Crisis management at 40,000 feet

Manhattan (Kansas) to Dallas, Dallas direct to Brisbane, what could be easier. Save hours off the door-to-door travel and bestest of all, no rechecking in at the dreaded Los Angeles International airport.

Four hours later, we’re on the tarmac at LAX.

About 90 minutes into the flight, an elderly woman sitting in the row behind me looked like she had lost consciousness … she looked dead. Stewards were summoned an oxygen was applied. Nothing.

Then a message came from the cockpit that no one on a plane wants to hear: not the, “Do any passengers have experience flying a jumbo jet,” but the other, “Are there any medical professional aboard the flight?”

What looked like a husband and wife time of physicians attended to the woman.

After about 10 minutes she seemed to be revived. They located a bunch of medical papers and medications she was travelling with, and quite professionally brought the woman back from the brink.

But, rather than risk flying the Pacific Ocean, the plane was diverted to LAX and paramedics arrived to take the woman to the hospital. And then we had to go to New Zealand because the crew had reached the legal maximum for hours working (20). So arrangements were made for a new crew and flights in New Zealand to finish the journey to Australia. Hours saved now hours gone.

Up until that point I had been finishing marking final assignments for my food safety risk analysis students, which included a crisis management component. The best producers, processors and retailers are trained and prepared to handle crisis situations.

Later in the flight I spoke with one of the stewards and asked him how much they were prepared for this sort of ting, especially on a schedule 16-hour flight.
He told me they have standard procedures and there is a medical professional on the ground at all times and is the only person who can authorize in-air treatment. So the doctors who happened to be on the place were providing observations and carrying out instructions

I asked the steward how often passengers had died on flights he was working; he gave me a couple of examples.

Stuff happens: be prepared.