Here’s a shocking and sad story that’s only making headlines months after the actual occurrence. On October 28, 2018, Ming Kou Chan (a Stanford scholar) was scheduled to fly Cathay Pacific from San Francisco to Hong Kong, and was using the Cathay Pacific Lounge at San Francisco Airport.
Not only did he never board the flight, but it was nearly 18 hours before his body was discovered inside one of the shower suites in the lounge. The reason he was finally found was because he never made it to Hong Kong, at which point concerns were raised regarding his wellbeing.
The autopsy showed that he had clogged arteries in his heart. It also showed multiple rib fractures due to CPR, but the attempts to revive him were futile, and he was declared dead at the scene.
This is of course a tragic story. While it doesn’t sound like there was foul play, it seems like there’s a chance that he could have been saved if they found him sooner.
An airport spokesperson said the following regarding the incident:
“From the airport’s perspective–we typically to leave it up to the airlines to manage the situation whenever the passengers don’t actually board the flight.”
Meanwhile a Cathay Pacific spokesperson said the following:
“Out of respect for the parties involved, we will not be commenting on the specifics of the incident.”
Many might be wondering how it’s possible for someone to be in an airport lounge bathroom for nearly 18 hours without anyone noticing. There are a few things to keep in mind, none of which justify what happened, but which might explain the combination of factors that led to this:
- This was a private shower suite, so there’s only one person who uses it at a time
- You’d think some red flags would have been raised when he didn’t board the flight; the reality is that all too often airlines don’t do much verification in this regard, given that airlines allow online check-in, so you have some people who check-in but don’t board the flight
- Logically when you get a shower suite in a lounge an airline should be keeping track of you; my guess is that the shower attendants were simply focused on whether the room was occupied or not, rather than keeping track of how long it had been occupied for
This is terrible, though I can see the set of unfortunate circumstances that led to this. It shows a clear lack of attention to detail on the part of the lounge staff. That includes the receptionists at the front (who should have known that this guy had visited the lounge, and therefore should have been suspicious when he didn’t board), and also the shower attendants (who should be tracking how long the shower room is being used for, rather than just whether it’s occupied or not).
It’s awful to think that he might have been saved if they had gotten to him sooner. The guy was only 69…
This also raises the question of how much responsibility the airline bears in this situation. Should they be held liable for their lack of attention to detail here, or was this just an unfortunate situation that couldn’t have easily been prevented?