Passenger Reportledy Died Of Covid-19 On A Flight Yesterday

A passenger with Covid-19 died yesterday on a domestic flight, as reported by a fellow passenger on twitter.

The LAX-based passenger reporting the incident has so far confirmed only that they were either flying American or United. The flight diverted for medical attention and then continued to its destination. Some sleuthing uncovered that only one flight to or from Los Angeles diverted on Monday, United 591 from Orlando to Los Angeles, which stopped in New Orleans.

According to a United Airlines spokesperson,

United flight 591 from Orlando to Los Angeles was diverted to New Orleans on the evening of December 14 due to a medical emergency. Paramedics boarded the aircraft upon landing in New Orleans and the passenger was taken to a local hospital.

The flight continued from New Orleans to Los Angeles.

Now, if the twitter report is accurate, flying after a Covid-19 diagnosis is shockingly irresponsible. We’ll actually need to know the cause of death to know whether it’s related to any Covid-19 diagnosis. And if they had received a positive test we do not know whether the passenger was contagious at the time they traveled.

The relative safety of an aircraft inflight compared to other indoor environments notwithstanding, someone with the virus still travels through the airport and waits in the gate area prior to flight and uses the jetway to board an aircraft. If a passenger is contagious they can expose other passengers. However a majority of people who contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus do not infect others (while a minority of those who do infect many people). So we don’t know if anyone else would have caught the virus even if this passenger was infectious at the time they traveled.

A passenger died on a Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Dallas in July. The flight diverted to Albuquerque. Other passengers on the flight weren’t notified of the potential exposure by public health authorities.

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, 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. Did they die from COVID or with COVID? Big difference. And the plane continues on with the passengers? So much for “being here for your safety!”

  2. Gary. You really need to change this title. It’s irresponsible. Died of covid or died of something else and was covid positive is one hell of an important distinction for the airline industry right now.

  3. If everyone is wearing their magic 2 cent masks from China, how is this irresponsible? I know at least half a dozen people that have tested positive (asymptomatic) and have taken flights. Personally, probably would to since the masks are required by the airlines and they say it is so safe to have that many people together.

  4. @ Kelly Loeffler – Are you going to get the hate mail now! LOL Don’t you know that the airlines “care about your safety?” The the F/A’s are “here for your safety?” If they believed what they are trying to sell us they would have gotten the passengers off the plane and had it cleaned. US Airlines are a joke!

  5. Big jump here to say the passenger died of COVID.

    Even without wading into the “died with COVID not of COVID” stupidity – possible they just had a non-COVID heart attack or stroke or something like that. Passenger hearsay of “a positive test” doesn’t tell you when that positive test was or the condition of the deceased at boarding.

    Regardless – still incredibly irresponsible of the deceased to travel if they did have a recent positive test.

  6. OneXMarine-

    What’s the difference between dying of or dying with COVID in this case? The deceased passenger was infected either way and posed an extreme risk to other passengers either way.

    If anyone wonders why more people aren’t flying, just re-read this post about self-centered Goobers who put others at high risk so they can do what they want.

  7. The positive test result could have been, like, 6 months ago. As in, the passenger could be non contagious but suffering from a long term complication of covid, and not the infection itself.

    The Twitter reporting is also a hair suspect. Hard to distinguish from run of the mill trolling. Twitter honestly should be shut down. Social media toxicity is another pandemic in current times.

  8. A Harvard Public Health director said this weekend, “We don’t have a single documented case of Covid-19 transmission from surfaces. Not one.”

    That’s not to say you can’t catch it airborne in a plane, but disinfecting every surface in the plane’s cabin probably isn’t going to make any difference at all. They’d be better off just opening all the doors and airing the plane out for an hour or so.

  9. @JOnathan – that seems to be overstating the case, ‘documented’ is doing a lot of work in that sentence, there are suspected cases of surface transmission. It’s fair and clearly correct to say that surface transmission is not a primary mechanism of spread.

  10. @ Sam – The difference between dying with COVID or from COVID is the simple fact that this virus is not that deadly. I’ve had it, my wife had it, my daughter had it, and I’m 71 with high blood pressure. If you believe what you read I should be dead now. It was like a slight case of the flu. While yes he could have passed it to the entire crew and passenger the airline apparently didn’t feel the need to have the plane cleaned and proceeded on their way. That tells me that the airlines don’t believe that the virus is all that and a bag of chips either. We were told by the local health department that 3 days after your last fever you can go about your business. My wife never had a fever. So maybe he was tested 2 weeks ago and no longer had symptoms. I wear a mask when I go into a store or restaurant as asked. But I’m not going to spend my life hiding in fear. I’ll die standing before I’ll live kneeling. And news flash to all of you people scared to death. You’re all going to die. You just don’t know when or from what, just like the rest of us.

  11. OneXMarine-I’ve heard the rant before.

    “Die standing”. With COVID or due to it? Either way……

  12. Local 30yo woman died about a week after a positive test in my (small-ish, suburban area surrounded by corn fields). She was having trouble breathing, but was basically OK. Her and her husband only figured out something was wrong when they picked up an oximeter for home use and found her O2 levels at something like 65%. Rushed to the ER, she responded well to oxygen and was texting people for several hours that she was in the hospital and fine.

    The time between her last texts and her death was <3 hours, during which she passed out, was intubated, and was not permitted to see any family.

    Her parents and husband went on the local radio specifically to warn people about it, particularly about what a horrible situation the whole thing is, especially not being able to visit while they're in the hospital. They warned about how it can take a sudden turn, and how it can affect otherwise healthy people (she had no known medical conditions and was fairly fit, even being a regular horseback rider with her own horse). How they had to continue quarantining and couldn't even have a normal funeral.

    This stuff is truly tragic, and the selfish people that continue to act like it's "no big deal" aren't the only ones suffering.

  13. @Gary – Come to think of it, cabins are generally pressurized to about 8000 feet, right? I’m somewhat surprised this isn’t more common, as I’d imagine that makes it harder to breathe for anyone already on the margin and struggling to get enough oxygen into their lungs.

  14. @jamesb2147 – Death at such an early age is tragic. I lost a sister at age 21 during child birth. Unfortunately these things happen. People die ever year from the flu, except for 2020 where it’s all been coded COVID. People die in car accidents, 480,000 people a year die from cigarette smoking and yet they still sell cigarettes. My Dr. told me that when I was 40 that I was about 24 hours away from possibly passing from a staph infection from knee surgery. I feel for everyone who loses a loved one, but that is life. You’re born, you live, you die. I personally don’t believe that it’s that deadly of a disease. Even though I should be immune they say I could still spread it so I wear a mask in stores and restaurants, wherever it’s posted that masks are required. I don’t believe that masks do much. I plan on getting the vaccine as I do the flu vaccine every year although I just heard a Dr. saying that if you’ve had it you have herd immunity, so there is a lot of different information out there. Unlike so many on here I do respect everyone’s point of view, but I also respect my right to disagree.

  15. @FMM – I’m OK with that! It’s all mind over matter. I don’t mind and you don’t matter!

  16. Way to fear monger and make the assumption that Covid was the cause of death. This is almost as bad as Gary assuming the gum in the wig video was actually real.

  17. Jason, I hope Gary starts a new trend with his Best Comment of the Year and Best Statement of the Year awards! I nominate for Best Statement your “Social media toxicity is another pandemic…” Congratulations on the nomination. Earth would be a much happier planet without Twitter!

  18. @OneXMarine – your sample size of N=3 doesn’t exactly equal data. The amount of deaths + ability to spread quickly too makes this more than “just a slightly worse flu”. SMH.

    BTW the car accident / cigarette comparisons are of course asinine, as there aren’t “car accident pandemics” nor “cigarette pandemics”, as they aren’t contagious.

    Thank god we have a trusted leader taking office in a month – the charlatans and self-enrichers can soon exit stage right.

  19. @OneXMarine – You say “not that deadly” but also acknowledge that it does kill people. Yet, our death rate this year is VASTLY higher than even the worst flu season (you can see a bad one in the chart linked here). The yellow/orange trendline is basically the upper bound on the margin of error for what should be normal deaths.

    Have you taken that data into account? The number of deaths this year is massively higher, even though fewer people are traveling, fewer people are attending school in person (spreading the flu, for example), and fewer people are generally interacting with others in person.

  20. Another failure for the media in explaining Covid risk. Highly unlikely that this person actually died from Covid, and a mere “positive” PCR test would offer little in the way of evidence for that. 40% of deaths these days are classified as “with Covid” when a PCR test is conducted post-mortem, and magnified RNA fragments create a “positive” result whether or not the person was sick or even infected with the virus. PCR is not a diagnostic tool though, and given that excess deaths have increased by only a tiny amount in USA – actually down in much of Europe – we can tell that the great majority of these people are dying from traditional causes, and not Covid – unless one assumes that deaths from Cancer, heart and pulmonary diseases, etc. have disappeared (which they have obviously not).

  21. @ Gary — It is hocking how many stupid Trump readers you have. Did you appear on RT again or something?

  22. It’s interesting how those irrational Covid alarmists can only respond with ad hominem, and never have any of their own facts to add or to confront those which have been put forth that disturb their orthodixies.

  23. And since some of you are not worried about death from Covid:
    “A White House security official has had parts of his feet and lower leg amputated after a battle with COVID-19”

    There’s a whole bunch of risk that makes Covid19 worse than the seasonal flu.

  24. @OneXMarine – what an asinine statement! You should consider yourself lucky that your case and your families case were mild. Not so much for the 300,000 that have died from this illness. Just because you did not have it bad, does not mean I won’t. Bet I can guess your political affiliation!

  25. to be clear, as a passenger on the flight I wouldn’t care if the guy died OF or WITH covid. if you have a positive covid diagnosis, you shouldn’t be on the plane, full stop.

  26. @ Juli – My political views have nothing to do with it. It’s my view on life in general. When the virus broke out my wife and I discussed and decided we were going to live our lives as normal as possible and not hide out. My view was if I’ll either get it or I won’t and if I do I’ll either get well or I’ll die. I know a lot of people who have had it and only 1 passed away. She was 73 years old, had been in a nursing home for 10 years, had a heart attack and a stroke as well as COPD. As in any illness there are always those that seem perfectly healthy and they die. As I said in an earlier post I had a sister who passed at 21 during child birth. These things happen, it’s just part of life. 40% of the total deaths were nursing home residents. The CDC has said that only 6% of the COVID deaths only have COVID as the contributing factor. Everyone else had on average 2.4 contributing factors. When my wife saw her Dr. she told her that she had patients that haven’t been out of their bedrooms since March. Not their house, their bedrooms. I’m not going to live my life like that. She asked my wife what we were doing and she told her we were living our lives. She said that was a good thing. There are more suicides now, more domestic violence, more child abuse, children are missing development years in school because of the fear. People are losing their businesses because of the shut downs. 43% of the businesses surveyed said they don’t have enough cash to make it to the end of December 2020. That’s 16 days away! There was a paper published at John Hopkins by a PHD in Economics and Statistics and she said that there was not a significant rise in deaths from March – Sept 19 vs March – Sept 20 but there was a significant decline in death by heart attack, stroke, diabetes, etc. which is statistically impossible because we have an aging population. Can the cure be worse than the disease? A Dr. this morning said that 20 to 25% of the population has herd immunity already and that 50% of the population will have the vaccine by the end of March and that is about as good as it’s going to get. You want to live the rest of your life in your home that’s your choice. I hope you don’t get it, I hope that not another person in the world gets it, but if you do I hope it’s a mild case and you and everyone else recovers and had a long and healthy life.

  27. Gary is the CNN on steroids for covid coverage on travel blogs. This is a perfect example. He has no clue if the guy died OF covid or WITH it but baselessly declares as fact that we can chalk up another victim to the virus. Now you know how we’ve got such inflated “deaths by covid” numbers. Unbelievably bad/dumb/harmful way of spreading crap news. But apparently CNN and Gary know baseless fear mongering and PANDEMIC PARANOIA!!! fear porn grabs all the clueless viewers.
    You’ and CNN have done FAR MORE harm to us than this virus would/could ever have done on its own. Thanks guys.

  28. Studies have shown that the risk of catching Covid-19 on an airplane is too low to quantify. There are virtually no chance of catching it if all wear your mask as requested. I would definitely be nervous knowing that a guy sitting behind me had it, but in this case it isn’t known WHEN he had it (relative to the flight date). I would also be nervous about any death happening right behind me, as I would be part-superstitious, part-sad, and part-compelled to turn around and stare at him. (What did they do with the body mid-flight?!?!?) But regardless, Covid isn’t a worry for healthy people. The MUCH LARGER CONCERN is why so many of you think you’re healthy when you’ve actually been ingesting carcinogens for years & have a higher-than-desirable BMI, and thus have many undiagnosed conditions. You just don’t know it yet. Unless you exercise almost daily and have a BMI of 18 to 24, you ain’t healthy. No exceptions. Prevention is key. Don’t rely on a vaccine, start correcting bad habits and your weight RIGHT NOW.

  29. I’m a medical professional. I work at Kaiser and my local hospital is currently out of ICU beds and we are now redirecting patients to other hospitals because we don’t have the capacity anymore. I have never seen this many people die on my floor before 2020. A lot of patients’ dying words were – I wish I wore a mask and stayed home. I wish I didn’t go to that wedding in Cabo.

    There seems to be a weird portrayal that there are only 2 outcomes when you get COVID – survival or death. Unfortunately that’s not how your body works. Your body is not black and white, yes or no. Ever wonder why your body gets progressively worse as you get older? Or that knee/back is starting to hurt more each day? Everything you do throughout your life contributes to the pain you’re now suffering.

    COVID is the same thing. Does COVID itself actually kill people? Probably not, but it sure triggers your long lasting health issues such as diabetes and heart diseases and cause you to die. Or whatever health issues that you aren’t aware of.

    You fell while you’re taking a shower and it triggered a heart attack. Did the fall kill you? Probably not, but it sure triggered heart attack and you still died. COVID is the same concept, it triggers your immune system and ends up causing cytosine storm and kill all your own cells.

    On another note – why is wearing mask even a debate? There are ~200 countries in the world and it’s only a debate in the US. It’s amazing how we can make this even a political discussion. Such a simple concept. You wear a mask, it catches some of your spit / droplets and reduce the chance of spread. How hard is that to understand? You probably don’t care cuz ‘oh I don’t have covid’. Think about it from your local Starbucks barista. He/she encounters let’s 500-1000 customers a day and you just need 1 asymptotic customer to infect him/her. We all need to be more responsible.

  30. @Lindy – I have only been on 1 flight in my life where someone passed and it was Delta from Ohio to Orlando. She was an elderly lady and began having trouble breathing. There happened to be a Dr. on board and he looked at her and shook his head and told the family there was nothing he could do. In the next couple of minutes or so she passed away. They left her in her seat and put a blanket over her. When we arrived they asked us all to remain in our seats and the paramedics came on board and picked her up like a sack of potatoes and carried her off the plane. This was probably 25 years ago. I thought we would divert but I think she lived in FL and her daughter was with her and someone made the decision to motor on.

  31. @Jeff – As a medical professional I certainly value and respect your post. I do have a couple of questions maybe you can answer. How many of these people do you think would have died from the flu or a severe cold? My Mother had fallen and broken her hip and I had her in a nursing home after hip replacement for physical therapy. She had COPD from smoking her entire life and was on oxygen. Her lungs started filling with fluid and they couldn’t ventilate her at the home so they were taking her to the hospital when she had a massive coronary and passed. Her cause of death was a heart attack when really it was smoking, which goes along with what you said. Secondly is that if my mask protects you from my germs why won’t it protect me from yours? Doesn’t make sense to me. As far as the resistance to wearing masks I my opinion it’s in our DNA. The vast amount of people in the US don’t like being told what to do and that it will always be “the other guy” that dies not me. It’s how you get men to charge a beach head against enemy held positions. When I was in boot camp our D.I told us that 1 year from now 10% of us (8) would be dead. I looked around and wondered who the poor souls were that were going to die. I don’t like wearing masks but I wear them where required so that I don’t cause a problem for a store owner or the lady that cuts my hair etc. Part of it is we are so politically divided as a nation that one party is for the other is against. I think they could have done a better job of “selling” the mask wearing as well. And then when the politicians violate the rules that they expect us to live under it creates a lot of resentment. All that being said thank you for doing what you do. I have a niece who is a RN and it’s a tough job.

  32. @ OneXMarine All of your posts make a lot more sense than those that spout the hearsay of “well I know of a friend who . . . ” It amazes me the amount of regurgitated “information” they take as fact because it was on MSM or a repeated story. So much of what has been shared is merely theory and theory is not immediately knowledge and not to be confused with wisdom. It’s difficult to fool a Marine, especially one that’s been around 71 years. Thank you for your service.
    BTW, I am older than you and I offer my place in the vaccine line to any politician or Bill Gates. All the vaccinations that I’ve had, and there have been many, have been well vetted and researched.
    100E Army

  33. @ One Trippe – Thank you for your kind words and thank you for your service! I’m going to sit back and see what happens and what the side effects are on some of the others coming out. I worry about my wife as she has all kinds of allergies. Hopefully this will all be OK and we can get past all of this.

  34. The news and United Airlines needs to follow up on this story for those of us that were on the flight. We need to know if he was positive for Covid. We don’t need to know if he died or not, but we need to know if we were exposed.

  35. One can only imagine the impression these American covidiots make when they travel around the world on their points and miles…

  36. Covid death or heart attack either way they will count it as COVID!! Hospitals get more$$$ if Covid DX

  37. Ah ha! This makes sense. I arrive in MSY that day, and I was curious why there was a United plane at a remote stand with stairs. This would probably explain it.

    And if he did have COVID, I can see why they used remote stairs and kept the plane from the terminal (and didn’t let people out wandering).

  38. @OnexMarine As @Sam writes from Canada where all the Coach roaches scurried trembling in fear of Vietnam… COVID-19, Vietcong, Stray bullet, Homicide, pancreatic cancer, heart attack…. Sam ….You ain’t coming out of this alive pal. But keep looking to lay blame & fault. Newsflash…FACTS: #1. You are COVID Most contagious for the first 2-3 days PRIOR TO EVER HAVING SYMPTOMS & 1st 2-3 days after symptoms!! #2 You Will NOT be COMMUNICABLE AFTER 14-19 Days MAXIMUM After 1st symptoms or a Positive Covid Test. #3 You WILL CONTINUE to test positive For MONTHS After your illness But are NOT CONTAGIOUS & Wearing a mask at this point does absolutely ZERO – nothing to prevent you from giving it to anyone else because you are NOT contagious. #4 62, have a preexisting Autoimmune disease, asthma, overweight, Blood pressure and pre-diabetic Got Covid and just like Marine, Slight fever for two days someone of a respiratory infection mostly sinus and feel fatigued and like crap but didn’t even go to the doctors and I survived without any medical intervention. So again I’m not going to discount people getting very sick from it but this does not speak to every case or certainly the majority of the cases that they’re hyping up. Not everyone, not even close is going to die from this and not everyone is going to wind up in the hospital from COVID! As They want you to believe! #5 here’s the really important thing if you want to beat a fever and get on an airplane or anywhere else where they want you for your temperature, all you have to do is pop three aspirin or Motrin or Excedrin and your fever will be gone in under 30 minutes and you’re good to go. So this whole thing about taking peoples temperatures is just a joke! You have to be a real idiot not to know how to beat a thermometer! You have to be on deaths door step and be running an extremely high temperature not to be able to beat a moderate fever. It’s just like making people wear masks let’s put masks on them and pretend we’re doing something important by taking their temperature and make people feel better! And it would’ve made everyone feel so much better if they would’ve taking everyone off the plane and “disinfected it” because it would’ve done absolutely nothing in terms of making a difference! Just think that publishing this View from the Wing Article stating Person was taken off the aircraft and died of Covid and having everyone believe that an airline acted irresponsibly is irresponsible journalism in itself! Gary Leff this is not responsible and purely sad in my opinion. Fear mongering 100 percent!! Zachary FYI…MSY is a SMALLER Station & a REMOTE GATE HAD ZERO absolutely nothing to do With Covid but rather had everything to do with it was a diverted flight and they didn’t have a gate for it since it was unscheduled etc, how about that?
    So let’s not jump too high off those conclusions because you might seriously hurt yourself!

  39. @Lois MSY is my home airport and the new terminal is overflowing with gates (especially now during COVID with reduced schedules). When I pulled into my gate, there were plenty free….

    Just sayin’!

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