A couple of days ago I initially wrote about how a man believed to have coronavirus died on a United Airlines flight. Well, the airline and the CDC have now finally confirmed that he had coronavirus, so let’s recap what we know, and talk about the update.
COVID-19 positive man dies on United flight
Unfortunately a passenger died on United Airlines flight 591 from Orlando to Los Angeles on Monday:
- About two hours into the flight a passenger sitting in seat 28D stopped breathing; according to other passengers, he was having a hard time breathing from the beginning of the flight
- The crew asked if there were any doctors onboard, and a few people ended up trying to help the passenger; you could apparently hear his bones cracking during chest compression, and then the man turned blue
- Reports suggest that the passenger’s wife initially admitted he was experiencing shortness of breath and a lack of taste and smell, and when talking to EMTs in New Orleans, the wife admitted the man had tested positive for coronavirus
- After the passenger was offloaded in New Orleans, his seat was wiped down, and the plane continued to Los Angeles
Below are some Tweets from passengers who were on the flight (warning: graphic descriptions).
United & CDC confirm the man had coronavirus
As noted by View from the Wing, United Airlines has now confirmed that it was contacted by the CDC, and informed that the man did have coronavirus:
Our flight diverted to New Orleans due to a medical emergency and paramedics transported the passenger to a local hospital where the individual was pronounced deceased. We have been in touch with his family and have extended our sincerest condolences to them for their loss.
At the time of the diversion, we were informed he had suffered a cardiac arrest, so passengers were given the option to take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans. Now that the CDC has contacted us directly, we are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection.
Here’s a reader’s complaint letter to United
A reader reached out to ask me to bring attention to the situation that happened on this United flight. His family of six was on this flight, and he sent a complaint letter to United on Tuesday, seeking $20,000 per passenger (or $120,000 for his party) in compensation.
Well, he heard back from United on Wednesday:
- United said he won’t be compensated because the CDC hadn’t yet called United to report the man was a confirmed coronavirus patient
- When he asked if the airline spoke to family members, they allegedly said that they wouldn’t because “it’s rude”
- When he asked if they contacted the hospital, they said they hadn’t “due to HIPAA”
Here’s his complaint letter to United, for anyone who would like to read it:
Last night, myself, my wife and 4 of our children flew back from MCO to LAX. About two hours into the flight a passenger sitting at 28D had stopped from breathing and the crew called for a medical personal onboard to help. The crew and a few volunteers came to help and dragged the non breathing man to the floor to perform CPR and necessary medical care. For the next 45 minutes they try their best to give life to the man . My family and I were seated at row 25 ABC and 27 ABC, we tried hard to distract the eyes of our kids from seeing this situation, but it was impossible, my children were terrified seeing a medical treatment on a man no longer alive right in front of their eyes. I do not wish this on any child in the world to go through the trauma which they experienced last night.
It took 45 min for the plane to arrive at MSY for the paramedic to come to the plane and remove the man. Once the paramedics arrived, the crew and the volunteers reported the condition of the passenger stating that he had no pulse for the last 38 min and added that he has Covid since his family member traveling with him stated that the man had lost his sense of smell and taste for the last four days.
While the crew’s care and dedication for the passenger was done efficiently, some can strongly argue that United had failed to prevent a known Covid patient from boarding the plane. But undoubtedly the crew definitely failed from preventing the trauma for the very young children sitting right next to the man. Perhaps moving the man to the front or back of the plane would have helped avoiding the kid’s trauma? but this is not the point of my letter.
The point of my letter is to expose United systematically misleading their travelers. United is promising to take the extra step (CleanPlus) to ensure the safety of the travelers from Covid19. As soon as the (dead?) passenger was dragged out of the plane, I was expecting that we would all come off the plane and a special crew would get on with special equipment to disinfect the plane. After all, United proudly demonstrate on their website an antimicrobial technology robot and Ultraviolet C (UVC) lighting which can professionally disinfect the plane. But NO! Instead, a lady wearing white t-shirt (not sure if she is a staff member since there was no uniform or badge) came with a bunch of wipes and wiped the passenger seat and that was all!!
Passengers have been promised that United planes are professionally disinfected even without a confirmed Covid Passenger. But now, in front of my eyes, when a confirmed Covid patient was treated for 45min all over the floor and has been dragged while his hand touching every single seat on his left side, the plane is being cleaned by few wipes? United promises an ultra safe environment using “state-of-the-art” equipment, and in reality treated the infected plane worse than a 3rd world country airliner.
We arrived home after a long Journey. But since we felt that the plane was completely infested with Covid19, myself, my wife and our 4 children will have to quarantine for 14 days. Since our kids are still in school (private school) they will have to miss now 14 days of education and interactions with their friends and family simply because United had failed to clean their plane.
This situation placed my entire family in a trauma but most importantly United had placed my family in danger. We’re very worried that we caught the virus from the infected plane and I’m deeply concerned about my family’s physical and mental health status. the damages already took place and unfortunately not reversible. However I believe that each of us are entitled to serious compensation for the situation which United placed upon us, and I’m giving a chance for United to take responsibility and act quickly to solve this issue directly with us. I feel that $20K payout per family member can minimize the trauma and health risk which was imposed on us. And I’m sure that United will do the right thing. However, if I feel that my concerns were not addressed properly, I will first take the story to the social media and I’m sure that this story will be trending way more than the latest story of United removing the family of the 2 year old who refused to wear a mask. And lastly I will not hesitate to take it further to a lawsuit. But again, I’m trying to be fair here and asking United to address my case with responsibility and care.
My take on this situation
I have a few thoughts based on hearing about this situation, and reading the letter. I’m not even going to address the compensation request, though you guys are welcome to share your thoughts in the comments section as to whether or not the reader is being reasonable.
In no particular order:
Why would this passenger fly?!?
We’ve heard some stories of passengers with coronavirus flying (or trying to fly), though typically it’s people with mild or no symptoms. One has to wonder what would motivate someone who is having serious breathing issues and who is on the brink of dying to get on a five hour transcon flight.
Even not accounting for the safety of others (which clearly wasn’t a consideration), why would someone want to do this to themselves? Did he not think his situation was as serious as it was, or…?
My thoughts are with… everyone
Despite the recklessness of the man choosing to get on a plane after testing positive, my thoughts are still with his family, as losing loved ones isn’t easy.
Beyond that, I also feel bad for the passengers who had to witness this. It’s not easy to witness anyone dying, and I can only imagine how hard it was (in particular for kids) to see all of this go down, especially given the confined spaces on planes.
United probably couldn’t have stopped this man from flying
Personally I don’t think United has any responsibility for this man flying as such:
- During check-in passengers have to self-report on whether they have any coronavirus symptoms
- That’s the extent of it, and there’s really not much else airlines can do, especially for domestic flights
So I don’t think United could have done much to prevent this passenger from flying, unfortunately (and perhaps that gets at a failure in the system). Others report seeing this man had trouble breathing even early on, though I don’t see any reports of the crew having been made aware of this.
United could have responded to this situation much better
While I don’t think United is responsible for this guy flying, I do think the airline is responsible for how this was handled. If the passenger’s wife did in fact confirm that the man had tested positive for coronavirus, it’s outrageous and grossly irresponsible that the airline simply wiped down his seat after he was taken off, and kept flying.
At an absolute minimum the airline should have done a deep cleaning of the plane. Now, hopefully no one else was infected due to mask compliance generally being good on planes, but…
I totally get how the situation happened — the flight diverted, this is an outstation for United, and chances are that higher-ups weren’t involved. But that doesn’t make it any more acceptable, given how serious this situation was. Airlines should have plans in place for this kind of stuff, and surely this wasn’t the plan.
A man who had apparently tested positive for coronavirus died on a United Airlines flight on Monday, causing a diversion to New Orleans. Since the incident happened, it has now been confirmed by both United and the CDC that this man had coronavirus.
It’s sad that someone died, though it’s also sad that he was so reckless to fly with coronavirus, and endanger others.
I don’t ultimately think the airline could have done much to prevent the man from flying (it’s just the reality of how coronavirus is handled in the US), though I do think United’s response was completely unacceptable. At a minimum the airline should have deep cleaned the plane, rather than just wiping down his seat and continuing the flight.
What’s your take on this situation, and United’s responsibility?