Woman died from COVID-19 on flight to North Texas this summer


A Dallas County resident died from COVID-19 this summer while on a flight headed to DFW. The woman in her 30s had underlying medical issues; she died July 25, but COVID-19 was confirmed as her cause of death Sunday.

Sunday, Dallas County officials announced the woman had trouble breathing before a flight took off from Phoenix, saying she died at the airport. Wednesday morning, the county confirmed she was actually on a Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas to DFW Airport.

Spirit says the flight July 25 had already taken off and was diverted to Albuquerque, NM for medical reasons.

"Our Flight Attendants have in-depth training to respond to medical emergencies and utilize several resources, including communicating with our designated on-call medical professionals on the ground, using onboard medical kits and personal protective equipment, and receiving assistance from credentialed medical personnel traveling on the flight," Spirit wrote in a statement.

The woman was pronounced dead upon arrival in Albuquerque. Spirit says the airline follows all CDC protocols and also worked with the CDC on contact tracing for other passengers.

According to the CDC website on travel during the pandemic, "If a sick traveler is considered a risk to the public’s health, CDC works with local and state health departments and international public health agencies to contact exposed passengers and crew."

CDC says passengers should give airlines current contact information when booking a flight so they can more easily be notified if they are exposed to someone who gets sick.

CDC says the way air is filtered and circulated on planes means viruses and other germs will not spread as easily, but "social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19." The agency also says spending time in airport terminals and security lines will bring passengers in close contact with other people and "frequently touched surfaces."