Tuesday, October 19, 2010

File This Under "The Flight Goes On"

I signed in to read my email tonight and was distracted, as I so often am, by the AOL news headlines. This one was: "What Happens When a Flier Gets Sick Midair?

I have wondered about that, so naturally I read the article. I was relieved to know there's a protocol - even for that worst case scenario:

And when a passenger dies, [the airline representative] says, there are clear procedures to follow. "If they don't respond, we move them to the floor for possible CPR," he says. "If after 30 minutes, there's still no sign of improvement and they're dead, then we have to go ahead and put them into a seat." Standard airline procedures dictate the person is to be secured in the seat, says Gailen, "so we move the person to a seat -- preferably where few customers are nearby -- and ask for volunteers to assist in moving the person, if necessary."

Directives also require that the deceased not block an exit row, that the eyes are closed, that a blanket is placed under the body, and that the body is also covered with a blanket.

I don't know which would be worse. Being the dead guy or the passenger who has to finish a full flight next to the corpse?

What's the etiquette around being seated next to a corpse anyway? What if it lists? Can you give it a little shove? What if the face blanket slips down?

What if it slips down and you see the eyelids are open? Do you ask the flight attendant to get those lids back down? I doubt, somehow, that she would welcome a reminder about the eyes-shut protocol that you read about on America On Line.

Would it be permissible to use the tray table in front of the dead body for that last little plastic cup, snack bag, and crumpled napkin that seems to take forever to get collected? Hmmm. And what of, the, er, loss of bladder and bowel control that generally accompanies death?

I am betting that if you are the passenger tagged for seat mate with a corpse, especially a leaking one, the flight crew would promise you the sun and the moon and the stars, or at least one free round trip, to be a good sport about it.

And what, I wonder, if I were the unlucky one who transitioned mid-flight from valued (or at least potentially repeat) airline passenger to most unwelcome cabin cargo?

I heard once that Oscar Wilde's last words were, "Either this wallpaper goes or I do." I am no Oscar Wilde, but I would like to think I might manage, what? "If I don't get a lie-flat seat right now, I am out of here!" or maybe, "No, I won't wait for the plane to come to a complete stop at the gate or for the damned seat belt light to be turned off"?

Oh, I know this isn't funny. But, well, you know.

May all your travels be happy and healthy.