The thought of flying on a plane with a dead body may seem creepy or disturbing to some. However, the reality is that when a passenger dies mid-flight, airlines have procedures in place to handle the situation professionally and respectfully.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: dead bodies on planes are moved to a special closet or compartment at the rear of the aircraft. But there’s a lot more to it, so read on for a detailed look at where and how airlines manage deceased passengers during flights.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about what happens when someone dies on an airplane. We’ll discuss where the bodies are kept, how they are handled, what steps the crew takes, and what preparations are made upon landing.

We’ll also provide some historical context around deaths on planes and look at some high-profile examples. Key topics will include:

Moving the Deceased to a Special Compartment

When a person passes away during a flight, airlines have protocols in place to handle the situation with care and respect. One of the first steps taken is to locate the designated area where the deceased will be kept.

This area is typically a closet or compartment specially designed to accommodate the deceased.

Locating the Closet or Compartment

Most commercial planes have a specific area reserved for storing medical supplies, including a location for storing deceased passengers. These areas are commonly referred to as “corpse cupboards” or “corpse compartments.”

Airlines take great care to ensure that these areas are discreetly located and accessible to the crew.

The exact location of the closet or compartment can vary depending on the type of aircraft. On larger planes, such as wide-body jets, the area may be located towards the front or back of the aircraft. On smaller planes, it may be closer to the galley or lavatory.

Airline crew members are trained to quickly locate and prepare these areas for the deceased.

Respectfully Moving the Body

When it comes to moving the deceased to the designated compartment, airlines have established procedures to ensure that it is done with the utmost respect and dignity. Crew members who handle this task undergo specific training to carry out the process with sensitivity and professionalism.

Typically, the body is carefully placed in a body bag or a special container designed for transportation. The crew members handle the body with gloves and use proper lifting techniques to minimize any discomfort or disturbance.

They work together to ensure a smooth and respectful transfer to the designated compartment.

Notifying the Crew

Once the deceased has been moved to the designated compartment, it is essential to inform the rest of the crew about the situation. This is done to ensure that the crew members are aware and can offer any necessary support or assistance to the grieving family members or other passengers.

The airlines have protocols in place for crew members to follow when a passenger passes away during a flight. These protocols include notifying the captain and other crew members discreetly and ensuring that the information is handled with sensitivity and confidentiality.

In addition to notifying the crew, airlines also have established procedures for coordinating with ground staff and medical professionals upon landing. This ensures that the deceased passenger can be properly handled and transferred to the appropriate authorities once the plane has landed.

It’s important to note that airlines prioritize the privacy and well-being of all passengers, including those who have passed away during a flight. The procedures in place are designed to handle these situations respectfully and efficiently, while also minimizing any disruption to other passengers onboard.

Death Certification and Paperwork

Examining the Body

When a death occurs on a plane, the first step is to examine the body. Airlines have protocols in place to handle such situations to ensure the deceased passenger is treated with respect and dignity. Trained professionals, such as medical personnel or flight attendants with medical training, will assess the passenger’s condition and determine if they are deceased.

This examination is crucial to confirm the passenger’s death and start the necessary procedures.

Legally Declaring Death

Once the body has been examined and it has been confirmed that the passenger is deceased, the next step is to legally declare the death. This process involves obtaining a death certificate from the appropriate authorities.

Depending on the country and jurisdiction, the airline may need to contact local authorities or the consulate to initiate the death certification process. This ensures that the death is officially recognized and documented.

Completing Necessary Documents

After the death has been legally declared, the airline staff will proceed with completing the necessary paperwork. This includes documenting the details of the deceased passenger, such as their name, age, and passport information.

The airline will also gather information about the flight, such as the departure and arrival airports, the flight number, and the date and time of the incident. These documents are crucial for record-keeping purposes and for any further investigation that may be required.

It is important to note that each airline may have its own specific procedures and guidelines for handling deaths on planes. These procedures are designed to ensure that the necessary paperwork is completed accurately and efficiently, while also respecting the privacy and dignity of the deceased and their loved ones.

For more information on the protocols followed by airlines in such situations, you can visit the official websites of major airlines or refer to reliable sources such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at

Preparing the Body for Landing

When a passenger passes away during a flight, airlines have specific protocols in place to handle the situation. The process of preparing the body for landing involves several important steps to ensure dignity and respect for the deceased, as well as the safety and comfort of other passengers onboard.

Cleaning and Dressing the Body

After a passenger has passed away, the flight attendants and medical professionals, if available, carefully clean and dress the body. This is done to maintain the appearance of the deceased and to ensure their dignity.

The cleaning process includes wiping the body, removing any visible dirt or stains, and combing the hair if necessary. The body is then dressed in appropriate clothing, such as a clean set of clothes or a burial shroud, depending on cultural or religious customs.

Placing in a Body Bag

Once the body has been cleaned and dressed, it is placed in a body bag. The body bag is a specially designed bag made of durable materials that prevent leakage and contain any bodily fluids. The bag also helps to preserve the body and minimize any unpleasant odors during the remainder of the flight.

It is important to note that the body bag is discreetly handled and labeled to maintain the privacy and respect for the deceased.

Contacting Authorities on the Ground

During the flight, the airline crew will contact the authorities on the ground to inform them about the situation. This is done to ensure that proper arrangements are made upon landing. The airline will coordinate with local authorities, medical professionals, and funeral directors to ensure a smooth transition for the deceased.

The authorities will be waiting at the airport to receive the body and make arrangements for it to be transported to the appropriate facility for further processing.

It is important to note that each airline may have slightly different procedures in place, but the overall goal remains the same – to handle the situation with sensitivity and respect. Airlines prioritize the well-being of their passengers, both living and deceased, and take all necessary steps to ensure a dignified and compassionate outcome.

Handling Decomposition Concerns

When it comes to handling decomposition concerns on planes, airlines have specific protocols in place to ensure the safety and well-being of passengers and crew members. Here are two common methods used to address this issue:

Using Dry Ice

Dry ice is often utilized to slow down the decomposition process and minimize odors. It is a solid form of carbon dioxide that evaporates into a gas without leaving behind any residue. Airlines place dry ice around the deceased individual to create a cold environment, which helps preserve the body during transportation.

This method is commonly used for short flights, where the body can be transferred to a morgue upon landing.

According to experts, dry ice is an effective way to maintain the integrity of the deceased individual’s body during air travel. It is crucial to follow specific guidelines when handling dry ice to ensure it remains in a safe and controlled state throughout the flight.

Diverting the Flight if Needed

In rare cases where the decomposition process is advanced or there is a concern about the safety and comfort of passengers, airlines may choose to divert the flight to the nearest suitable airport. This decision is made to provide immediate medical attention and to remove the deceased individual from the aircraft.

While flight diversions are not common, they are carried out to prioritize the well-being of all passengers on board. Airlines have established protocols and trained staff to handle such situations swiftly and efficiently.

It’s important to note that airlines prioritize the dignity and respect of the deceased individual throughout the entire process. They work closely with medical professionals and follow strict guidelines to ensure that the handling of dead bodies on planes is done in a respectful and compassionate manner.

Notable Examples and Incidents

Famous Cases Throughout History

Over the years, there have been several notable cases involving the transportation of deceased individuals on airplanes. One of the most famous incidents occurred in 2014 when the body of a deceased passenger remained on a plane for several hours after it landed in Houston.

The flight crew had mistakenly assumed that the passenger was sleeping and failed to notice that he had passed away during the flight. This incident sparked a discussion about the protocols and procedures for handling deceased passengers on airplanes.

Another infamous case involved the transport of the body of a well-known celebrity. In 2009, the body of pop icon Michael Jackson was transported on a private jet from Los Angeles to his final resting place in Indiana.

The high-profile nature of this case raised questions about the privacy and dignity of deceased individuals, especially when they are public figures.

How Airlines Handled High-Profile Deaths

When it comes to high-profile deaths, airlines have often taken extra precautions to ensure the privacy and respect for the deceased and their families. In some cases, a separate area of the plane, such as a first-class cabin or a private room, may be designated to store the body.

This helps maintain the deceased’s privacy and allows their loved ones to grieve in a more secluded setting.

In other instances, airlines have even gone as far as chartering a separate aircraft solely for the purpose of transporting the deceased and their family members. This ensures that the body is treated with the utmost respect and eliminates any potential disruptions for other passengers.

Training Crews for These Sensitive Situations

Airlines understand the sensitivity and emotional impact of dealing with deceased passengers. As a result, flight crews undergo extensive training to handle these situations with care and compassion. They are trained to recognize the signs of a deceased passenger and to follow specific protocols for handling the body.

Training includes understanding the legal requirements for transporting deceased individuals, as well as the cultural and religious considerations that may need to be taken into account. Flight crews are also trained to provide support and assistance to grieving family members who may be traveling with the deceased.

It is important to note that each airline may have its own policies and procedures in place for handling deceased passengers. These protocols are designed to ensure that the deceased and their loved ones are treated with respect and dignity throughout the transportation process.

For more information on this topic, you can visit the website of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at


While no one hopes for a mid-flight death, they do unavoidably occur with some frequency. As we’ve discussed, airlines follow careful procedures to handle these sensitive situations with professionalism, respect, and discretion.

The deceased is moved to a special compartment, paperwork is filed, and preparations are made for the landing. With proper training for flight crews, airlines can ensure they are ready to manage an onboard death with care.

Now that you understand exactly where dead bodies are kept and what steps airlines take, hopefully you feel informed about this little-discussed aspect of commercial aviation. Although a rare occurrence statistically, in-flight deaths serve as an important reminder about the healthcare resources and emergency response capabilities needed when traveling miles above the ground.

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