Since I know what they do with the dead in airplanes, I no longer want to fly 1st class. This makes me think differently.

Flying is statistically seen as the safest means of travel. But considering the increasing number of older passengers and the increase in air-traffic, deaths in the air cannot be ruled out. “I’m amazed that it doesn’t occur more often”, said Patrick Smith, an experienced pilot and author of the best seller “Cockpit Confidential”.

But what actually happens if someone dies during a flight and what is done with the body?

Patrick Smith said that there is a protocol for such an emergency. The crew contacts the station on the ground. Depending on the cause of death and flight position, the aircraft may need to be directed. After that the deceased must be moved gracefully and as far from the other passengers as possible. The dead are often covered and taken to the rear of the plane.

But in a full airplane, storage of the decease can be problematic. In this case the decease needs to be strapped in to a free seat – often in 1st class because most of the free seats are usually found there.


In 2004 Singapore Airlines fitted its fleet of airbus A340-500 with a special storage room near the rear exits, large enough for a human body. This particular area soon became known as the “corpse cupboard”. In 2013 however, this series was disgarded.

A corpse cupboard in an airplane? Not particularly calming if you already have a fear of flying. I seriously hope that I never have to experience that.