Cabin crew have to deal with all sorts of incidents during a flight, some mundane and others far more dramatic. One flight attendant recalled a time something very disturbing indeed happened during a flight. Former air hostess Heather Poole described in her book Cruising Attitude the moment a dead body was discovered – but not how you might think. Heather narrates the time her friend told her about the alarming mid-flight incident.
“‘I knew that man was dead the moment I saw him all grey and slumped over in the wheelchair,’ [Georgia] whispered to me late one night.
“‘His wife said he’d been sick with the flu all week, and then when his daughter piped in and said they just wanted to get him home I thought to myself, if he’s not dead now he certainly will be soon.
“‘The captain agreed. We diverted an hour after we took off.’
It would appear that the plane passenger was already deceased before the plane took off.
“Before I could ask why in the world someone would try and smuggle a dead body on board, Georgia added, “Do you know how much it costs to transport a dead body the proper way? It’s insane!
“‘No wonder that passenger out of Miami tried to get away with packing his mother in a garment bag!’
“Honestly, I wouldn’t believe it either if I hadn’t read the company email discussing the incident myself.”
The episode of Heather’s might be a rare one, but unfortunately, deaths on board planes aren’t.
“Considering the sheer volume of people who fly every day and the growing number of elderly people who fly, I’m surprised it doesn’t actually happen more often,” commercial airline pilot Patrick Smith told Business Insider.
So where do the crew put the deceased passenger for the remainder of the flight?
Because aircraft don’t have anywhere official to place a dead body – the person is simply left sitting among the passengers.
They can be strapped into one seat or laid out on a row of spare seats.
To help the other passengers with the upsetting event, however, the dead body is covered with a blanket.
Anyone sitting next to the body who does not wish to remain there will be assigned a new seat.
When a death happens on a plane the deceased is not actually declared officially dead until they land.
Flight attendants are trained in medical emergencies to perform certain procedures but one thing they cannot do though is call a time of death, something only medical professionals can do.
As they are normally met on the ground, this means the person cannot be declared dead until the flight has landed.
There are three ways deaths are categorised on a plane, according to MedAir, a support service for flights.
These are: an unexpected medical emergency, a terminally ill passenger travelling for treatment and someone who knows they are sick but wants to travel.
When it comes to deaths on board aircraft, the code to alert crew to a death is “HR,” a man who claimed to be a ram agent for a major American airline revealed in a Reddit thread. HR means ‘Human Remains.”