Flight secrets: Insiders reveal what really happens when someone dies on a plane

Flights can see people of all ages board a plane but sadly sometimes not all passengers arrive alive. Cabin crew are faced with dying fliers every year. “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 once told Business Insider.

“Something you probably don’t think about when applying to the job.”

Covering a dead body with a blanket is standard procedure on a flight.

This is because aircraft do not have anywhere official to store a corpse.

Anyone sitting next to the body who does not wish to remain in the neighbouring seat will be assigned a new one.


However, according to another Reddit user, sometimes on larger, long-haul planes, the dead body might be placed in the crew’s rest area.

“Long haul airliners can have a crew rest area either below or above the main cabin where the second crew can sleep/relax while the first crew flies the plane and looks after the passengers,” they wrote.

“If a person dies mid-flight you can stick the body in there.”

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.

Interestingly, when a death happens on a plane the deceased is not actually declared officially dead until they land.

Cabin crew are trained in medical emergencies to perform certain procedures.

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However, what they cannot do is call a time of death.

This is something only medical professionals can do.

This means the person cannot be declared dead until the flight has landed.

Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Katie McDonald once told the BBC: “We technically don’t have any mid-flight deaths.”

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 stands for “Human Remains,” the insider explained.


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