In all my years of travel I can count on one hand the number of times an onboard emergency has caused medical personnel to even have to come onto the aircraft and remove a passenger before the rest of the plane is able to disembark. While I’ve been on plenty of planes that had to divert — because of weather, fuel, and the President’s flight path — I don’t recall ever diverting because someone onboard had taken ill.
Dr. Peter Maguire is a British Airways Concorde Room cardholder, and American recently started treating BA’s top customers as ConciergeKeys. So he’s well looked after on those times he does fly American.
And it seems every time he flies American he’s at the right place at the right time. On all three of his American Airlines trips in the past year — in March, August, and January — he’s been pressed into service to assist in a medical emergency.
Credit: Dr. Peter Maguire
The routes had nothing in common other than being longer flights — Los Angeles to Orlando, Phoenix to Honolulu, and most recently London to Dallas.
In mid-January the doctor was flying business class in the forward mini-cabin. Midway over the Atlantic perhaps halfway between Keflavik and Gander the Purser onboard approached him to ask for assistance (he makes it a practice to identify himself prior to departure so the crew know he’s available to help if needed).
A passenger reportedly collapsed and was nonresponsive. He found they were dehydrated and suffering a hypoglycaemia attack. He felt the flight could continue, and monitored the passenger until they reached Dallas. (Unlike Tim Tebow, he’s an actual doctor.)
We most often hear about incidents when they involve celebrities, for instance Carrie Fisher going into cardiac arrest on United before the Christmas holiday and eventually passing away.
Copyright: chrisdorney / 123RF Stock Photo
The first female flight attendant was Ellen Church, hired at United in 1930. She was a registered nurse, and for half a dozen years this became a requirement — something that lasted at US airlines in some part until World War II. Aircraft weren’t the same smooth rides back then that they are (most of the time) today. Now we have to luck into a doctor on board.
Lufthansa has a formal ‘Doctor on Board’ program where doctors sign up and receive 5000 miles, pre-identify themselves, and arrange liability waiver in advance. Pre-registration is one way to solve Delta’s doctor problem. Lufthansa reports about 3000 onboard medical emergencies each year and over 50 diversions.
American Airlines thanks doctors as well, with a travel voucher. On each of the 3 recent occasions Dr. Maguire has received a letter from American like this one:
Regarding American’s expression of thanks he says “Isn’t it a wonderful expression of thanks!” and he shares,
I am very highly impressed with the AA medical kit onboard. I’ve used the kit on both a 773 (long-haul) and 757 (domestic) recently. I have to praise the professionalism and competence of wonderful flight attendants on my recent experiences. Wonderful people. It is really good to have such wonderful care and assistance from good, caring people.
I may complain about onboard service like not receiving predeparture beverages in first class but it’s great to know — from someone who would know, and has several data points — that American’s flight attendants react well in emergencies.
Dr. Maguire looks forward to an upcoming Dublin – Chicago trip on American. Here’s hoping no one falls ill on that flight, but anyone traveling with him can be comforted knowing there’s a doctor onboard prepared to help if necessary.
American Airlines Boeing 787-8 in Chicago
(Thanks to TravelZork for introducing me to Dr. Maguire.)