Passengers of a British Airways flight made a grim discovery while aboard their flight to France this week, realising a woman they thought was sleeping was actually dead.
The 73-year-old woman died mid-air on the flight from London to Nice on Thursday night – but passengers only realised and called for help once the plane landed.
It is believed the woman suffered a heart attack, Nice Airport told French newspaper The Connexion.
Passengers were collecting their hand luggage and lining up in the aisles to disembark after the plane landed at 9:07pm local time when they realised the passenger was not responding, according to The Connexion.
Panicked, they alerted flight attendants who quickly called air traffic control for emergency services. Firefighters and paramedics arrived and attempted to revive the woman, but she was declared dead around 10pm.
British Airways confirmed the reports to the Daily Mail and extended its condolences to the family of the 73-year old, who has not been identified.
“Sadly, a customer passed away on a flight from London Heathrow to Nice. Our thoughts are with the customer’s family at this difficult time,” the airline told the outlet.
“We are unable to provide or confirm further details about the passenger.”
Although undoubtedly a tragic experience for all involved, thankfully mid-air deaths are something very few people have first-hand experience with.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has guidelines for flight crews on how to respond to an on-board death – after resuscitation cannot continue.
It recommends that the body be moved to a seat – or another area of the plane – and covered and restrained until local authorities, informed of the situation by the captain, arrive to help it be removed.
In August this year, a pilot collapsed and died on board a flight from Miami to Chile, forcing his copilots to make an emergency landing in Panama. Despite efforts of passenger nurses and doctors on board while landing, he was unable to be revived.
In June, a 25-year-old British man died on a flight from London to New York after suffering an asthma attack and dropping his inhaler.
And in November 2022, a flight attendant died after suffering a heart attack during a Gulf Air flight from Bahrain to Paris.
People have also died in the air much closer to home.
As recently as April 2019, a Melbourne woman unexpectedly died while returning home on a Qantas flight from Los Angeles.
In July the previous year, another Qantas passenger on a flight from London to Sydney died after falling critically ill mid-air and forcing an emergency landing in Adelaide.