16-year-old girl kicked off plane for coughing + dead body in first class

I’m not sure I understand why Rachel Collier, a 16-year-old girl, was not allowed to fly after a fit of coughing. If a doctor says you’re fine, then you’re fine. The only think I can think of is that the Continental pilot was afraid that people would complain about hearing someone cough, kind of like Paul Trinder.

If you missed the story, Paul Trinder, was the first class passenger who woke up with a dead body next to him and the dead person’s family members wailing and whatnot. He complained.

Now it’s easy to criticize the guy for being insensitive, but I’d be complaining too. I mean who wants to sit next to a dead body or people crying? The airline simply must have a better place to keep the body. For example when I fly on 747-400s, I notice they have a little room with 2 beds for the crew. There must be some place like that where the body can be kept.

Now certainly the crew need their rest, but so do the first class passengers. If that’s not an option, take 3 people in coach and move them to 1st class. Then you have an entire row for the dead body. And then all the passengers in first class are living.

What’s even more amazing is that the crew didn’t tell him what was going on. He had to ask. That just blows me away. You absolutely have to tell the guy and give him a chance to move. British Airlines said sorry, but we did the best we could.

In the end I guess I don’t understand the airline’s decision in either case. The girl who coughs because she has a cold gets kicked off a plane. Good job Continental. The dead woman is moved to first class and the passengers nearby kept in the dark. Good thinking British Airways.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh when I criticize the airlines in these two cases? Does anyone think that Continental or British Airways did the right thing?

Filed Under: Airlines + flying

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  1. chris k says:

    Personaly i think the airline should be sued…usualy i wouldnt say that but they keep getting more and more insinsative to people..we are only bodys filling their seats they dont care at all about us….im sure the girl coulda taken cough medicine…i wouldnt have been afraid of her cough,heck its that time of year it happens,,,some people governing these airlines as well as the people making these idiodic decisions should grow up..its only a cold….as for the dead body by all means they coulda done a lot more..of course that the brits for ya..

  2. BobM says:

    MAKE THEM PAY !!!!!!!

  3. Dan says:

    Frankly, babies crying annoys me alot more than someone coughing,What about the guy who snores for the entire flight? Where do we draw the line with noise? As far as the dead guy, pretend he is asleep, at least he is quiet…………….

  4. Bonnie says:

    Its back to AMTRAK for me! I’ve had it!

  5. dave says:

    ….as for the dead body by all means they coulda done a lot more..of course that the brits for ya..

    What the hell is this supposed to mean?

  6. D'nese says:

    That is ridiculous, no way should the little girl been kicked off the plane. The airline should be sued and everyone should know how they treat people and the should lose all the customer base. We are the ones making them money if we are treated like crap, Quite frankly they don’t need our money!

  7. Tom says:

    of course all of us are getting only one side of the stories glad none of you are on a jury deciding this could it be possible that none of us know the whole facts to either case………

  8. felton wilson says:

    I love trains!!

  9. Judy says:

    If you give someone a mint or cough drop that usually eases the cough..

    Yes they should be sued..

  10. melissa says:

    They need Jesus. I just don’t understand the insensitivity of some people. Yes they should be sued, for beening ignorant!

  11. Riri says:

    Those immortal words keeping ringing in my ear.

    “Can’t we all just get along”

    Such a simple idea but yet so difficult maintain.

  12. mollie d. says:

    A baby crying is normal and I can tolerate that. But a person with a constant cough should be kicked off the plane. I don’t want their germs any more than they would want mine. As for airline noise, buy some earplugs.

  13. RANDY says:


  14. carol ciambrone says:

    I have a cough, until I get adjusted to surrounding. Does that mean I need to get a Dr. certificate before I get on a plane?

  15. ken ramey says:

    If the girl was kicked off the plane, it must have landed, so why couldn’t the dead body be removed then too, or did the lady die subsequently. On an overseas flight the options are not great. What does one do with a body? I was on a flight from Munich to San Francisco 12 hours nonstop and presume that to be as long as they go. Airlines cannot put a morgue on every plan, so what can they do? A chute to the baggage compartment would do, but not without the passengers knowing. The only other solution is a bathroom with an ‘out of order” sign on the outside, but nothing would go unnoticed by all. I’m glad it was not my problem.

  16. ben lind says:

    I am going to side with British Airlines on the dead body. That was a tough call, and guess what? People die! It happens! Most shocking thing about that tale is the insensitivity of Paul Trinder who complained in the face of the bereaved. He should have been given a discount on his next flight and told to shut the f*** up! Personally I would have moved his ass to economy if he had such a problem accomodating someone else’s tragedy. As for the girl, again it sucks, but crew have the right to kick you off just for looking at them funny, and these days they should have that right. When it is abused, however it is appropriate that the airline get some bad PR on forums like this. Sue? For what?

  17. James Trotta says:

    Keep in mind that these incidents are totally separate. Based on Ken’s comment maybe I wasn’t clear enough about that. The Continental one, happened before takeoff. The British Airways one happened 3 hours into the flight.

    Ben. I agree they should have told him what was going on and offered him a seat somewhere else. That they didn’t even talk to him until he asked is almost unbelievable.

  18. connie says:

    As someone who suffers from a terrible cough 3-4 months out of the year I think the airlines staff was completely out of line.

    Maybe the girl needed an inhaler for asthma, maybe she was having an allergy attack. Possibly all she needed was a large bottle of water to drink during the flight.

    Not all coughs mean a person is sick with something contagious. If a Dr. cleared her, she should have been able to fly. Since the airline did not, I think they should have to pick up the entire tab for all expenses incurred for her and the chaperone that stayed behind with her.

  19. brook garretson says:

    Until the airlines are accountable than people are going to be treated like cattle. There is no rights for a passenger at this time. A girl coughing, a dead body, everybody is looking at the wrong issue. Is it legal to sit on an airplane for 14 hours with no food no water and no potty break? Is it legal for humans to hand over thier rights because they want to fly from say Miami to Denver? Until the airlines are held accountable then all passengers are is baggage, if you don’t like it and you can’t change the current situation than boycott flying. At least than your personal situation is controllable, there are alot of famous people that don’t fly and never will. Thanks.

  20. cas says:

    I would like to hear the side of Continental. I think it would depend on the type, duration, etc. of the cough. The girl could have been carrying an infectious disease, such as TB, SARS, or avian flu, and spread it to all the other passengers creating a huge outbreak. Had that been the case and the airline been aware of the cough and not done anything, I am sure many people would have been screaming lawsuit there also. If I am sitting next to someone with obvious signs/symptoms of an infectious process, I would greatly appreciate the airlines asking her to provide a physician statement saying she is not contagious, or not allow her to fly.

    As for the dead body, it does seem they may have been able to find an area with more privacy, but for the sake of the grieving family, not to avoid making Mr. Trinder uncomfortable. If he could not have been sensitive to the needs of others, he should have been booted to coach!

  21. Jeanette says:

    Well, I went to the original story and got some of the details that to me were important. It seems that the lady died DURING the flight,(they didn’t book passage for the dead body 1st class). So, the airline employees tried to figure out how to best accomodate all concerned. As the article states the Coach was full — so they couldn’t just “move people to clear a row” for the body. Second, the article stated the body was moved “near” Mr. Trainer, it did not say next to him — but still it had to have been close enough where it bothered him.

    The flight attendants and crew that decided to move the dead lady and her family to first class probably was hoping that they could slide the incident by with the less disturbance of the fewest amount of people. I assume that there were only a few passengers in First class. Mr. Trainer was asleep at the time the body was moved “near” him and I am sure the flight attendants elected to not wake him up, as that would have been rude.

    It also seems that Mr Trainer was the only first class passenger to complain. After Mr Trainer woke up and discovered the tragic circumstances that had transpired, if having the dead body bothered him, he should have requested a seat change into coach (where the family had been seated). If he had been awake when the flight attendants had first moved the body and the family to first class, I am sure one of the flight attendant would have explained what had happened and then they would have suggested a move to coach and then offered a refund for his ticket. That would have been the logical way to have handled it. If Mr. Trainer didn’t agree to this solution — well — he had a choice –stay in first class with the body and grieving family or move into a coach seat away from the tragedy for the rest of the flight.

    I also feel that the airline should have refunded or given the first class passengers vouchers for a future flight to make up for this inconvience to them. After all, this was a crisis on the airline — The passengers in first class had to “accomodate” the crisis situation — and thus the airline should do this as a thank you.

  22. Gary Langley says:

    How big are the refrigidare units on these planes? It would make more sense to me to keep the body cold and out of the way rather than display it like an ol’ Irish wake. Although, I am sure the airliner had plenty of stiff drink to livin’ up the situation. Maybe they should have gone that route, it’s does sound more merry.

    The little coughing girl wasn’t little as some may have thought. She sure wasn’t a toddler as some may have been thinking when they posted their tyraid about how insensitive Continental booted her from the plane.

    I fully agree with getting her off the plane. She was in no condition to fly and if the situation turned life threatening in the air, she would probably have little more than first aid from a flight attendant. Or heaven forbid she was infectious with one of a number of nasty ailments that are out there. She got another flight a day or so later and didn’t seem any worse for wear. No harm, no foul.

  23. al says:

    dead body,did anyone think it was the food!

  24. william cormeny says:

    He was a paying passenger and his estate has been charged full fare even though he only went for a three hour tour.

    Most airlines will not allow you to fly if you have serious heart problems.Thus, the doctors’ permission might have been an easier method for the doctor who could not stop the patient.It might be cheaper than a malpractice suit. Having had a heart attack I can assure you,they are not planned.There’s an old saying in hospitals,”don’t die on my shift.” It means more paperwork.

    Mr. Trotta should complain and possibly get mileage or even a drink. I would think it ominous if I got on board and body bags were strewn about in the cabin.

  25. Dustin M says:

    I have a lot of issues with the people writing most of the comments here. First off. It’s slightly more than disturbing that at least 5 out of the 24 people are screaming LAW SUIT. For what? Are you for real? It is in NO WAY possible for it to be British Airways’ fault that a passenger bit it in mid-flight. Yes, it’s sucks, it is tragic, but again, NOT the airlines fault. As for the person asking about the refrigerators and suggesting one as a “storage container”.. Are you on crack? I needn’t say no more.

    Regarding the comment about “Is it legal to sit on an airplane for 14 hours with no food no water and no potty break? Is it legal for humans to hand over thier rights because they want to fly from say Miami to Denver?” Oh no you didn’t. FIRST OF ALL.. You, as a passenger, are AGREEING to be on that plane for 14 hours. Nobody put a gun to your head. Second, anyone who has flown on a plane anywhere over an hour in the air KNOWS you get a drink. Longer flights = more drinks, especially a 14 hour transatlantic or transpacific flight, AND on those particular flight you DO get fed. Thirdly, there ARE “pottys” on ALL commercial aircraft and 99% of the time are available for your use. Whether you choose to use the provided lavatories is at YOUR discretion. Lastly, who is FORCING you to “hand over your rights”? You are ASKING the airline to provide you a service, and the airline is willing to provide you this service IF you are willing to pay for that service, and abide by a few simple rules. Nobody is making you do anything you don’t want to do.

    Now, on to the 16-year-old high school girl that was asked to leave her flight because of a “coughing spell”. I would have to agree with the person that said, maybe we don’t have all the facts on this. I wasn’t there. I don’t know. I would seem to think that there would have been several way to peacefully resolve the issue and allow the girl and her stewart to travel home with the rest of her classmates. I do think that this wasn’t the best of decisions by the flight crew representing Continental Airlines. It definitely doesn’t do much to boost their P.R. Again, I digress, I wasn’t there to witness the length or severity of her cough, nor do we understand the internal S.O.P.’s that govern Continentals flight crew and their decision making ability/authority.

    Finally, as an employee of the airline industy (neither Continental nor B.A.) I am sick and tired of people belly aching and boo-hoo’ing about the airline industry of today. Yes, the folks in charge of certain airlines have probably made a bad business decision or two in their day. Guess what? Their only human. Just like you and I. The bottom line is, in todays society where money is tight, flight schedules are even tighter due to decreases in flight crew and aircraft, and increases in fuel cost and passenger demand.. the “good ole days” of comfortable and 100% on-time, hassle free air travel are days that will live in our memories. That being said.. take it or leave it. You should know the situation ahead of time, so don’t be surprised when something fouls up. The airlines don’t want problems any more than you do. You only have to deal with an agent once. That agent has to deal with hundreds of disgruntled passengers. The ball is definitely NOT in their court.

    I round this out with saying that a prepared and knowledgable traveler is less-likely to be inconvenienced, short of a major situation somewhere along the road. The airline industry is what it is, take it or leave it, put up or shut up.

  26. Kathy says:

    Wy didn’t they just leave the dead lady with her family? Why put her by a stranger. Surely a family member whould have sat with her or left her in her seat and everyone would have thought she was asleep.

  27. Peter C says:

    Dead body in the next seat…..’scuse me would you mind moving over I just need to go to the bathroom……thanks, I’ll have bloody mary,just reach over this guy, shes ????…..oops sorry to spill than on you……sounds like a good situation comedy to me.

  28. randy says:

    Dustin- enjoyed reading your one sided one track-mind essay.People are complaining about the airlines because the service is terrible,and the way they handle major problems are done poorly without any logic or even compassion. We are hearded like cattle. Do not take offense to it.When we buy an airline ticket we expect excellent service no matter if we are flying first class or economy. I still think the airlines handled both situations in a deplorable manner. You people who work for the arlines think you are “the choosen ones” Get real or if I were you I would start exploring other fields of employment- why don’t you and other people working in the airlines industry try becoming a mortician- you won’t have to use your people skills in that field, no matter how limited they are.

  29. James Trotta says:

    I do think we neeed to put this in perspective. These may (although some people disagree) have been 2 mistakes in terms of customer service but every industry has these problems. I love the airline industry and I fly 14 hour flights 4-6 times a year.

    So while I think BA and Continental could have done better, I think the industry overall is fine. I would say that customer service on the non-US airlines is generally better. I’ll take Singapore, JAL, Thai, Malaysian, Korean Air, before I’ll take American Airlines, Northwest, etc.

    But I have to give American Airlines credit for helping us find a flight last minute when my grandfather diesd. Continental didn’t want to help us at all.

  30. Christine says:

    There are a lot of germs around. Especially ones with no manners. I have a “baby” with Down Syndrome and he is still to me very young at 15. Teenagers are young and don’t have the life experiences that we do. If every effort had been made to comfort the child without a positive result, maybe it was better for her to get off the plane than be with a bunch of people who don’t wash thier hands after they use the bathrooms. Think of all the germs on your cell phone or toothbrush if you leave it uncovered in your own bathroom. Let’s live in bubbles. Everyone has germs. Close quarters are anxiety ridden places. Take your benzo’s or wine before and during your flight and during my life, say nice things and be pleasant for a change. As far as the deceased woman, she’s in a better place than us, and I think that was respectful for the family, but if the gentleman could sleep through part of the commotion, good for him. He obviously felt safe enough to let his guard down to nap. Guess he won’t be so reckless next time. No one gets out of here alive, so consider it divine intervention when you have to stop your plans and have some new experience. Guess the teenager and the passenger didn’t take thier life for granted that day. I consider it a lesson for all involved. How about respect for everyone? New theory?

  31. MJLimp says:

    It seems to me like everyone fails to see the obvious…Put a mask on the girl and make sure she wore it during the entire flight ; and move the body to the last seats on the plane…move those people up front…easy………

  32. Al says:

    They should have put the stiff in the left seat. She would have done a better job of runing and flying the plane.

  33. virginia rice says:

    I think that it could have been handled better, in both cases. As one person remarked: “Put a mask on the girl, and move the body, to the back of the plane. Setting the body next to a person, who from what I understand had slept through a lot of it, and wakes up with a body next to him is unnerving at best. Although I have all the sympathy in the world for grieving members of the deceased woman’s family.

    I think that they should have,at least returned their money for their tickets back. That would, I believe,would have been the right thing to do. sueing, is rather extreme, and takes at least two years to even reach court, and with what are sure to be appeals,etc. is more of an effort then I would want to expend.

  34. robert says:

    the little girl should have been aloud to fly. water or cough drops work wonders. As far as the deceased person the body should have been moved to pilots resting cot. And the family with her



  36. Tiara says:

    I have flown with a major coughing fit (leftover from previous allergies) and was never kicked off the plane – this is on Malaysian Airlines. They did come up to me and ask if I’m OK, but that’s all. I’ve had sneezing fits too – flus are very contagious on the plane! But nothing crazy happened really.

  37. bbuck says:

    Diseases are spread extremely easily in confined spaces such as planes. I wouldn’t want to sit next or near someone who is sick and coughing. Perhaps the airlines could carry masks as used in hospitals, for the people to wear during their flight. I think this is reasonable to protect the other passengers. The simple cough could be something like TB, or something highly contagious. No one knows. With international travel, diseases are spread very easy.

    As far as someone dying on a plane, for crying out loud people, this isn’t an everyday event. Finding a spot to place a body I’m sure is not an easy task because of limited space. Placing a sheet or blanket over the body would be a good gesture and also then try to find another seat for the passenger.

  38. Pan says:

    I am a business traveler who flies almost every week. I usually fly coach. People that fly extensively come to realize that the system is really not all that bad. Yes there are good days and then of course bad days. Most of the people who experience them are infrequent travelers who just happened to draw the short straw that day.

    I think airlines should carry two essential emergency items:

    1. A fishbowl

    2. A Parachute

    For the girl with excessive coughing – stick the fishbowl on her head. Her germs would stay contained and the sound would be muffled.

    For the unfortunate deceased person, perform a burial “at air” (kind of like a burial at sea), tie on the parachute and jettison into the sky with great grace and dignity, hoping that they do not land on someone’s car.

    In the mean time keep flying those crowded skies, and may you be granted an aisle seat each time.


  39. find out the facts says:

    Why is everyone so eager to sue someone? The article about the coughing girl said she was “gasping for air”. Did anyone ever stop to think maybe the pilot had her leave for her own good? An airplane is not a hospital, morgue or 4 star restaurant. Its a mode of transportation to get you from point A to point B. Having worked for an airline for many years and handling many emergency situations, we do the best we can with what we have to work with.

  40. Jelly says:

    I would have kicked her off the plane too!!! I was a flight attendent and it’s annoying, NOT only annoying BUT she could have gotten other people sick just as well.

  41. Jim says:

    “Sue this, sue that”. You’re all just a bunch of whiners and ingrates. 20 years ago, most of you couldn’t even afford to fly. Today, sometimes regretfully, almost anyone can get on a plane. It’s not a perfect world, stuff just happens. Get over it. The airlines have to put up with a heck of a lot more crap from all you passengers than the other way around. Nowhere in the Constitution does it guarantee you a perfect flying experience. Don’t like the service from a particular airline? Then fly someone else! Don’t like any of the airlines? Then take a train. Don’t like any of the public transportation systems? Then drive yourself, or stay at home, and give the rest of us a break.

  42. Richard J says:

    As far as the situation with the dead body, what I gathered, from reading the article, is that they did what they felt was best for the majority of those who were on the flight. Now, as for those sitting in first class, immediate situations call for immediate responses and they just happened to get the short end of the stick on this one. Yes, they pay more for their seats; yes, they should be reinbursed for their discomfort; and yes, under normal circumstances they deserve, dare I say, more elevated treatment than those in economy. However, as I am sure that everyone who has responded to this story can all agree upon, this situation was anything but normal and I believe it was handled as well as should be expected.

    Now as for the girl who was put off the plane. I can testify to a similar experience that I had last year, on a flight to Hawaii, where the passenger who was coughing uncontrollably was not put off the plane. Whatever sickness it was, which he was ailing from, myself and another passenger who sat on either side of him picked up a strain of it. So for the next 48 hrs I was sicker than I had ever been in my whole life, to the point which I thought that I was going to die. To make matters worse, I am in the military and was on leave, so I don’t have to tell you how important each day of my vacation is to me, as I seldon get the chance to take one. If that did not make it bad enough, the second of the 2 days which I was sick, was spent in a hospital on display for doctors who could not explain to me what was happening and were even the more baffled when I just, all of a sudden became well again.(That I ascribe to the amount of preventative meds the military keeps in our bodies) Yeah. So, I think putting the girl off the plane, though it may seem harsh to some, was probably the least that this particular flight crew could have done to protect the rest of the passengers. At least, I wish that I would’ve been so lucky.

  43. Jon from EWR says:

    At the very least it is better than something like this happening in seats like this:


  44. Mike Kienle says:

    You have produced it obvious and easy to adhere to

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