IATA guidelines on what to do when a passenger dies on a flight


On Monday, August 22, a plane bound for Nairobi, Kenya from New York was diverted to Casablanca, Morocco, after a passenger fell ill on board.

The passenger was confirmed dead minutes after being rushed to a health facility in the West African country for treatment.

The sudden events caught the passengers and crew off guard, most unsure of what was to happen or do.

“We send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased and sincerely apologize to our other guests for the inconvenience caused,” Kenya Airways said in a statement after the incident.

A well appointed operating room in a hospital.


Following this unfortunate event, Kenyans.co.ke is highlighting the guidelines on handling on-board deaths as outlined by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Notify the captain

Immediately, if a person becomes ill or unresponsive during a flight, alert the captain to contact relevant personnel on the ground.

Notification to the captain ensures that the destination airport is aware of the incident.

Change seat

Move the person to a seat with a few passengers around. If all seats are occupied, move the person to a back seat or an area that does not block an aisle or exit.

IATA advises to be extra careful when moving the person from one seat to another.

Use a seat belt

When the person is in a seat, use a seat belt to prevent him from falling. You can also use other equipment to prevent the person from falling.


If the plane has body bags, put the person in it and zip the bag up to the neck.

In case the plane lacks body bags, cover the body with a blanket up to the neck and close the person’s eyes.

Contact the family

Efforts should be made to request the contact details of traveling companions. Contact information can help contact and alert the person’s family.


Make sure other passengers disembark first while family members stay with the body.

Do not disembark from the body until the appropriate local authority has arrived to take charge of the body. Also ensure that ground staff are available to assist family members.

Additionally, cabin crew members trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are warned not to continue CPR when it becomes unsafe.

An undated image of a tag attached to the leg of a corpse in a morgue

An undated image of a tag attached to the leg of a corpse in a morgue

dead death


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