Air France passenger (doctor) saves lives in-flight, but calls for improvements

Paramedic activating portable defibrillator connected to CPR dummy during resuscitation training. Focus on CPR dummy (Crédits :microgen – iStock)

At a six-month interval, Dr. Vincent Liu-Bousquel, a 34-year-old anesthesiologist and intensivist in Nice, saved the lives of two individuals while onboard Air France flights. He shares his exclusive account with French weekly Le Point, shedding light on what the magazine refers to as “certain shortcomings in the organization of onboard medical assistance” on the French airline’s flights.

The first incident occurred on an Air France flight from Paris to Bucharest. A cabin announcement requested the presence of a doctor to assist a passenger experiencing a medical emergency. Vincent Liu-Bousquel rushed to the aid of the passenger, who was suffering from a stroke. He immediately contacted the local emergency services, which coordinated with an appropriate medical facility and ensured a waiting ambulance upon landing for swift transportation to a specialized center.

Following this incident, Air France invited Vincent Liu-Bousquel to join the “Community of Doctors on Board” program. This initiative compiles a list of available doctors on each flight, ensuring prompt medical assistance for passengers in need.

His second intervention took place on Air France flight AF 267 on August 26, 2023, during a non-stop 14-hour journey from Seoul to Paris on a Boeing 777-300ER. Dr. Liu-Bousquel was called upon to assist a seriously ill passenger who had collapsed at the end of a row. His diagnosis pointed to a massive pulmonary embolism or a compressive pneumothorax. Unfortunately, the onboard medical kit lacked the necessary equipment.

I needed to administer an intravenous infusion to try to increase the patient’s cardiac output. However, the cabin crew, once again showing great solidarity, couldn’t provide the required equipment due to their lack of familiarity with medical terminology. When I asked for a bandage to secure the infusion once it was finally in place, I was handed a bottle of Mercurochrome!” recounted the doctor in Le Point.

Furthermore, there should have been a standard injection port on the IV line to administer medications intravenously, but it was simply absent. I had to manipulate the IV line systematically to inject the medication, reconnect everything, and secure it with Scotch tape I found on board. The blood glucose monitoring device didn’t work despite several attempts. The medical kit was severely lacking in essential medications for such situations, such as a drug to dissolve blood clots. The only available medication was adrenaline, which can lead to severe myocardial arrhythmias and numerous other adverse effects.”

After these two in-flight experiences, Vincent Liu-Bousquel recommended that Air France consider “a reorganization of medical equipment, improved accessibility, training at least one crew member in basic medical terminology to provide better assistance, and the introduction of diagnostic tools (e.g., electrocardiogram) and specialized medications (e.g., clot-dissolving agents) for long-haul flights. The responsibility for administering these medications should rest with a qualified physician, either based on a near-certain diagnosis or out of necessity due to the patient’s condition (e.g., cardiac arrest with suspected pulmonary embolism).”


  1. Several years ago I was flying transatlantic on a monthly basis. Often medical issues/emergencies would come up and I concur. Finding solutions to the issue became a goal of “WingMed Associates”. I had mentioned that was doing transatlantic flights and xan strongly recommend a visit to the wet site who are based in Austria.


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