Question: In an airplane, if someone passes away, what is a flight crew to do?

Answer (courtesy of British Airways): Strap the deceased passenger into a seat in a less congested area of the plane until the flight ends.

Last month a British Airways flight crew encountered a difficult situation: A woman passed away just after take-off.  Since flights are rarely diverted in instances such as this, the crew was forced to move the deceased to an area where the body would not obstruct aisles or exits for the duration of the flight from New Delhi to Heathrow.  This, combined with turbulence, forced the crew to strap the body into a seat in first class, propping her up with pillows. The daughter of the deceased spent the remainder of the nine hour flight grieving and preventing her mother from sliding out of the seat.

What about the first class passengers that were forced to share the cabin for the remainder of the flight with a dead body?

According to a passenger who shared his seat row with the corpse, the airline told him to “get over it.”

While the experience of flying next to a corpse is traumatic in itself, the important part of the equation is how the airline chose to handle the situation.  While a public apology was shared, no announcements have been made by British Airways regarding how this situation will be avoided in the future.  All communications regarding the story involve an small apology, yet no solution.

Despite the fact that death on an airplane is a fairly rare occurrence, we do believe that in order to allow this story to (no pun intended) die, British Airways should have issued an apology and offered an immediate solution for avoiding this type of situation in the future.  Whether it is a change in aircraft design (some aircrafts actually have a “locker” of sorts available for just this sort of situation), or by offering a change in policy such as the intent to divert the flight to the nearest airport once a death is reported, a solution should always be offered to squash concerns and negative chatter. 

In our opinion, flying with a dead body for nearly 10 hours is inexcusable and traumatic for everyone involved.  No matter how you spin this one, the outcome was just wrong.