The Travel Detective

Dying on Planes, Security Tips and Cruising to Cuba

Locations in this article:  Havana, Cuba Miami, FL

Oxygen TanksIf you were watching the news last week, there was a story about an American Airlines flight from Haiti to New York in which a woman died. She got onboard and claimed that she had trouble breathing and asked for oxygen. According to her family, she was refused twice by a flight attendant, and she died.

By the way, there are 55,000 flights a day in the United States and guess what? Someone’s going to die and someone’s going to get sick.

The real issue here is what’s onboard the plane, what are your rights, what are the responsibilities of the flight crew and the captain, and what order do they exercise those responsibilities?

The answers might surprise you.

First of all, let’s talk about the story itself. A woman who had heart troubles to begin with and was diabetic was on the plane. She said she had difficulty breathing and asked the American Airlines flight attendant for oxygen.

According to other witnesses on the plane, he initially said, “If you’re a diabetic, oxygen won’t help you.” Not that he’s a doctor. He initially refused her, and then he refused her again.

Doctor HelpingThe purser noticed that the situation had gotten worse and immediately got two oxygen canisters (there were 12 total onboard). He asked if there were any medical personnel onboard, and on that particular flight there were four—four doctors, nurses or EMTs.

They laid her out on the aisle, administered the oxygen and by that time it didn’t look good. The pilot called back and said “What is her condition?” and they said “We’re still working on her.”

He asked, “Should I divert?”

“No, we’re still working on her.”

About five minutes later the pilot called back and said “Is she conscious or unconscious?” and they said “She’s unconscious.”

They headed west toward Miami, and about five minutes later, she expired.

That’s the official story. That’s the story American Airlines and other witnesses are reporting, but the family claimed that the oxygen canisters didn’t work. That is not the case—we checked and the canisters did work.

External DefibrillatorThey even brought out the AED, which is the portable defibrillator. What’s good about those defibrillators is that American Airlines has trained their flight attendants and they’ve already saved 80 lives of people who have had heart attacks on planes.

They have them on Qantas and Cathay, and they’re brilliant machines because they’re no-brainer machines. They won’t turn on and activate unless the machine determines that a defibrillation is needed, and an audio command walks the flight attendant through the process, step-by-step, in clear, audible commands.

So when they got the AED out, there was no need for it; there was no defibrillation needed because she had expired.

The captain did the right thing; the real issue was that first flight attendant. Why he refused, how long it took to get the purser back there, and was that the difference in keeping her alive or not. We will never know because the medical examiner ruled that she died of natural causes.


You know how I feel about the TSA. I describe them as “Thousands Standing Around” or “Taking Scissors Away.”

But now I’ve learned my lesson. Don’t pick the security line that’s shortest.

Pick the security line where only one person is looking at the screen. The TSA has such a turnover in its employees that they’re constantly training new people. That means if you see three people looking at one screen, they’re going to be looking at that screen four hours per bag.

This is not the line you want to be in. So anytime you go to the airport and see one guy looking at a screen, go to that line. Even if there’s 17 people in front of you.


Havana CubaAs you know, Raul Castro was named president of Cuba.

David Letterman had a joke that they were either going to give it to Raul Castro, or to Fidel’s little-known, stupid son, Fidel W. Castro. But it went to Raul and now everyone is speculating how fast U.S. cruise lines will be sailing into Havana.

Every U.S.-based cruise line has chartered at least eight viable harbors in Cuba. They have their own infrastructure, they are their own floating hotels, and all they have to do is set up shop and sail in. There are other countries in the Caribbean that are scared out of their minds; the minute Cuba opens up, everyone who is cruising is going to want to go to Cuba, and they’ll be more than happy to welcome us because the dollar still speaks volumes there.

They’re even building a pier in Key West. They’re all in denial about it, but why would they be building a pier? Because they’re ready to operate a ferry from Key West to Cuba.

They won’t admit it, but trust me, they’re building it for a ferry to get operating the minute we recognize Cuba. My guess is within the first 12 months of whatever incoming administration there is, Democrat or Republican, you’re going to see it.

We’re going to recognize Cuba because it makes geopolitical and economic sense. So get ready to book that cruise to Havana.

From Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio

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