What’s Fair Compensation For Flying Near A Corpse?

What’s Fair Compensation For Flying Near A Corpse?

The media loves an airline disaster tale, so the sad story of the man who choked on an in-flight meal 90 minutes into a Singapore-Auckland flight was always going to get massive coverage. What’s of interest from a broader travel perspective is how Jetstar has handled the scenario, offering $100 vouchers to passengers who were seated nearby. Is that enough compensation?

My take: yes, it probably is. The human reality is that people die. Flying in the same cabin as a corpse wouldn’t be fun, but in the grand scheme of unpleasant human experience it still rates pretty low on the scale. I think compensation is a sensible gesture, but I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect thousands of dollars to be flung at every passenger in the vicinity, or to turn the flight around once it was clear nothing could be done for the dead man.

But I’m a tough-minded type and I also like my flights to arrive on time. How do you think the situation should be handled? Tell us in the comments.

Jetstar offers passengers $100 compensation for flying with dead man [The Australian]


    • They moved the body to a curtained off area, though due to the small nature of aircraft there would have been some people in the ‘vicinity’

      Personally, I think offering compensation is about all they needed to do. If there was absolutely nothing that could be done then I would want the flight to continue. What about the people catching connecting flights in Auckland. What about those on holiday, with hotel bookings. Etc etc etc.

      Everybody will die at some point. Get over it.

    • I think (im not sure if its the same law in NZ but im certain that its the same anywhere) is that they are not allowed to touch the body at all until the police and coroner examine the it, it could have been foul play and by moving the body could destroy any evidence.

    • If you a passenger on that flight and the man in question had no chance of being revived, would you rather:
      a) Turn around, fly an hour and a half back to the airport, organise a new flight, reschedule any connecting flights or activities (who probably wont offer refunds), and fly the full 10 hours back to Singapore.
      b) Continue flying to Singapore?

      It’s unpleasant, but people do die on planes occasionally. Turning back wouldn’t just be costly to the airline, it’d create an even less pleasant situation for the remaining passengers.

      • Personally I would’ve liked for the plane to turn back to Singapore. The memory of someone dying on the same plane as me would remain with me forever, but the next 8.5 hours would be highly uncomfortable.
        I would happily spend more of my time travelling if it meant I didn’t have to be on the same plane as a deceased person.
        But ultimately I think Jestar did the right thing by continuing on. Because, as many people in the comments have said, his family is in NZ and it would have been much more convenient for them during this depressing time. I am sure they didn’t want the stress of bringing his body back home.

  • For starters, having just read that story published by the Australian, I’d hardly call it impartial journalism. It has far more than a discreet scent of criticism at Jetstar’s actions.

    From a personal opinion point of view though, I do agree that it seems a bit rough forging on with the flight to Christchurch, seeing that they were only 90 minutes away from their point of origin, and 8.5 hrs away from their destination. The comment that the money used to offer reimbursement for the inconvenience would have been better used to fund returning to Singapore to remove the deceased is a fair point. I don’t think any level of reimbursement would make me feel much better about the events that occurred (though admittedly, I don’t think I would be disturbed by it, more shocked at the low level of compassion exhibited).

    Really though, without knowing what facilities are available on aircraft, and on the ground in airports to handle a death mid-flight – it’s difficult to say whether Jetstar have handled this well or not.

    One big point I want to make though, is that there’s a big difference between $100 reimbursement, and $100 credit. The Australian’s article seems to suggest the latter:

    “They were offered a discount on future travel as a small acknowledgement of this,” a Jetstar spokesperson said.

    • The “impartial journalism” you referred to actually stated that Mr Deceased’s partner made the choice to continue on. Ultimately the decision was made due to the fact that Mr Deceased was from NZ and so it was logical to get back home to family.

      and in-regards to the airline offering compensation in no way shape or form would I think any type of compensation is acceptable. How is a airline to be at fault for a passenger dying? Compensation would be good for a problem they caused not a part of life transpiring.

  • Oh dear. Poor bloke!

    That said… they moved a person that died mid air? Surely the police (though which jurisdiction?) would have had something to say about it as innocent looking as it seems or no?

    Curious not to turn around but again if the police weren’t interested and the deceased was travelling that way in the first place…

    Offering compensation for something out of your control like this sounds like a bit of overkill to be honest; more PR massaging.

  • I don’t really think money can make it all better – but TBH if they moved the body to as isolated a spot as they could respectfully manage, I don’t think anybody would have cause to complain. People die.

  • I believe part of the reason they continued flying was because that is what his girlfriend wanted – after all, his family (who he was going home to visit) were in NZ, and naturally they’d prefer to have a family there, rather than deal with separate repatriation.

      • Diaz: Mellow out man. We can’t talk business with you waving guns in people’s faces. Your daughter is safe, Colonel. Now whether she stays that way is up to you. My people, they got some business with you. And if you want your kid back, then you gotta co-operate, right?

        Matrix: Wrong!

  • I would have thought an offer of counselling would be more appropriate than $100.

    The money says, “we think your distress or discomfort is worth $100”. Giving away $100 in relation to someone’s death seems heartless, and probably worse than doing nothing – unless there has been some cost to passengers as direct result.

    Counselling says, “we care about you”.

  • Wow, seriously, this is an issue?

    I don’t see what control Jetstar had over this guys untimely demise, and why they are responsible for “slightly upsetting” some soft co-passengers. I mean sure if the pilot had gone crazy and stabbed someone, that could be considered Jetstars fault, and would have legitimately upset many people, but the guy died of natural causes. It happens. Bodies are just lumps of meat no different to a juicy steak or a piece of leather – it’s not a magical terrifying creature thats going to destroy your soul if you happen to be seated nearby.

    Jesus people, grow some backbone.

  • Wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. Be a nice change from all the live pax you normally have to put up with. You might even convince the hostie that his dying words were that you get his meal too.

  • Interestingly, would there be some kind of legal implications importing a dead person into Auckland…?

    I bet Singapore Airport refused to accept the dead guy, so they had no choice.

  • my first thought was ‘ why is compensation required?, did they kill the guy, who did something disrespectful to his body’.
    Being respectful and professional during would have been enough for me.

  • ‘Sir, unfortunately the gentleman next to you has died.’
    ‘I bloody know that. I tried to tell you he was choking during take off, but you said I had to remain seating until the seat belt light went off.’
    ‘The seat belt light is for your safety sir. As you may recall, the gentleman next to you has died. Unfortunately as we have completed our take off, we will be proceeding to our destination. Police requirements prohibit us from interfering with the body so he will have to remain in his current seat.’
    ‘Really? I mean are we sure he’s dead? He’s twitching a bit, and we’re not that far from Singapore.’
    ‘We’re quite confident sir. And unscheduled takeoffs and landings are quite expensive. Also, Mr Jeffries in Business class has a quite urgent meeting at our destination.’
    ‘I… guess that’s more important than a man’s untimely death. Fine. Where will I be sitting?’
    ‘Unfortunately sir, this flight has been overbooked, so you will need to remain in your present seat.’
    ‘The airline will happily compensate you for the trauma of sitting next to a twitching corpse for 8.5 hours.’
    ‘Oh will they? Because my therapist is going to have a field day with this.’
    ‘Yes sir. The airline prides itself on managing these situations as humanely and considerately as possible. As such, we will be happy to give you a voucher for your in flight meal, a cup of coffee at the air port, and the cost of a taxi home. Or 100 dollars, which ever is less. The pilot has also asked me to remind you to remain seated at all times unless absolutely necessary, and that monopolizing the lavatory is not an acceptable means of avoiding sitting next to the corpse.’
    ‘On the internet, they’ll call me soft for being upset about this. Out of curiosity, why can’t I go hide in the loo until this is over?’
    ‘As part of our commitment to passenger comfort, we’ve removed all of them except for one, so we can jam in more seats, and cut down on plumbing costs. Enjoy your flight sir.’

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