Flight attendants. Have you ever had to deal with a person dying mid flight? How did you go about it?

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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.


I’m an Airline Pilot. Unfortunately this is not uncommon, because the cabin environment (reduced oxygen partial pressure, travel stress, fear of flying stress) can be potentially harsh to people already chronically or acutely unwell. Early morning, elderly person with a history of cardiac problems, hasn’t eaten or drank, stressed from the rush of travelling through an airport, stressed from a fear of flying, unfortunately it has been known to trigger things like strokes or angina and even cardiac arrests. It hasn’t happened to me, luckily my serious medicals have all ended in good news with the passenger recovering in hospital, but I have colleagues who have had a passenger die. I’m not sure the majority of people actually realise the training the cabin crew actually go through. They are not on board to solely placate and fetch you a gin and tonic, their main role is above all else, safety – to expeditiously get you off in the event of an evacuation and to be capable of providing advanced first aid. They (and us in the flight deck) are medically trained and have to go through a government approved programme of refresher training annually/biannually. The cabin crew have access to a defibrillator, oxygen, drugs and a large quantity of first aid equipment and materials across three first aid kits. Long haul aircraft have a secure pack of serious emergency use drugs like adrenaline and anaesthetics that the crew cannot use, they are only for the use of any doctors on board during a medical emergency. The crew are all trained to recognise the symptoms of, co-ordinate, and immediately begin to treat serious emergencies like strokes, arrests, anaphylaxis, all sorts. At least three will treat in pre-defined roles while the fourth will call us to pass details and provide a preliminary recommendation, i.e we have to divert now. Unfortunately passengers can and do die. The success rate of ROSC (recovery from arrest) outside of hospital is very poor. When they do, the crew do all they can to protect the dignity of the passenger and assist/comfort their relatives or travel companions on board. The passenger remains in their seat with an oxygen mask on to give the rest of the passengers the impression they are still alive as a death would make people uncomfortable and have them staring at the unfortunately deceased passenger undermining their dignity. The whole process is rigorously trained and designed to provide the best medical care possible from non-doctors/nurses and to provide as much personal care and dignity as possible in the circumstances. Someone else posted in this thread they have a relative working as cabin crew claiming the passenger is moved to the flight deck. Utter bullshit.


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. Shes like, sir I do not give a single fuck 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.


Flight attendant here! Once on a flight over the Pacific Ocean I had a death inflight. An older gentleman and his wife (I guessed in their 70s) were the last to board the aircraft- they had to be wheeled to their seats onboard by the wheelchair porters. In hindsight we probably should’ve known something was fishy when the gentleman had to be shaken awake by the porters once he got to his seat but at the time he just appeared to be drowsy and napping. But anyway we took off and went about the flight as usual. About halfway into the flight one of the other flight attendants came up and told me that he thinks he heard a passenger collapse in the lavatory and that he needed help getting the door open and that whoever was inside was not responding to them. So we go to the back and pop the lav door off its hinges and lo and behold guess who falls out, it’s the older gentleman and he’s unresponsive. We rolled him onto his back and he was barely breathing so I told the other flight attendant to stay with the passenger and page for any medical professionals on board while I went to grab emergency medical equipment but the whole time we were trying to coordinate that his wife is yelling at us that he’s fine and to just return him to his seat. He was not fine. By the time I grabbed our emergency AED and medical kits and O2 tanks and made it back to the passenger there were three nurses who had already started CPR on the fella and as a messy surprise once they unbuttoned his shirt they found that he had one of those I think they’re called colostomy bags?- the poop bags that attach to your guts- And so they were trying to do cpr around that. Sadly the gentleman ended up expiring and after receiving clearance from a doctor on the ground over our satellite phone the nurses stopped CPR after about an hour. What was left was the corpse of a relatively tall Caucasian male in our gallery whose feet blocked off one of the aisles and who was also covered in oozy shit due to his poop bag breaking during CPR. We tried our best to cover him with blankets and kept other people out of the area. His wife was of course terribly upset and she went from uncontrollable wailing to silence and at one point I heard her giggling a little under her breath- probably shock poor thing. I got some medical details about the gentleman from her and we found out that he had a stroke about two weeks prior and also had lung cancer and got out of hospice care to try to make one final vacation together and that the morning of the flight they made the decision to double both his painkillers and anti anxiety meds in preparation to fly. Because we were over the ocean we had to continue on to our arrival destination with the body in the galley for about another hour and a half of flight. When we arrived at the airport the sheriffs department also wouldn’t allow anyone to leave the plane for at least 45 minutes after arriving at the gate because they had to “clear the scene of any foul play”. It was a somber deplaning following that to say the least but surprisingly all of the passengers were extremely understanding and we didn’t even receive any complaints about what happened or if we did they were never relayed back to that particular crew that day.


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.