A Passenger’s Final Departure

September 24, 2009

in Senior Stories

I was flying from Cyprus to Frankfurt, Germany on Cyprus Air. An elderly Greek woman had been in the boarding area and was struggling with a suitcase and many helpful people assisted her and I was impressed with the European people’s kindness and respect of this elderly woman.

I was seated in my window seat in the last row of the aircraft and in a short time the elderly lady boarded and sat in the aisle seat and seat away from me. She still had her suitcase and put it on the floor between us as though to protect herself from a stranger. I was surprised the attendants let her keep it there as it would block me exiting the row. I tried to say something to her and neither of us could speak the other one’s language so we both busied ourselves in enduring the flight.

We were well on our way and I saw we were coming up on the Italian coast as a movie was being shown. The movie was interrupted as a meal was served then the movie started again. I smelled some unpleasant odors coming from the woman’s direction, but tried to ignore them as I did not want to embarrass her by looking at her.

I had my headset on and was concentrating on the movie when a flight attendant came and asked if we needed any more to drink. I said no, because I didn’t want to have to use the restroom as I couldn’t get out because the elderly lady’s suitcase was blocking any exit.

She spoke to the elderly lady and there was no response. She touched the lady and no response. She quickly got another attendant and felt for a pulse and then asked on the PA if there was a doctor or a medical technician on board. Two German doctors responded and they began to work with the woman who was totally unresponsive. I was blocked in my seat and all I could do was watch.

One doctor tried to open her mouth and her false teeth came out in his ungloved hand. He put the teeth on the seat beside me, facing me. Not a comforting experience.

They finally lifted her up and moved her to the rear galley and laid her on the floor and tried to treat her. When they moved the woman, I saw where some unpleasant smells were coming from. The seat had been very soiled as the woman had lost fluids from her body.

It was obvious the woman had died while sitting beside me. I felt bad that I was so involved in the movie I didn’t see anything happen until the attendant noticed the woman was most likely not alive.

They asked me to get up and offered me a first class seat but I found a seat closer to where my carry-on was located. After I got up, they then moved the woman back in to her seat and made her look like she was sleeping. The told the rest of people with the PA system that she had fainted and was now resting.

The flight continued another 3 hours and landed with no emergency vehicles called. We all exited from the front instead of both ends of the plane as they usually do. They most likely wanted to respect the deceased woman.

I will never forget that flight. Perhaps not a flight from hell, but it was an experience I would not want to repeat.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

AfricaNomad September 24, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Oh I think that someone expiring in the seat next to you definitely qualifies as a flight from hell. Far worse than most stories on this site.


Thi Halpern January 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Having someone expire in the seat next to you wouldn't qualify as hell. Being next to someone who has expired can be a very sobering and touching event. There's nothing to be afraid of dead people.


ps September 25, 2009 at 2:57 am

geez, that's a flight from hell if I heard one. At least the FA's try to give her a little dignity and you a little relief. Obviously it wasnt an American airline. They would have billed you for an upgrade to another seat.


Demotage September 25, 2009 at 3:46 am

Yeah, I think that qualifies as a FFH.

What a horrible thing to have happen.


Jodi September 25, 2009 at 6:33 am

I agree it was a flight from hell. But don’t feel bad. She apparently made no noise or anything, just died peacefully so you trying to ignore the odor was a polite thing. You were trying to be good to her. That’s all that matters.


DSD September 25, 2009 at 8:44 am

A flight from Hell? Oh most definately.

I would be hard pressed to come up with a worse scenario.


saw September 27, 2009 at 9:45 am

terribly unfortunate – but it's likely you wouldn't have heard anything even if you were paying attention. And lets face it, when we smell something bad in a plane, a person's death is not the first thing that comes to mind…


Peace Lover July 11, 2010 at 2:57 pm

How awful. I have recently lost my grandfather and reading this made me a bit emotional. At least the dear lady is in a better place. Wishing her much love.


Mabel August 21, 2010 at 10:07 am

(Just found this site so commenting late.)

That's so sad. Poor lady, dying in her seat so far from home and family.


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