Airline notes speculation passenger had COVID, but says it has ‘no confirmation’ as to cause

By Michael Bartiromo

United Airlines passenger on a flight from Orlando to Los Angeles was pronounced dead after the aircraft made an emergency landing in New Orleans on Monday.

The passenger, who was not identified, had suffered a medical emergency aboard the plane, United Airlines confirmed.

Fellow passengers on Twitter have since made claims that the man’s wife suggested he had been infected with coronavirus, and was suffering from some of the virus’ symptoms, although United Airlines has yet to receive any information on the cause of the medical emergency.

“Our flight diverted to New Orleans due to a medical emergency and paramedics transported the passenger to a local hospital where the individual was pronounced deceased. We are in touch with the family and have extended our sincerest condolences to them for their loss,” United Airlines shared in a statement. “While there is some speculation in the media that this was COVID related, we have received no confirmation as to the cause of death.”

Deputies in New Orleans say the man was removed from the plane in “cardiac distress,” per a report from New Orleans ABC affiliate WGNO.

One witness on the plane claims that passengers “thought heart attack at first,” but alleges that man’s wife “quickly” said that he was experiencing shortness of breath and lack of taste and smell. Another Twitter user who claimed to be on the flight suggested that someone performed CPR, or at least “chest compressions” on the man before the plane landed.

United Airlines did not say whether the passengers on the plane had been contacted for any reason.

United currently requires passengers to complete a “ready to fly” checklist during check-in, in addition to implementing health and safety protocol, including mask mandates and increased cleaning procedures. The airline also partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement a contact-tracing program as of Dec. 17, asking passengers to voluntarily provide several key pieces of information in the hopes of speeding up efforts to locate passengers who may have been exposed. The program will start with arriving international passengers, before expanding to all passengers in coming weeks.