[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
March 3, 1989

The Accidental Tourist: Medical Emergencies in the Air

JAMA. 1989;261(9):1328. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420090092038

Each year 550 million air travelers pass through the 25 busiest airports in the United States.1 More people enplane, deplane, and transfer through Chicago's O'Hare International Airport annually than live in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland, Greece, and the Congo combined. With such large congregations of people in unusual conditions, both in the air and on the ground, one might expect some unusual occurrences of medical emergencies.

In this issue of The Journal, Cummins and Schubach2 report on their survey of emergency medical responses at one large air terminal, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

In the 1-year prospective study, they found that the frequency of emergency calls was relatively low, approximately 1 per 20 000 traveling passengers. This incidence is probably similar to or smaller than what is seen at a football game, rock concert, or any other large gathering of reasonably healthy people.