Dead Passenger May Have Had COVID-19


Authorities are contacting United Airlines passengers in response to social media rumors that a man who died on their flight might have had COVID-19. Early in the flight from Orlando to Los Angeles last Monday, the man suffered a medical emergency, possibly cardiac arrest. The plane diverted to New Orleans where his body was removed before the flight continued to the West Coast. But as the emergency unfolded, some passengers took to social media claiming they heard the man’s wife say he had tested positive for COVID-19 and lost his senses of smell and taste, a common symptom.

On Friday, United said that at the time of the incident, there was no confirmation the man was infected and the airline still doesn’t know if he had been. Meanwhile, the four flight attendants who rushed to the man’s aid are self-quarantining and the airline is cooperating with Centers for Disease Control. “We are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the C.D.C. believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection,” the airline said.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. So maybe the honor system, regarding the COVID questions asked before boarding a flight, may not be working.

    • I’m totally shocked at that. In no way at all. If you fly into Hawaii, you’d better bring your doctor’s letter stating you’ve have a negative test, or your two-week vacation takes place in a hotel room.

  2. Reminds me of the ebola problems a few years back. One selfish individual from Liberia lied all the way to Dallas (via Brussels and Washington DC) US when boarding various airliners. When the hospital in Dallas asked if he’d been in Africa or had been around sick people recently, he essentially answered, “Who? Me? No!” He wanted to take advantage of free health care in the US granted to non-citizens. So the hospital didn’t have adequate information to make a correct diagnosis. His relatives are elated that they died. They became very wealthy because of his lies.

  3. Definitely a possibility of infection, but, at least for now, as reported in the article, the infection data is coming from social media, which supersedes supermarket tabloids, which supersedes two old ladies on the 10-party phone line.

  4. So does the decedent get a refund for that part of the flight he didn’t use through no fault of his own ? Asking for my friend, Sal.