U.S. Airline Exec Admits: ‘No One Sits At Home Dreaming Of Flying Our Planes’ [Roundup]

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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. Re: the Woman who is asking DOT to fine Delta because they didn’t divert the flight, I can tell you that USAirways/AA are more than happy to do so… but that the decision was up to me, as the Father of my son having an allergic reaction at 35,000 feet no less.

    It’s 2016. Me and my three sons are flying back from MSP. I got two 1st class upgrades and decided to give them to my two older sons (12 & 14). The oldest (Michael), had a severe allergic reaction (to what we don’t know!), and my other son came to my seat in coach and said, “Dadda, Michael is having problems breathing”.

    What?!?, I go up, and sure enough my son is experiencing a classic and severe allergic reaction… hives the size of a quarter raised a 1/4 inch or more all over his neck and face. He has asthma too, and we had an epi-pen, *except* he accidentally packed it in his checked luggage!!!!

    The flight attendants were wonderful- they immediately notified the captain, and then called for an on-board doctor. It was surreal… like in a movie… and sure enough a general practitioner in the middle of the plane showed up.

    He/me immediately suggested the same thing- Bendryl first… where to get some? A passenger said they had some, but the flight attendant said they had an emergency first aid kit in the back of the plane that had it.

    So, we move to the back of the plane quickly. EVERY PASSENGER (and I mean everyone) had their eyes locked on us, while pretending they were not looking.

    We get to the back, and the flight attendant grabs the super-secret-huge 1st aid kit. It’s black, and the size of a carry-on, with plastic security seal rings that break off if you open the zipper.

    We do- and inside is enough bandages, medicines, and gosh knows what else to treat a small town. We quickly find the Benedryl, and since Michael is very coherent and to his credit calm, we decide to try Oral Benadryl first.

    And, he drinks it, and of course it takes a while. Meanwhile the captain gets on the back phone and asks the status… and the flight attendants can’t contact the airline’s “doctor on call” that is supposed to be available remotely.

    So the captain asks to talk to me, and he asks, “Sir, should we divert the plane to Pittsburgh? We can land in 15 minutes”.

    Talk about WOW. By this time, I am looking over my son, looking at the frightened passengers, looking at the enormity of it that here I am making a decision that affects literally 150 people their connections, the people they are going to miss, etc., and since his breathing returned to normal… I said, “I don’t think so”.

    So that was it… We decided to wait another 10 minutes… and the Benadryl was working! The hives *clearly* were receding almost as fast as they formed, and that was that.

    BUTTT, the story doesn’t end there! We land in Philly, and I think everything is fine, we have a story to tell. My son is feeling much better, hives are pretty much done, but then there is an announcement that says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your patience with our medical emergency. We are asking everyone to stay seated while we have an emergency services take care of the sick passenger.”

    That’s clearly us, so we get whisked off the plane, my son in a wheelchair, and then met by not 1, 2, or 3 EMT’s, but 7 of them! We were clearly the biggest thing to happen at PHL in a while, you can’t make this up!!!

    They then convinced me to immediately take the waiting ambulance at the bottom of the jetway to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).

    Everything turned out fine of course. And it was interesting to get ferried out of the airport on the tarmac, but it’s still the most expensive ride I have ever taken, $500 health insurance deductible for a 15 minute ride to the hospital, and this was when the hives were practically all gone.

    At the same time, I will give credit to the employees on that flight that day and the volunteer passenger doctor… Very professional. Sadly, I never got the contact information from the doctor, but if by a .00000001% chance he reads this, I say, “THANK YOU!!!!”


  2. Paging Gary Stat!

    The American-JetBlue northeast alliance lost its case in federal court

  3. Looking forward to engaging with Gary, Tim Dunn and the entire crew when the AA / B6 post hits

  4. Gary fails to note that, per the article he linked, the airline’s own on-the-ground medical staff reportedly twice recommended that the plane be diverted, and was overruled by the captain. Not real clear that Delta made the right call here.

    RE AA — I once had a similar experience. I was just a passenger, but the elderly lady two rows behind me fainted. They called for the doctor, and got her on oxygen, and then the flight attendant comes out and asks her adult son: ‘Sir, the captain says we can be on the ground in Las Vegas in 15 minutes, but he needs to know right now whether you want to divert the aircraft’. That question has always stuck with me…. do ‘you want to divert the aircraft?’. ( Incidentally, he said no, and we landed 45 mins later in SFO where we were met with a full medical response. )

  5. An inflight medical episode means diverting to the first place with a Board Certified Physician in Emergency Medicine. Anything less is malpractice even if the incident appears to be a simple nosebleed. Tampons stored in the lavatory cabinet are great at plugging nosebleeds, by the way.

  6. People with allergic reactions NEED TO STOP BLAMING THE AIRLINES! This just causes added cost and inconvenience to the other 99% of us flying. …Not that these allergic reaction people care that they’re disrupting us. If you have allergies or other medical conditions, take responsibility!! Get your medical preparation and plans in place BEFORE you step on a plane! Stop expecting the airlines and everyone else to be responsible for you. YOU are responsible for yourself.

  7. There’s more to this story than the passenger is willing to share. 1st: If you have special needs…whatever it might be…let the airline know IN ADVANCE! The airline’s website and app have that provision to see how to request special needs. Telling a busy gate agent, “…oh by the way…” is stupid. If the website or app is confusing, call the airline’s reservation line (OR your travel agent if you didn’t use the airline’s reservations!) and request that a “OSI” (other service information) or a “SSR” (special service request) in the PNR. “OSI” is for routine requests like “window seat if possible or extra pillow” whereas a “SSR” is for “I have a peanut allergy” or “I need a wheelchair”. The airlines will REQUEST that no one eat peanuts on a flight but they cannot GUARANTEE that someone will open up a granola bar full of peanuts. Charter an ambulance flight if you can’t accept that! 2nd: I can’t speak for all airlines but most have a dedicated medical emergency team available 24/7/365. The flight attendant will inform the captain of a problem. The captain will contact the medical emergency team by radio while the flight attendants assess the situation. If QUALIFIED medical individuals happen to be on the aircraft, that’s “mo betta”. In earlier aircraft, the captain will have to relay information to the emergency medical team. In more modern aircraft, a special headset is connected to communication jacks located (usually) in the ceiling of the passenger compartment. Then the attending can communicate directly with the emergency team on the ground. HERE’S THE RUB… The qualified medical person onboard has first hand knowledge of the situation. Usually…but not always…the ground based emergency team, in discussion with the airline’s operations center, the captain and the QUALIFIED medical person onboard…will accept the onboard QUALIFIED assessment…”do we divert or do we press on?” Why??? Because the qualified assessment is in real time…not relayed. Sounds reasonable…right? However, the captain STILL RETAINS FINAL AUTHORITY. Unless the captain is a qualified medical person (some are!!) he/she runs the risk of total disruption of the system for no overriding reason. There are plenty of air ambulance services available if you can’t handle these issues.

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