What United Airlines Is Telling Employees About The Passenger With Covid-19 Who Died Onboard Monday

What United Airlines Is Telling Employees About The Passenger With Covid-19 Who Died Onboard Monday

by Gary Leff on December 18, 2020

I believe I was the first to report on the passenger with Covid-19 who died on a United Airlines flight on Monday. Initially the airline tried to wave me off the story. Now they’re acknowledging it.

According to the airline,

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.

According to Taylor Garland, spokesperson for Association of Flight Attendants-CWA which represents United’s flight attendants, the cabin crew went into quarantine on arrival at LAX.

United flight attendants on Monday responded to a medical emergency inflight resulting in a diversion. Upon arrival at LAX, the crew of four Flight Attendants were quarantined for 14 days per written guidelines. Our union continues to provide support to the crew. We urge passengers to comply with airline COVID policies and stay home if you’re sick.

United Airlines flight 591 from Orlando to Los Angeles diverted to New Orleans Monday evening. Passenger overheard the man’s wife telling medical personnel about the man’s Covid-19 diagnosis. Initially neither the flight nor airline were disclosed but I tracked down the only flight to or from Los Angeles (where the report came from) that diverted. United then confirmed this was the aircraft in question.

  • This isn’t United’s fault. Someone with Covid-19 flew despite symptoms and a Covid-19 diagnosis. United makes passengers acknowledge they lack these symptoms in order to fly.
  • United’s health acknowledgement is useless. As I wrote from the beginning, anyone with Covid-19 or Covid-like symptoms knows not to fly. Anyone who is going to fly anyway isn’t going to be stopped because an app asks them whether they have symptoms.
  • United continued onto Los Angeles using the same aircraft. They didn’t do a deep clean before flying the plane again. Fomites aren’t a primary means by which the virus is transmitted, but with all the effort airlines are putting into sanitizing planes not doing so after a passenger with the virus died on board is shocking. It’s not clear the extent to which the airline understood the role of Covid-19 at this point.

Here is what United Airlines is telling its employees:

It’s sad that the passenger in 28D passed away. It’s rough on his wife, who was accompanying him. On the other hand if he’d been hospitalized she likely wouldn’t have been able to spend last moments with him.

It’s utterly unfair to the rest of the passengers that they were exposed to this man who knew he was sick, and his wife went along too even knowing he was sick, unable to taste or smell, and suffering shortness of breath.

Some are shocked that a person would fly in that condition. Many people wouldn’t but it doesn’t surprise me in the least. Sadly it comports perfectly with my model of human nature.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published