Continental Ejects Passenger From Flight For Coughing

Better pack some mentho-lyptus vapor-action candy-meds next time you fly Continental Airlines. A 16-year old was kicked off a scheduled flight from Newark to Honolulu because she was coughing.

Moments after Collier was seated, she began to cough uncontrollably — suffering from a cold she caught from some of her friends earlier in the week. After a few minutes, members of the flight staff asked the teen if she was OK. […] “A doctor onboard even did a brief physical, said she sounded clear, to give her some NyQuil and she’d be fine, but the pilot didn’t want to listen to that.” Instead, according to Collier, he stepped in and asked that she be taken off the flight.

The teen, part of a school group, was left behind. A teacher stayed behind too, to chaperone.

The pilot’s reaction might have made sense if there had been no medical evaluation. A truly ill person isn’t well-served getting on a plane that spends 10 hours in the air, nearly half of those over the Pacific Ocean. But a physician examined and cleared the passenger as good-to-go.

Sounds like the pilot wanted to play doctor. MARK ASHLEY

Captain Cans Coughing Teen From 10-Hour Flight [ABC News]
(Photo: The BrassPotato)


Edit Your Comment

  1. mopar_man says:

    I sure hope they get that pilot’s name and file a formal complaint. That’s ridiculous.

  2. winnabago says:

    Yeah, I’d say I was a doctor too, if it let the flight take off sooner.

    Ten hours is a long time to be in the air, even if healthy. I think the pilot made the right call, it’s his responsibility at the end of the day if something goes wrong, and there are plenty of illnesses that could go from simply coughing to well, death, in less than 10 hours.

    What’s with this airline bashing lately? She probably got on the next flight out for free.

  3. esqdork says:

    Maybe the point was the health of the other passengers? As someone who has caught colds and flus from sick passengers on a flight, I say good on Continental. You’d think the passenger would have the courtesy of taking cough medication or a lozenge rather than hacking up a lung on the flight and getting other people sick.

  4. unwritten07 says:

    The passenger was just a kid. I would say that the shaperone should have taken care

  5. unwritten07 says:

    oops I’ll try that again

    The passenger was just a kid. I would say that the shaperones should have taken care of it except that they were probably afraid of getting sued for medicating someone elses child.

  6. facted says:

    @winnabago: I agree that she probably should have been taken off the plane, but an illness from coughing to dead in 10 hours, in a teen is not exactly common. Perhaps if she was having a severe asthma attack or something along those lines. What exact illness were you thinking about?

  7. acambras says:

    It’s funny how people get so pissed off about other people flying with colds, but consider this:

    1) You buy your ticket, usually several weeks (or months in advance).

    2) Weeks (or months) later, it’s time for your flight, and you’ve got the sniffles. Unless you’ve got travel insurance, you can’t cancel the flight and get your money back. Besides, are you going to cancel that important business trip or that flight home for the holidays just because you’ve got a cough and the sniffles? It’s not freakin’ TB.

    I would love a flight free from phlegmy sick people, gum poppers, whiners, screaming children, seat kickers, armrest hogs, and people who ate at Taco Bell just before boarding, but that’s just never going to happen.

    Until everyone has their own private jet, we’re going to have to cut each other a little slack.

  8. swalve says:

    Meningitis, blood poisoning. A particularly bad pneumonia once put me from “mild sniffles” to “blubbering mess of shaking, sweating, coughing and wheezing” in 4 hours. SARS.

    There are plenty of reasons to keep a person who is UNCONTROLLABLY coughing off of an airplane.

  9. crnk says:

    First: the pilot is in control of the plane. What he/she says is what happens, and once a pilot makes a decision, it needs to be upheld, or the pilot’s authority is in question.
    Second: A doctor cleared her??!!?!?! Not only are there many different types of doctors and specialties, so even a practicing physician may not be someone fully qualified to pronounce her as alright. In addition, news reports indicated this “physical” was done on board or on the jetway, and not in a medical facility.

  10. Pelagius says:

    As far as I know, every US domestic carrier contains language in its contracts of carriage (the rules that passengers are obligated to follow if they want to fly) to the effect of “A passenger shall not be permitted to board the aircraft if that passenger has a contagious disease, which is transmissible during the normal course of a flight, e.g., chicken pox.”

    This sucks if you blew $1000 bucks on a non-refundable ticket to Hawaii and come down with the flu the day before your departure, but that doesn’t give you the right to infect everyone else on board.

  11. healthdog says:

    Good for Continental. Sucks for the passenger, but…sorry.

  12. acambras says:


    According to news reports, this girl had a cold — not the flu, mumps, or chicken pox.

  13. RumorsDaily says:

    Eh, I’m not sure I mind. There’s 150 other passengers to think of and someone spewing germs uncontrollably for a ten hour flight strikes me as something of a problem.

  14. Tallanvor says:

    Let’s see… What would I prefer… A person with a cold, or a corpse on a plane… I’ll take the 16 year old girl with the cold. Sorry, but she’s really not that likely to die during a 10 hour flight, unless she’s really sick. And airlines do transport really sick people at times.

    I’ve come down with enough colds shortly after flying to know that it doesn’t matter if you see or hear people coughing/blowing their noses/whatever – they can still be contagious. And when it comes to medical advice, I’ll trust a doctor over a pilot any day (I’m with George Carlin, don’t give me any of that “captain” crap).

  15. Nicholai says:

    man, I’m germ-phobic so…. better to be safe then sorry.

  16. facted says:

    @swalve: Of those you mentioned, SARS and pneumonia are the only ones that actually give you a cough. (Meningitis is more fever/nausesa/vomitting, aversion to light, stiff neck and awful HA. No cough).

    SARS is pretty, pretty bad although it is not currently active, and when it was, it was confined to Asia and Toronto (a few years ago).

    As for pneumonia, in a teenage girl, the chances of her coughing to dying in 10 hours is not exactly common. If it was an elderly women I’d be more worried, but not with a teenage girl.

    With all that being said, if she’s coughing her lung out continuously for hours, then perhaps she’s not fit for flying and she may be contaminating others around her with whatever she has. However, as with most scenarios, we really have no idea what actually happened. None of us were there and everyone involved is going to exaggerate the story in their own direction.

  17. DavidP says:

    10 hours in a metal tube, breathing in recirculated air? the pilot is a hero. who would volunteer themselves to be a passenger in the seat right next to her?

  18. cabinaero says:

    She was IDB’d at the discretion of the pilot — she’s going to get rescheduled and will probably get some compensation for the delay.

  19. Nobody seems to have read the article. Sure, this sucked, but the mother actually appreciated that the pilot exercised his authority. From the article, she is found saying:

    “I thought it was a little extreme, but I feel like the airlines are under so much scrutiny right now and people are being treated differently,” she said. “I understand their concerns with passenger safety. I want them to have that authority, so it’s a double-edged sword.”

    “The pilot said he’s had a lot of situations where he didn’t take action and regretted it later,” said Collier. “There was a mistake made, but they’re owning up to it and going above and beyond.”

    I don’t know. At the end of the day, it’s Consumerist’s mission to protect the consumer, but this particular consumer actually understands that the actions were done for a reason. The article goes into that in more depth.

  20. Pelagius says:

    @acambras: Who determined that? The Did the onboard doctor take a sputum sample? Continental’s contract of carriage (pdf) is pretty clear on this. Caveat emptor. Take some nyquil next time.

  21. snowferret says:

    Thats so lame. What were they afraid of? Her giving it to the other passengers? Well if shes allerady coughed they have it. Hope they give her a refund or something.

  22. Craig says:

    This article (click) gives more info on why the pilot may have decided to ask her to leave the plane (she reported having difficulty breathing) and at the same time slams Continental for how they handled it (the student and the teacher were left to find their own hotel without their luggage, which was left on the plane). So it sounds like the pilot made a reasonable choice from the information he had and then Continental completely dropped the ball.

  23. kerry says:

    @snowferret: My thoughts, exactly. Once the coughing fit started the potential damage to other passengers was done, so that’s no reason to kick her off. If the pilot was genuinely concerned for her health I understand, but doesn’t make it suck any less for her.

  24. Helvetian says:

    I have been on planes before with the common cold. Airlines won’t let you cancel and will impose the hefty fines and surcharges to change your ticket. I would shield my cold until take off, then it’s too late. Fortunately I’ve never been really sick before a flight, at best one of those “coughs every 1-2 hours for 30 seconds” type colds. I do bring the big jumbo bag of Halls and eat them continuously throughout the flight to reduce the coughing and sooth the throat. Also helps to drink tea when they offer it (on select flights).

  25. jendomme says:

    The ‘kid’ was 16 years old. She knows enough that know how to take care of herself. She should have taken care of her issues before boarding. Continental made the right call on this one. Boot the bitch.

  26. Scottzz says:

    This pilot seems to have over stepped his authority as the Captain. His reaction was “overreaction’ to a harmless issue. Even the TSA does not see coughing as a problem in flight. This Pilot (Captain…or el Capitano) should be disciplined if not fired …..especially for costing the airline the money needed for taking care of two people for needless worry and fear. And hey….do we need an pilot flying overhead who is afraid of a teenager coughing?????

  27. spryte says:

    Jeez, jendomme…the girl is a bitch because she was coughing? Ease up!

    Yeah, it’s annoying to be near someone coughing and hacking like that, and yeah, maybe she was going to give a few people colds…OH THE HORROR!! A COLD!! Come the fuck on, everyone gets colds, they aren’t life threatening. And the fact is, people can be sick and germy without making a sound…a lot of people feel under the weather after a flight, with or without excessive coughing going on.

    Surely someone on board would have had some cold medicine on them, or a flight attendant could have procured some from the airport, or something. And who can say that her coughing wouldn’t have subsided minutes later?

    The screaming crying horribly-behaved child getting booted was one thing…this is getting stupid now. I have allergies, will I be kicked off a plane because I’m sneezing, even though it’s not contagious?? Where will they draw the line? Someone could easily lie and say their cold symptoms are from allergies…

  28. potent1al says:

    Honestly you can look at this from either way, but the funny part about if all is EVEN IF the pilot kept the girl on the plain, there would be an article about how some pilot endangered a whole passenger cargo, and if not that, let the whole cargo catch a cold.

    And even then the flight would of been not pleasing for other people on board and one of them would of asked for a refund.

    I mean you just can’t get around situations like this as easy as it seems at first glance. The outcome would of been negative no matter what way.