How One Airline Handled a Corpse on a Moscow-Bound Flight

Oct 14, 2016

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You don’t have to be a frequent flyer to have a personal stockpile of terrible flight stories. But it’s hard to imagine enduring anything quite like what happened aboard a recent Moscow-bound Azur Air flight when a 50-year-old woman suffered a fatal diabetic seizure about 45 minutes into the 3.5-hour journey — according to a Daily Mail article, it’s also believed that she was suffering from acute heart failure. With no place to move the woman’s body, the flight crew opted to lay her in the aisle of the Boeing 757 and cover her body with a blanket, with the rest of the passengers looking on.

While in-flight deaths are not a common occurrence, there are protocols in place in the event that a fatality actually occurs. Most larger planes are equipped with a storage area for this very purpose, which airline industry insiders have dubbed the “corpse cupboard.” On other aircraft, “The deceased will be moved to an empty row of seats and covered in a dignified manner,” a spokesman for Singapore Airlines told Quartz in August. “If no seats are available, the body will be left in the deceased’s existing seat. Customers seated next to the deceased will be moved to other available seats wherever this is possible.” In the case of this Azur Air incident, however, the flight was fully booked.

Of course, every airline has its own set of procedures — making an emergency landing would have also been an option, but the pilot chose to complete the flight.

The tragedy also brings up another important issue in air travel: carrying medical supplies. The woman’s husband said his wife had taken her insulin an hour before the flight, then placed it in her checked luggage believing she wouldn’t need it again. While heightened security procedures here in the US may mean it takes longer for a person carrying medical supplies to get through security, the American Diabetes Association has worked closely with the TSA to ensure that diabetics will be allowed to bring all necessary medication and equipment onto a flight to prevent an emergency like this one. As you never know when a tarmac delay or other interruption may occur, it’s always best to err on the side of safety and pack any necessary medical supplies in your carry-on bag.

H/T: Travel Pulse

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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