Corpse On A Plane: Dead Woman Moved To First Class

Every wonder what happens to the 10 people a year who die mid-flight? Well, if you’re flying British Airways you get the final upgrade. Corpses fly first class. From Times Online:

Paul Trinder, who awoke to see the body at the end of his row, last week described the journey as “deeply disturbing”, and complained that the airline dismissed his concerns by telling him to “get over it”.

“It was a complete mess — they seemed to have no proper plans in place to deal with the situation,” said Trinder, 54, a businessman from Brackley, Northamptonshire.

The woman died during a nine-hour flight on a Boeing 747. Trinder was catching up on sleep when he was woken by a commotion and opened his eyes to see staff maneuvering the body into a seat.

“I didn’t have a clue what was going on. The stewards just plonked the body down without saying a thing. I remember looking at this frail, sparrow-like woman and thinking she was very ill,” said Trinder.

“She kept slipping under the seatbelt and moving about with the motion of the plane. When I asked what was going on I was shocked to hear she was dead.”

British Airways responds:
BA said the dead woman was taken into first class because the rest of the plane was full.

A spokesman said: “When a customer passes away on board it is always difficult and we apologise for any distress caused.”

He said there were about 10 deaths each year out of 36m passengers.

Other carriers use different procedures. Singapore Airlines has introduced “corpse cupboards” on its Airbus 340-500 aircraft. Cabin crews use the locker if there is no empty row of seats to place a corpse.

Note to self, do not fly Singapore airlines during zombie attack. Who knows how often they clean out the locker?—MEGHANN MARCO

BA Sat Corpse In First Class [Times Online]
(Photo: smartjunco)


Edit Your Comment

  1. “Paul Trinder, who awoke to see the body at the end of his row, last week described the journey as “deeply disturbing”, and complained that the airline dismissed his concerns by telling him to “get over it”.

    Realistically, what would have had BA do? Set down immediately and unload the body, inconveniencing hundreds of not-dead people? Re-animate the passenger?

    Life is not the movies. Dead people on the flight can’t be removed to some secret compartment, because there are no accessible secret compartments on a passenger jet. Entering the flight deck is prohibited, so you can’t stow the body in the jump seat.

  2. WindowSeat says:

    A dead seat-mate in first class beats a chatty seat-mate with grandchild photos in coach.

  3. Underpants Gnome says:

    I’m impressed with the number of stories using the “Zombies” tag. Not so much with the “corpse cupboards” though.

  4. “Dead people on the flight can’t be removed to some secret compartment, because there are no accessible secret compartments on a passenger jet. “

    Except Singapore airlines, apparently.

  5. Pssssst... says:

    …to answer CaliforniaCajun’s question, there is plenty you can do. There is a very large amount of free space below deck. The hostess sleeping quarters are also there in most planes. Probably the best place in any case due to the fact that it is below room temperature and will keep the body in better condition.

    It is not the movies…it is use your head.

  6. Imagine if the first class section was full…keeping a dead body in coach…super fun…

  7. BillyShears says:

    So I’ve gotta ask: If they intended to keep the corpse in the cabin, why not just keep it in the seat it presumably already had?

    Also: You know it’s a sad state of affairs when I too weigh the pros and cons of having a dead neighbor on a plane. On one hand, peace and quiet; on the other, if I’ve got a window seat going to and from the bathroom just became a lot more difficult.

  8. cabinaero says:

    There’s a lot more that could have been done. The deceased, for example, could have been locked into a lav for the remainder of the flight. or, like ‘ Pssssst…’ said, use the crew rest area and turn the available space in first class into crew rest.

  9. niteflytes says:

    They could have at least covered her with a sheet or blanket. Even the dead deserve a little privacy.

  10. mathew says:

    I think the guy’s problem wasn’t so much the corpse, as the corpse’s daughter, who spent the remainder of the flight sitting next to the corpse wailing inconsolably.

  11. Kryndis says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: Personally, I’m unsatisfied unless the airline opens a door and pushes the body overboard. If I died on a plane that’s how I’d want to go. That may just be me though.

  12. MotherFury says:

    Weekend At Bernie’s 3: Grandma Comes to Visit

    Seriously – they could have covered her. I don’t know what they could have done about the wailing woman.

    Maybe they should have offered the guy one of the three seats that were now freed up in coach? If they were all together, he could have stretched out and resumed his nap in peace.

  13. homerjay says:

    @BillyShears: Thats an excellent question. How can coach be ‘full?’ Its not like she mysteriously became two people. If they moved her because of her inconsolable daughter, least they could have done was move her daughter to first and leave the body behind… Its not like she’s going to need the extra legroom!

  14. bndocksnt says:

    @Kryndis: no sir, not just you. me too.

  15. Dustbunny says:

    She’s not dead — she’s just pining for the fjords!

  16. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    So you have to die to get an upgrade to first class? Fine, I’ll just stay in coach.

    I’m not sure what I would have done, or would have expected the airline to do. I’d say that’s a pretty akward situation and the flight crew handled as best they could.

    “Madam, is that passenger dead???”

    “No sir, she’s just pinin’ for the fjords”

  17. camas22 says:

    BA flights seat 10 abreast in coach and 2-4 abreast in first class on their 747s. So the stewardesses probably made the decision to impact easily 5x less customers. Who really has the nerve to deny someone the right to grieve over their deceased mother really? This guy travels so much he’s not just jaded about air travel he’s now jaded about in air deaths, but can’t handle someone crying on a flight.

  18. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    @Dustbunny: Jinx!

  19. jgodsey says:

    i always wondered.

  20. RandomHookup says:

    Well, we usually just clear out an overhead bin and in she goes. But that’s just the way I like to do business.

    Colleague of mine died on a plane over the Atlantic. I know they diverted to London, but not sure if they stopped working on him before they landed.

  21. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    1. There is usually space in the tailcone of the plane.
    2. This guy deserves a lifetime pass on BritAir, First Class!

  22. YodaYid says:

    If it happens 10 times a year, that’s more than enough to justify a contingency plan. There’s no dignified way to handle the situation otherwise.

    Anyway, couldn’t they clear out a row in coach?

    I’m actually impressed that British Airways decided to inconvenience the few and the rich over the masses.

  23. dohtem says:

    MotherFury: Maybe they should have offered the guy one of the three seats that were now freed up in coach? If they were all together, he could have stretched out and resumed his nap in peace.

    The flight was from Delhi to London. Have you seen the prices of overseas first class tickets? If they offered him coach, he better be getting a couple grand of his money back.

  24. AnnC says:

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik: Genius! Give the dead person a lifetime pass to first class!

    Oh, you mean the not dead guy. Nevermind.

  25. Dustbunny says:


    Great minds and all that : )

  26. KevinQ says:

    I, too, have no idea why they had to move her. She presumably already had a seat, so I don’t know why they had to get her another one.


  27. XopherMV says:

    Hmmm… did she have the fish or the chicken?

  28. dugn says:

    Sorry – but the image of having the corpse locked away in the lavatory for the remainder of the flight sounded like the best idea…until I imagined the wailing of the daughter at the lavatory door.

    It might make for a few less people going to the potty that flight…

  29. weave says:

    Big deal, it’s a corpse. Get over it. Like it’s going to decompose there on the spot or come back to life.

    Unfortunately I come from the same county as the complainer. Rose of the British Shires, and home of whiners too.

  30. cabinaero says:

    @dohtem: Actally try over $10,000. LON-DEL is pricing out at about $11,000 for a random Thursday-Thursday in April. (And honestly that’s not a bad price. Really.) I’m guessing the guy was upgraded and not paid F but, still…

  31. jtw79 says:

    I read a version of this story from the AP today, which quoted a statement from British Airways as follows:

    “The deceased must not be placed in the galley or blocking aisles or exits, and there should be clear space around the deceased. The wishes of family or friends traveling with the deceased will always be considered, and account taken of the reactions of other passengers.”

    I laughed myself to tears. Yes, please don’t keep corpses in the galley …

  32. Dustbunny says:


    Hmmm… did she have the fish or the chicken?”

    LOL, I thought of that too — or did she order a special meal and if so, can I have it?

    I’m going to hell for that.

  33. gardencat says:

    When flying, I worry about the possibility of a plane crash, but never gave thought to actually dying on a plane while it is safely in flight.

  34. “The hostess sleeping quarters are also there in most planes.”

    Only on 747s. And most transatlantic/transpolar flights are on 767 and other twinjets these days – jets that have only one deck.

  35. ironchef says:

    American Airlines files corpses as “Jim Wilson”
    Google it. You will laugh.

    I’d give British Airways the benefit of the doubt. People die. You can’t have a dead corpse close to another passenger who’s freaking out. Move it to the empty seats in first class. Kudos on resourceful thinking.

  36. weave says:

    @jtw79: Actually that bit about the wishes of the deceased family should always carry more weight. For pete’s sake, someone died. They can’t just toss the body around like it’s garbage or luggage. So some first class passenger got uppity. It could be worse obviously.

  37. Bay State Darren says:


    Like it’s going to decompose there on the spot or come back to life. Maybe not decompose, but it is my understanding that when a person dies, how should I put this delicately, certain muscles that are normally tightly closed-ahem-release what they are retaining. That is not what I want to be sitting next to on a flight. So IMHO, that guy did suffer.

    Note: IANAD

  38. cabinaero says:

    @Liberal Cajun (formerly in Cullyforneeya):

    Crew rest on a 747 is far aft in the tail and/or in the ‘attic’ above the lowerdeck. 777s also have ‘attic’ rest areas depending on configuration. 757s, 767s, etc. don’t have options crew rest areas aside from set aside-seats.

    And it’s quite possible to see 747s on North America – Europe flights. United routinesly schedules 744s on trans atlantics, as do BA and (formerly) American.

  39. @cabinaero: “Actally try over $10,000. LON-DEL is pricing out at about $11,000 for a random Thursday-Thursday in April.”

    Does that mean that she gets her money back? Being dead and all y’know it’s the least that they could do is refund her monies.

  40. cabinaero says:

    @Holden Caulfield:

    She wasn’t booked in first so no $5500 refund. But depending on the fare rules, her estate would be able to get back something for any unused ticket. :)

  41. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Never mind is right!
    It was a dead WOMAN not a guy!

  42. mconfoy says:

    Its amazing how many Brits, especially women, slammed this poor guy for not wanting to sit next to a dead body for 5 hours. Imagine that. The major point none of them got was no doctor had issued a death certificate or even determined death. What happens if the person had a stroke and might have lived with quick medical assistance? Do “stews baby” have medical degrees now? The plane should have immediately landed and the closest available airfield and made sure the woman was really dead. But that would have cost BA way too much money. Any other solution was wrong.

  43. FLConsumer says:

    Many of the Boeing jets have “crew rest areas” with bunks & such in them… Why wasn’t the woman moved to this area of the plane rather than being left out in public view? While I wouldn’t mind the 1st class upgrade, I certainly wouldn’t want to be dead in 1st class.

  44. FLConsumer says:
  45. faust1200 says:

    Being a former airline pilot myself (not for BA) I do not see how this wasn’t a medical emergency resulting in emergency landing. Even if she is deader than dead the flight crew contains no doctors therefore the former living passenger should be looked at by a doctor. If for no other reason than to cover the ass of the airline!

  46. @mconfoy & @faust1200: At first I was surprised the article made no mention of how they were sure she was actually dead but given the fact that the airline’s attitude is “get over it” I’m more worried now that they didn’t bother checking.

    This happens 10 times a year. How many of them die because the airline can’t be bothered to land?

  47. vanilla-fro says:

    I would think that an emergency landing would be a good idea, not knowing why the person died and all. Maybe everyone else should be looked at by a doctor (well at least those in close proximity of the recently expired)

    On a lighter note: “I’m getting better.” “no you’re not, you’ll be stone dead in a moment”

  48. muckpond says:

    my grandfather actually died on a plane in the 70s. i don’t know where they stored him, but i do know that they had to hold the body at the destination because they had to try to determine which state’s airspace he was in when he died so they could get a death certificate (they’ve changed the rules now).

    and when they shipped the coffin back home, they lost him like a piece of luggage. took them 2 days to get him home.

    absolutely true story. now remind me why i fly again?

  49. John Stracke says:

    Hmm…so, under the “wishes of the deceased family” clause, if I really wanted to be thrown overboard, and my wife tells the crew so, will they do it?

    I imagine some Poor Tortured Soul sitting out in a mountain wilderness where he’s gone to meditate and seek a religious vision. Suddenly, my (bearded, long-haired) corpse falls out of the sky, and he decides Christ has come again, but this time He’s dead until and unless He gets enough believers to make it worth His while. So Mr. Tortured Soul picks up my corpse and hies off to civilization to build a temple around it. Eventually my wife sees it in the news and laughs her head off.


    the flight crew contains no doctors

    Maybe there was a doctor among the passengers?

  50. John Stracke says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:

    This happens 10 times a year. How many of them die because the airline can’t be bothered to land?

    We don’t know anything about how the flight crew checked; the story didn’t go into it. Maybe there was a doctor on board; maybe the woman and her daughter were both sleeping, and the daughter woke up and found her mother stone-cold. Maybe the plane was over Iraq at the time, and the pilot decided not to risk the other passengers’ lives.

  51. galupo says:

    Don’t mean to sounds insensitve, but if I paid for a first class ticket and they moved a corpse next to me I would be really upset.
    First of all they should have landed at the nearest airport and removed the body off the plane for health reasons.
    Secondly he should have been compensated for being unecesarly inconvenienced.
    They should have moved the passengers in her row to first class not the body into first class.

  52. Trai_Dep says:

    So what *I* want to know is, who got her frequent flier miles?

    I thought that old people eating tins of cat food was urban legend, but after this and the Perina Death Chow stories, maybe not?

  53. I’m going to start a band and call them ‘Corpse Cupboards’.

  54. narzy says:

    haven’t you all overlooked the fact that generally when somebody dies they release the contents of their bowels? Not only was she dead in first class…she had poopie pants too!

  55. Bay State Darren says:

    Narzy, That, what I said! (Perhaps I put it too delicately.)

  56. ZandraReinprecht says:

    Okay, No one mentioned that dead bodies BURP. Burp means they loose control of bladder, bowel any gases in the bowel are released causing a stinky problem. One we need to have respect for the dead you would not want your mother folded up and stuffed in over head, in the belly of the plane, or treated like luggage. Has anyone ever had to pay for a loved one to be returned from a foreign country that is dead. They did the most human compassionate thing available to them at the time and circumstance. Where in the article did it say she was traveling with family. stick to the facts. Didn’t say she was in the same roll as him didn’t say if they could of stuffed him in another row next to a farting drunk who wants to talk about how important he is. He actually said “frail, sparrow-like woman” with compassion toward the dead woman. He was disappointed that there was no respect paid to her that is what it was about.