significant heart issues, was only 48.
Since my parents were the ones administering medical aid, had to disembark last and have a whole slew of paperwork and cross examination, so that the airline can protect itself in case of any lawsuit. There were two other doctors on the flight who didn't move a muscle in case they get sued for some reason. I have never been prouder of my parents, they rushed in to help without hesitation and selfishness. oceaneyesprism
Not a Morning person.
Not a flight attendant but my Dad has been flying for the same major airline for more than 35 years, and last year my sister and I were on a flight that he was captain-ing and my sister is an RN. About 3 hours into the 10 hour overnight flight, flight attendants alerted my dad that a guy was having a medical issue and so he goes oh! wake my daughter up! She's a nurse! (They also announced over the speaker to ask if there was a doctor, there wasn't)
My sister is NOT a "morning person" and so they wake her up and she wipes the drool off her face and goes to see the guy. She talks to him and figures out pretty quickly that he is having some kind of vasovagal syncope thing, she asks him if he took anything, especially because she can see that he's been served alcohol at some point in the flight.
He says yes but won't tell her what it is. She's like, sir I do not give a single damn I am not a cop I'm just trying to help you but he refused. I don't know what she had him do but it eventually passed and he felt better so she went back to her seat. I slept through the whole thing because I am super helpful. Sassquapadelia
It's fairly common. You basically move the other passengers the the row to other seats if possible, or you cover them with a blanket if there is nowhere else to move them. Dead bodies aren't dangerous right after death, so the main priority to to preserve as much dignity for the deceased as possible and to keep the other passengers calm. TheIronGoat
Everyone Stay Calm.
Not a doctor or witness to one of these events, but my parents were once on a plane where someone had a medical emergency and the EMTs were waiting at the gate to help he guy. The flight attendants made an announcement for everyone to stay in their seats so the EMTs could get to the patient, but nobody listened.
My parents were horrified as they watched the aisles fill up with people, making it impossible to get to the patient. My parents never found out what ended up happening, but I can't imagine things ended well for the patient if they couldn't even get medical attention once the plane finally landed. overbend
A Ticket to Heaven.Giphy
Like most stories this is second-hand, but my dad was an airline pilot who as part of an exchange program flew Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) flights out of Indonesia. He said that it was very common for villages to pool their money and send their oldest member to 'represent' them on the pilgrimage. Because of their age and the physical stress of the Hajj they would frequently die on the flight back home (their faith would sustain them through the event itself).
They had a doctor on board whose job was to deal with this; they were quietly put in body bags and kept strapped into their seats until the plane landed.
To my dad's surprise this was viewed not as a tragedy but as an extremely good way to go. I'm not sure if this is 'mainstream' Muslim belief but he was told that by dying on the way back from completing the pilgrimage they were guaranteed a ticket to heaven. sgtkang
"need to drop off a dead guy."Giphy
I was on a cruise when there was an evening announcement that the ship would be going faster than usual overnight and would reach the port a few hours earlier due to a "medical emergency."
My parents, avid cruisers, said that's code words for "need to drop off a dead guy." If it was a TRUE medical emergency, the patient would be helicoptered off.
But if a person just dies, the cruise line wants to discreetly as possible remove the body, hence, getting to a port very early before all the passengers are milling around.
As to why make that announcement at all, and just get to port earlier without anyone knowing... it's a legal thing with the gambling. People gamble all night on cruises, but once you get to the destination, gambling must stop. So the announcement is really for the gamblers. MoonieNine
The Guy Next to Me.
As a passenger I had a guy next to me start dying. His lips were blue and he was going in and out. He had explained to me when he got on about his cumbersome oxygen travel tank that he uses because he smoked like a chimney and inhaled fumes in Vietnam and he was also NYPD during 9/11. When I saw him going I hooked up his oxygen for him. Then we pretended nothing happened because a man nod seemed to be intimate and emotional enough for that tough old man. I still think of him sometimes, he's basically a super hero that we all forgot. jbrittles
Off to Thailand....
Was on a flight back from Thailand, had a layover in Doha. On the way from Doha to Texas the older Indian guy in the row ahead of me had a heart attack. There were several Doctors who stepped in and administered CPR and the guys wife was wailing the entire time (Understandably). Keep in mind this happened somewhere over the Atlantic. We were ~45 min out of Houston and these guys had been doing CPR for 3+ hours when the pilot came on and said that they were going to turn around and emergency land in New Orleans.
Paramedics came on the plane and took him and his wife off, was a several hour ordeal. No clue why they didn't land at the first available spot on the East Coast and why they eventually decided to turn around and land in New Orleans, but all I know is that guy was inescapably dead after 3+ hours of CPR.
All we could think is maybe they couldn't get clearance to land earlier due to the plane being international... specifically coming from the middle East. vannawhite_power
The Whole Truth.
When I was going on very stressful trip from Maryland to California to testify in a murder trial, I had sudden symptoms on takeoff that seemed like I could be having a heart attack. It turns out that it was just the pressure put on my facet joint arthritis that mixed with panic, when I had the pain; but they didn't know that for some time. They called for doctors and took me to the back of the plane, where I ended up staying for most of the flight. The doctors used the medications I had on hand to help me, but it was the two stewards that took care of me.
I hadn't realized until then how much more there is to their job than just wrangling passengers and serving drinks. They were so kind and supportive of me and took me from being terrified for my life to being calm and well enough to go back to my seat to nap for the last hour. I will never forget how great they were. I just wanted to post this, because there are far too many people who disregard how great the flight staff is and all that they go through. They really deserve respect for all they do. This is an open thank you to all of you. StrawDollHawkins
Two True Tales....Giphy
My mom has been a flight attendant for almost 40 years. She told me there are two things they're known to do (not sure if this is actual training or just how the employees choose to best handle situations)...
One: if the person is dying, you ask for a doctor and immediately radio the nearest runway that can accommodate your aircraft and start heading toward it. They'll have EMS waiting. Most of the FAs are trained in first aid and they have a kit/AED onboard; they'll start helping as best they can right away.
Two: if the person has died and nobody has noticed.... you do nothing. You wait to land and then have everyone deplane. There's nothing you can do and the body is probably headed to a place where it can be dealt with by friends/family.
True story: my mom was working and it was service time (push the cart, hand out drinks, maybe food) when she came upon an old couple. The woman was awake with a look of absolutely shock and sadness on her face. The man next to her, her husband, appeared to be sleeping. My mom said that neither one of them said a word, just exchanged knowing glances. My mom gave her a water and a note that said, "We're in the back if you need anything." and moved to the next row. Once they landed and everyone deplaned, the woman broke down and they got EMS in to take his body out. CryoSocietyAmerica
Headed to Frankfurt.
Not a flight attendant though I did have a fellow passenger on a flight from Philadelphia to Frankfurt go into cardiac arrest or he had a stroke (not sure which) when we were about 40% of the way through the flight. This gentleman looked very sick and should definitely not have been flying. Anyway several doctors and nurses on the plane worked on him for hours but he eventually passed.
Myself and another passenger had to argue with a flight attendant to cover him (he was two rows in front of me.) They had already made the decision to turn back to Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. They did a good job getting everyone on a new flight to Frankfurt the following evening and put us up in a motel for the day. My trip instead of being 17 hours to Bulgaria ended up being 47 however. It wasn't Terrible because I befriended another person also headed to Sofia. Johnnieiii
Divert to Iceland?
Again, somewhat relatable. My ex husband is a doctor in the British Army. (That army thing is a key piece of information you need to keep at the forefront of your mind.) About 15 years ago we were on a plane crossing the Atlantic and here comes that announcement: "If there is a doctor on the plane could he or she make themselves known to a member of the cabin crew." After I had jabbed him in the ribs a few times, he got up snarling and went to look for whoever it was he was going to have to shoot.
He came back about three quarters of an hour later and sat down with a face like thunder. I asked him what had happened and he said that there was a young couple on the plane who had taken drugs before the flight and were having some kind of bad reaction - dehydrated, hallucinating, distressed, vomiting etc. The captain had said that if he thought they were ill enough he would divert the plane to Iceland. "Are they going to be OK?" I asked. "I have no idea." he replied, "But I'm not going to Iceland." TOMSDOTTIR
My sister was the responding FA on this flight...
Company policy prohibits my sister from talking about the incident... but she was the FA that answered the call button and was like "WTH!" - She said they had to take the plane out of service and get it cleaned - no. TulasMommas
Descent in 30....
Not a flight attendant but I was on a flight where a guy had a heart attack mid flight and we diverted to the nearest airport. I was shocked by how quick our descent was. Typically you do your descent in 30 mins or so you can definitely tell the difference when you do it in 5 minutes. trumisadump
Leavin' on a jet plane....Giphy
My dad flies all the time. Recently, he told me he wants to die on a plane after an old man in the row behind him died on his flight. Apparently he went in his sleep, and once the flight attendants figured it out, they moved the people in his row and covered him with a blanket.
Dad said it was all just very calm and he was impressed by how it was handled. mynamesnotmolly