Here's What Really Happens When Someone Dies on an Airplane


It’s something nobody wants to think about: What if you, or someone you know, has a medical emergency on an airplane? The flight crew is extensively trained to handle emergencies, but in some cases, there’s simply nothing more they can do. So what happens when a passenger dies mid-flight? The events leading up to the death play a role in how it's handled. For example, someone who shows signs of an illness might warrant an emergency landing if the flight crew thinks the person can be saved. However, in some cases, death is so sudden that there’s no point in landing. In that case, the crew makes its best attempt to move the passenger away from others. If there’s an open row of seats available, the crew will move the passenger there to keep them out of immediate view of other passengers. If there’s nowhere to move the deceased passenger, they must remain in their seat. Typically, the passenger will be covered up and strapped to the seat to ensure there’s no movement. Some airlines even have compartments that can comfortably fit a deceased person. Though it’s rare, pilots can also die in-flight. In that case, the pilot would remain in the cockpit, while the co-pilot would continue on to their destination. Overall, in-flight deaths are very rare. With some 40 million commercial flights last year, there were only 94 people in-flight deaths.