About The Woman Who Died Of Covid-19 On A Flight To Dallas

A woman died of Covid-19 on a Spirit Airlines flight from Phoenix to Dallas Fort-Worth on July 24. The story is only just now being reported. And the facts seemed so obviously not alarming that I didn’t cover it right away. But now that I’m seeing claims like, “so much for the ‘you can’t catch covid on a plane’ nonsense” that it’s clearly important to dive in.

The woman became non-responsive and the plane diverted to Albuquerque, where she was pronounced dead. She was 38 years old and had an ‘underlying medical condition’ that put her at high risk when contracting Covid-19 but the details of what the condition was hasn’t been released.

  • The woman did not contract Covid-19 on the flight.

  • There’s no indication she spread the virus on the flight either, though the CDC won’t confirm whether there was contact tracing done in this instance.

The woman tested positive for Covid-19 after she passed away. Initial reports were that she had died on the tarmac in Phoenix, but that turned out not to be the case. Attempts were made both by crew and by first responders in New Mexico to resuscitate her, which may have exposed them to the virus, but there’s no indication they contracted it. People tend to be most infectious shortly before and at the beginning of symptom onset.

This is a tragedy for the woman and for her family. But the incident doesn’t appear to tell us very much at all about the safety of travel during the pandemic.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So… She didn’t die OF COVID-19, she died WITH COVID-19, in all likelihood.

    ” She was 38 years old and had an ‘underlying medical condition’ that put her at high risk.”

    “SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) has been shown to be more severe in people with comorbidities such as obesity and asthma,” a medical investigator wrote. “The manner of death is natural.”

    Let’s monitor the data over the next two weeks for the passengers on the flight. If we find that the people that tried to revive her using one way breathing apparatuses were infected and hospitalized or deceased (through eyes, etc) then that tells us something. Or, a dying/dead human has their death rattle on an enclosed tube whose mask was then removed before CPR, giving them the perfect spreader event. The CDC and everyone else has repeatedly said masks don’t keep *you* from getting a coronavirus, but they prevent you from giving it to others.

    I’m sure we’ll hear about the results in one of the two cases, not the other.

    In addition, assuming that Spirit has the same protocols as the other domestic airlines, she had to attest to not having a fever in the last two weeks, has had no loss of taste or smell, etc., prior to boarding, and maybe a temp check. So she spontaneously combusted? We’re just extending the proof that security theater is just that, even in the age of the ‘Rona.

    Does everyone realize we (meaning the traveling public, airlines, airports, etc) reacted less stringently when it came to Ebola? Something with a mortality rate multiple decimal points worse that the ‘Rona?

  2. @Joe she died because of or due to COVID19, not an underlying medical condition. Her cause of death was COVID19 complications. This is like saying someone who had a heart attack died with heart disease. Seriously, I’m about sick of people like you not understanding that COVID19 and it’s risk is real.

  3. @joe you realize that Ebola is far less contagious than Covid-19? it’s not airborne. it requires direct physical contact with infected bodily fluids, the most infectious being blood, feces and vomit. it’s not a smart comparison.

  4. Wait, she flew with COVID? You’re definitely not supposed to do that, so this is revelatory. Gary, you’ve really turned into a troll-like character.

  5. Why can’t we test everyone who flies like Hawaii is doing? I am 100% sure transmission is happening on flights.

  6. Yep, you’re right, I should have picked a different disease which people consume far fewer calories worrying about. Bodily fluids include spit and snot, which is what happens when you sneeze, yes?

    I’m not looking to change your opinion, given that’s impossible on the Internet, but hoping everyone else doesn’t just fall into line with panic porn:

    “By comparison, measles, diphtheria, and whooping cough are all airborne, and they can be transmitted by “just being in face-to-face contact with an infected patient, without touching them,” Duchin says. When that person coughs or sneezes, others may become infected after breathing in the organisms.”

    All of these can kill the vulnerable or people with underlying conditions (how paranoid are new parents about whopping cough?, more rightfully so in some first world communities) but none of that matters. Not one airport on five continents has pre screened, or post screened, me or my family for two decades for any of these “easily transmitted” potentially fatal diseases.

    WHO: 142,000 died from measles last year, WHO estimates. (2019-Is that too few deaths worldwide to care? 142k not relevant in your conversation of sanitizing slot machine handles, but not bathroom knobs in SFO?) Let us know the acceptable tolerance for death, even among people that aren’t your neighbors, and how much you’re willing to inconvenience, or penalize others (the virus didn’t kill business, government action did) which results in lost jobs, etc.

    The entire reason so many of us discount fear porn is because there is ZERO cost benefit analysis conducted on varying forms of “prevention” versus letting more healthy people get the Corona virus before flu season happens and starts compounding the problem). Safety at all costs means you’d never get on a plane, or get in an Uber, or get on a train, or walk across the street again. It’d be like Stalingrad. Perfectly safe if you just stay where you are and don’t draw attention to yourself, eh?


    Heart disease in the *US* in NINE MONTHS in 2020 killed ~450k. It’s not contagious, except that it’s spread through advertising and being “forced” to eat Auntie Annie’s on the way out of LGA.

    I should have learned my lesson, and avoid anything on any travel blog that doesn’t involve cheap international biz flights, new routes or new seats. There are enough places to flagellate yourselves about how awful things are, how bad deniers are, blah blah. This isn’t the Walking Dead, or 28 Days Later.

    One of Murphy’s Law’s of Combat is, “Anything you do can get you killed, including doing nothing.”


  7. She’s flying Spirit, while having Covid. And she died because of morbid obesity. It’s tangentially related to Covid.

  8. “Wait, she flew with COVID? You’re definitely not supposed to do that…” My educated guess here is that she had silent hypoxemia – that the woman was not receiving enough oxygen in her blood but was unaware she was in danger. If she was on the plane above 8,000 feet (about 10 minutes after take off) the cabin oxygen level would have dropped and sealed her fate. Speculation, of course, but one way that flying with COVID-19 can rapidly become a deadly mistake.

  9. I would agree with @alohadavekennedy but would add that if she was wearing a mask and had those medical issues it would have contributed to further restrict her oxygen levels And aid in her unfortunate death.

  10. I don’t care how you label her cause of death. It sounds to me like she should not have been flying — because of the combination of her medical problems.

  11. By the time you have the most severe symptoms of COVID-19, you are in the post-viral phase and are not shedding huge amounts of virus. Obviously if you cough on someone it could spread, but this is likely 2+ weeks out from initial infection and the viral load is much decreased.

  12. Ah, the “didn’t die OF COVID-19, she died WITH COVID-19” canard

    Person with pre-existing condition goes about their life managing that condition. Person contracts COVID. Person dies. Doesn’t take much more than common sense to tell me COVID had something to do with their death.

    1.1. Million people dead worldwide due to COVID in less than a year, Joe. You can take your righteous self-centered indignation elsewhere.

  13. Bob – it is called pruning the herd (or natural selection). Nature finds a way many times to take out the weakest links. Understand the vast majority of people that have died are over 80 years old? They lived a long life and would have died of something in the next few years anyway.

    You can put a value on human life and the economic toll it has taken on American’s (and others around the world) is out of line with the number of deaths (especially since many were very old or had other medical conditions that likely would have eventually killed them.

    Let me put it another way – Neither option is good but if the choice was keep economy open and expand businesses in a rational manner which would cause 200,000 more deaths in the US or lock down and go back to how businesses were in the spring which would cause 20,000,000 to lose their economic life and lead to homelessness, hunger, addiction, suicide and abuse think most people would gladly take 200,000 more deaths. This isn’t something you can wave a wand at and cure – it will be with us and frankly the sooner it spreads and works its way through the population (with help hopefully from a vaccine) the better off everyone will be. There isn’t a good alternative.

  14. The last report I saw from the CDC was that only .06 of 1% of the deaths reported with COVID-19 were the only cause of death, so about 12,000 people. All of the others had an average of 2.4 contributing factors. A lady I went to high school with passed away at 73 and it was reported as a COVID death. Her brother posted that yes she had COVID but she had been in a nursing home for the past 10 years, had had a stroke, a heart attack, and COPD. My wife and I have both contracted COVID and have made a full recovery other than we can’t smell. I’m 71 and a few pounds overweight with high blood pressure and it was like a normal flu. My daughter contracted it and she said it was like a head cold. How many people die of cancer and yet we still sell tobacco products? The US population is obese and yet we sell huge portions of food. And why does my mask keep my germs in but not yours out? None of this makes sense to me. I’m sorry for the family of the lady who passed at the young age of 38 but I suspect it was not unexpected. You take out all of the nursing home deaths and the number goes way down. Fact of the matter is that drug overdose deaths are 4 times the deaths from COVID. Suicides are off the chart, mental health issues are growing, divorce is on the rise, businesses are failing, domestic violence is off the charts, all over a virus that for 99.9999% of the country is no worse than the common flu, other than it’s an election year!

  15. @The Brain, says, “…. most people would gladly take 200,000 more deaths….” That is, until the person who dies is their father, their mother, their sister, their brother, their spouse, their child, their best friend, etc.

  16. @OneXMarine, you seem to be making up numbers (which is nicer than what I was originally going to write). Go google “covid death rate vs influenza death rate” and also google “covid hospitalization rate” and educate yourself. Just because an ex-Marine can lick the covid doesn’t mean it’s as harmless as the flu.

  17. @Charlie I stand by my numbers and there are millions who have contracted COVID and lived to fight another day. Just because you had COVID doesn’t mean that your cause of death is COVID. If we gave the medical profession the financial incentive to code hang nails as a cause of death we’d have a surge in hang nail deaths. I had a conversation with my Dr. in January when this was first breaking. I’m going to die of something, I just don’t know what or when. But I refuse to climb into a bunker and hide from life. Feel free to do so as you probably do.

  18. It is tragic when anyone passes but that is part of life. Just really sad when it is someone that young who should have had a long life in front of them.

  19. Au contraire, this report confirms a lot of what we know about air travel safety, to wit:

    (1) People infected with COVID are flying (either deliberately or with no knowledge)
    (2) You take a risk every time you board a plane with 160 strangers, because you have no idea if the person sitting across or behind you has COVID
    (3) The pre-board questions are completely useless for reducing the risks.

    As Charlie noted, I don’t care about the cause of her death. But I do care about flying next to someone like her. No thanks. If OneXMarine wants to risk it by all means feel free to do so. But please quarantine while you are contagious.

  20. Masks don’t work. PCR tests don’t work. Vitamin D3 and some other supplements do work. Go take some and get your iu levels up past 45, preferably above 60. Eat well. Cut out or cut down on sugar. Exercise. Turn off mainstream news. Live your life as normal. Stop following the narrative.




  21. @Boraxo Go back to your bunker and hide, we’ll let you know where there is no risk in the world and it’s safe to come out. What a wimp! I’ve had COVID and it isn’t anything. And I’d rather die than live my life as a coward!

  22. @Todd – Right on! I take a few supplements and try to take care of myself but the mask mandate is a joke! Enjoy life and live it to the fullest because none of us are getting out of here alive!

  23. It is October because the nuts are out here to. Can not wait until some people use common senses, their brains and make educated opinions on here again. This snickering is for Karen’s on the housewives of XXXXX. grow up commentors or shut up

  24. @Tomri must be a left wing hack because if you don’t agree with them then you are wrong. As far as telling me to shut up, make me!

  25. @ Joe. How dare you add proven scientific facts and common sense to the emotional and political Covid 19 fear mongering.

  26. Testing positive based on a faulty PCR test means nothing. Numerous studies showing between 50 to 90 percent false positives.

    Very simply… testing positive does not equate to infectious. Period.

    The more tests done the more cases will go up. Of course they will if you have faulty tests. The fact is the death rate has gone down.

    There will be no flu this year as they will all be labeled COVID.

  27. OneXmarine, u probably failed MAT 101, because u don’t know how to figure out percentages. If u had fewer 9’s in ur 99.9999% maybe more people believed u.

  28. Doug, You probably failed grade school and that is why you work for the airlines and feed from the public trough.

  29. To achieve herd immunity in the US from covid there will be a million more deaths.

    I do not think anyone would find that acceptable.

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