Passenger Responds To An Onboard Medical Emergency With Acupuncture And Essential Oils

Airlines have medical teams they consult with, and people on call on the ground in the event of a medical emergency. They can guide crew in the air, and advise on whether a situation warrants diverting the flight to the nearest airport.

The crew will still often ask if anyone on board has medical experience in the event that a passenger falls ill. The happenstance of a knowledgeable doctor on board can literally be a life saver.

But not everyone who volunteers in an emergency is equally qualified, as this story from an Allegiant flight attendant demonstrates. A woman responded to a medical situation on a flight on Thursday by asking crew “to allow her to perform acupuncture and administer essential oils” – and when they declined she went to the traveling companions of the passenger in distress directly to offer her services.

Thankfully the crew of this flight had the presence of mind to say no. It’s not always so easy. Delta Air Lines said six years ago that their policy would be to no longer ask for medical credentials, after a flight attendant refused to believe an African American passenger was a doctor. Two years later that same scenario repeated itself again anyway, with a member of the faculty of Harvard Medical School.

The first female flight attendant was Ellen Church, hired at United in 1930. She was a registered nurse, and for half a dozen years this became a requirement — something that lasted at US airlines in some part until World War II. Aircraft weren’t the same smooth rides back then that they are (most of the time) today. Now we have to luck into a doctor on board – and hope it’s a real doctor.

Lufthansa reportedly gives out miles, and American Airlines gives travel vouchers to doctors who volunteer. For the miles I might be willing to respond to the next emergency, too, because while I might not be an ‘actual doctor’ it’s quite possible that I’d stayed at a Holiday Inn Express the night before, given improvements in the IHG One Rewards program.

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. coming soon….having advance directives for flights…so they know if you want volunteer help from who knows who or not….and if I were ill and unable to check someone’s credentials, good samaritan or not as they may be, I would greatly appreciate the crew holding the person back until they checked and felt the person was legitimate. And keep your oils and stuff away from me>

  2. I have been a good sam volunteer doc 3 or 4 times on AA. Never given miles or any official recognition, but last time the captain gave me a good luck charm that I cherish. I never travel without it.

  3. @Kathy – Thank you. Never needed a doctor on board, hope never to need one, glad there are people like you around in case I ever do.

  4. I got miles from AA, but it required me submitting their “incident report.” I was fine with it.

  5. I attended to two onboard calls for docs.
    CX gave me a ‘thanks!’
    AS gave me a voucher (which wasn’t at all necessary considering it resulted in a diversion).

  6. This is why I carry my mini medical license (business card size) issues either my full size one each renewal when I fly. So if I ever have to respond the crew knows I’m not full of shit…because apparently a lot of people are

  7. @Gary – Given IHG’s flurry of recent devaluations, I’m not sure that staying at a HIE would indicate someone being smarter these days.

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