What happens when someone dies on an airplane? It’s unpleasant to consider, but it’s a sad reality that it’s best to be prepared for in the event that it happens mid-flight.
The important thing to remember is to remain calm, and let the flight crew do their jobs.
According to Business Insider, there are several possibilities for how the flight and cabin crew will handle the situation, and a lot of it depends on different factors—such as which airline the death has occurred on, how full the flight is, and whether or not it makes sense to divert the flight to make an emergency landing.
In most cases though, there isn’t much that can be done except to cover the deceased in a respectful manner and wait for landing. In most cases, the crew will try to move the deceased to an unoccupied row of seats, or an empty area of the plane. If it’s a full or crowded flight, the body may have to stay strapped into the seat and covered.
In other instances, it may be possible to move the body into the back galley, away from other passengers.
Some airlines, notably on some Singapore Airlines planes, have small compartments in the back that are large enough to accommodate the size of an average body, but it is not a universal feature.
Fortunately, despite an estimated three billion people traveling the skies every year, death on a plane is not as common as you’d think.
“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,” airline pilot Patrick Smith told Business Insider.
Fortunately, the crew on board the plane has backup from ground control, who will help them create a plan specific to the situation. Flight crew may also be in contact directly with medical professionals on the ground, depending on what’s happening on board.