United Airlines Passenger Who Reportedly Hid COVID-19 Symptoms Dies Mid-Flight Sparking Emergency Landing

United Airlines and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are trying to find the passengers who were on a Dec. 14 flight from Orlando to Los Angeles because a man with symptoms of the coronavirus died in the middle of the flight. The man's family told United he had pre-existing conditions, including high blood pressure and upper respiratory issues, and was sick before the flight, a spokesperson for the airline told BuzzFeed News. The man allegedly lied on a form asking if he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and had any symptoms. He "wrongly acknowledged this requirement," the spokesperson said.

The flight landed in New Orleans, where the man was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead, United said. The man's told an EMT he lost his sense of taste and smell and had other COVID-related symptoms, but it was not confirmed if the man tested positive for the illness, the spokesman said. "Now that the CDC has contacted us directly, we are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection," the airline said.

The CDC is now "collecting information and proceeding according to our standard operating procedures to determine if further public health action is appropriate," the agency said in a statement, reports NBC News. The agency did not provide more detail about the deceased passenger to protect his privacy. United told NBC Los Angeles the CDC also did not say what the man's cause of death was and if it was COVID-19.

The four flight attendants on the flight were quarantined for two weeks when they arrived in Los Angeles, Taylor Garland, spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants union, told NBC Los Angeles. "Our union continues to provide support to the crew," Garland added. "We urge passengers to comply with airline COVID policies and stay home if you're sick."

The cross-country flight attracted attention on social media when one person who claimed she was a passenger tweeted a man behind her "died of COVID midflight." The same Twitter user claimed she overheard the man's wife confirm he had a "positive test when talking to EMTs." Another person, Shay Allen, said the man had trouble breathing when he boarded and wondered why United did not take passengers' temperatures before they left Orlando.


Allen also said United did not have the passengers change planes when they landed in New Orleans. "At the time of the diversion, we were informed he had suffered a cardiac arrest, so passengers were given the option to take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans," United told BuzzFeed.