A fear of flying is really nothing new and in this post 9-11 world the added threat of terrorism can make travel by plane a nerve racking experience for those of us who fear air travel. I would bet that most aviophobes derive their fear from the idea of dying in a crash and not from the incompetence and indifference of airline staff during a medical emergency, but that is just what happened to a 44 year old Brooklyn woman according to a story in the New York Times. The paper reports, "After the flight attendant refused to administer oxygen to Ms. Desir, she became distressed, pleading, 'Don’t let me die.'" The story continues, "other passengers aboard Flight 896 became agitated over the situation, and the flight attendant, apparently after phone consultation with the cockpit, tried to administer oxygen from a portable tank and mask, but the tank was empty. Mr. Oliver said two doctors and two nurses who were aboard tried to administer oxygen from a second tank, which was also empty. Sonja Whitemon, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, would not comment on Mr. Oliver’s claims of faulty medical equipment aboard the plane.” Her cousin, Antonio Oliver, who was traveling with her was quoted as saying,” “Her last words were, ‘I cannot breathe,’ ” American has issued a response that disputes the families claims, but the story has already produced a windfall of criticism and the damage seems to have already been done. The airline will now have to withstand a vastly increased amount of public scrutiny and endure investigations into their policies and level of preparedness regarding medical emergencies. As American tries to excerpt some level of damage control on the internet blogs are filling up with accounts of every type of airline horror story you can imagine, from American refusing to refund a customer who missed a flight because of an emergency appendectomy down to claim’s that the treatment she received on the plane was a result of prejudice towards Haitian passengers.   


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