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July 7, 1989

In-flight Deaths-Reply

JAMA. 1989;262(1):32. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430010043021

In Reply.—  Drs Davis and Schurict raise two important points about our article on in-flight deaths during commercial air travel: first, that the data reported by commercial air carriers on travel-related deaths and on in-flight medical emergencies are an inaccurate underestimate of the problem, and second, that a new definition of deaths related to air travel is necessary. I agree strongly with both points.Other articles1-3 have discussed the problems of in-flight deaths and medical emergencies, and they concur that underreporting occurs. In a 6-month survey at Los Angeles (Calif) International Airport, Speizer and colleagues1 observed 7 in-flight deaths out of 8.74 million passenger arrivals. This rate of 0.8 deaths per million passengers is significantly higher than the rate of 0.31 deaths per million passengers recorded in the voluntary airline reports to the International Air Travelers Association.4We recently reported on air traveler deaths in a 1-year