What happens when a passenger dies during a flight – you could be sitting next to a dead body

What happens when a passenger dies during a flight – you could be sitting next to a dead body

WHILE flying is deemed to be safer than driving a car, sometimes the worse can happen mid-flight and a passenger can die.

We explain what can happen when a traveller passes away, and what crew must do while in the air.


Despite billions of passengers flying every year, there are also approximately 50,000 dead bodies being flown around the worldCredit: Getty Images

If someone falls sick on a plane, cabin crew are required to perform emergency medical care on that passenger.

With planes being cramped spaces already, it can be difficult to do this discreetly, with medical attention such as CPR often done in the aisle of the plane or in the galley.

We tried performing CPR on a plane for ourselves with British Airways – and the tight conditions make it a difficult experience for other passengers nearby.

A Ryanair spokesperson told Sun Online: “All Ryanair aircraft carry first aid equipment, in full compliance with EU safety regulations, and all crew are trained in first aid procedures, including defibrillators, which are carried on board.

“Should an incident occur in flight which requires medical intervention, our crew divert to the nearest suitable airport and request medical assistance to be on standby before landing.”

While crew are medically trained, sometimes even professional staff are unable to help.

If the passenger then dies, bodies are often then moved to an empty row or business class, away from others on board, and are covered by a rug.

The procedure differs depending on the airline.

Flight attendant Annette Long said to Business Insider: “I would probably put a blanket over the person so it would become less of something to look at.

“You want to maintain dignity and respect for someone who passed away. You don’t want anyone staring at them. That would be really sad.”

Travellers have shared their own experiences of people passing away in the air.

User Sue Jackman said her husband passed away on a long haul Air New Zealand flight between Los Angeles and Auckland.

She said: “We were in business class and he went to sleep in a lie-flat sleeper seat and did not wake up.

“When he would not wake up I got a flight steward who then went and fetched a passenger who was a doctor.

“He performed the usual signs of life tests and declared him deceased approximately four hours prior to landing.

“He stayed in his sleeper seats covered with a blanket for the rest of the journey and I lay beside him and held him until we landed.”

User Dave Samwell said: “In my hundreds of flights I had this happen once.

“On a long haul flight, if there are some spare seats, the cabin crew have a curtain they can put up around a section of three seats so they can get some rest.”

Meanwhile Ana Ansari said: “A woman sitting two rows behind me on an 11-hour flight from Frankfurt to Singapore had stopped breathing on the last leg of the trip.

“The woman’s immediate neighbours were allocated new seats as they lay her across the row of seats.

“Once it was determined that there was nothing else they could do, they covered her body with a sheet (but not her face) and the flight carried on as per normal.”

Rather surprisingly, passengers cannot be declared dead, according to law.

While travellers can have an “apparent death in-flight”, they can only be declared officially dead by local authorities after landing.

If you hear a passenger called Jim Wilson on your flight, that most likely means there is a dead body on board, with the secret code a way to let them fly undetected.

The phrase HR also means there is a dead body on the flight, which is abbreviated for ‘Human Remains’.

 Crew will need to perform CPR or medical assistance if a passenger falls sick


Crew will need to perform CPR or medical assistance if a passenger falls sickCredit: Getty Images
The Sun’s Kara Godfrey gives CPR during British Airways’ cabin crew training day

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