A KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight from Suriname to Amsterdam made a stopover in Shannon, Ireland, early on Wednesday morning after a passenger died mid-flight, the airline has confirmed.
The Boeing 777-300 aircraft was less than an hour away from its intended arrival destination when it diverted to Ireland, where the body of the deceased passenger could be removed and transferred to a mortuary.
KLM flight KL714 departed Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname at 5:17 pm on Tuesday evening for the roughly eight-hour transatlantic crossing to the Netherlands, but at some point during the flight a passenger was taken unwell and later died.
Some local media reports claim the passenger was travelling to the Netherlands for medical treatment, although the airlines has not been able to comment, citing passenger confidentiality.
What is unusual, however, is the fact that KLM chose to divert the aircraft – especially when it was already so close to its main hub at Amsterdam Schiphol.
For many airlines, it is normal protocol to continue flying direct to the final destination when a passenger dies onboard.
Of course, there aren’t special closets for deceased passengers – that’s just an urban legend. Flight attendants are, instead, normally required to lay the body on plastic bags and wrap it up in spare blankets. On full flights, sometimes the body must remain upright in a seat with passengers say around it.
In this case, it might be that the passenger was still being treated at the time the plane was diverted or had a connection to Ireland.
Naturally, the same rule doesn’t apply if the passenger has suffered a medical emergency and is still alive or actively receiving medical treatment. In these circumstances, it is policy to divert the aircraft to the closest suitable airport.
For KLM flight KL714, however, the aircraft remained over the ocean for the vast majority of its flight, and Ireland would have been one of the closest diversion airports.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.