Last night I flew from Los Angeles to New York on AA…and encountered a medical emergency onboard that led to a lengthy delay and removal of a passenger.
We pushed back on time and FAs screened safety the video. But we stopped short of the runway, pausing near the United hangars. We sat for awhile without moving and I just figured it was normal evening traffic.
Suddenly, however, the captain made an announcement:
Folks, I’m sorry but we are going to have to turn back to the gate due to a medical issue. We’re waiting on a gate to open. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer.
Since he apologized, my first thought was that an intoxicated passenger became boisterous. I was flying economy class (see, I do fly in the back) and did not see anything. I just assumed that a passenger in first or business class was acting up.
We finally reached the gate and parked. The aircraft door was open and three customer service ground staff entered the plane. Yup, I figured. No doctors.
The customer service agent approached a passenger in economy class and asked the lady sitting next to him to move away. I figured there might be a fight and had my phone ready to record the incident.
But suddenly, the captain made a follow-up announcement–
Ladies and gentleman, if there is a doctor onboard, please ring your call button.
This was a flight to New York on a premium-heavy aircraft. A lot of call lights went on.
A couple of doctors joined the customer service agents to check out the passenger. I was several rows back and could not hear what was going on.
Eventually, after about 10 minutes, the passenger was led off the plane. He was asked several times if he was okay. He appeared to be a teenager or in his early 20s.
As he walked off the aircraft, he suddenly turned around and darted back to his seat. You could hear a collective gasp. He kept mumbling about leaving something behind, but could not articulate what it was.
Maybe he was drunk. Maybe he was high. Or maybe he was just sick. It’s not fair to speculate and therefore I won’t put his picture on the internet.
I spoke to a FA after he had left and we had taken off. The passenger was just non-responsive. He sort of stared straight ahead and did not acknowledge any speech or instruction directed toward him, like to fasten his seatbelt. He seemed to be in another world.
We ended up taking off 1hr20mins late and landing about an hour behind schedule. All in all, not bad. I trust the distressed passenger is now feeling better.
I was surprised at how calm everyone remained onboard. There was no shouting. No collective moans or loud gripes about the delay. Everyone seemed to take it well. That’s a good thing.