The woman has not been identified publicly, but the Dallas County Judge’s Office, which first disclosed her death, said she was in her 30s and had an underlying medical condition.
Airport managers in Albuquerque did not learn until later that the woman had covid-19, so the case was handled as a typical medical diversion, Kitts said. Officials in Dallas County added the woman to their virus death toll on Sunday.
“She expired on an interstate airline flight, and did have underlying high risk health conditions,” the county said in a new release updating its tally.
Erik Hofmeyer, a spokesman for Spirit, offered the airline’s condolences to the woman’s family and friends. He said that the airline remains confident in its protocols for handling coronavirus cases and that it works with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on any contact-tracing requests.
“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,” Hofmeyer said.
It’s unknown how many people where on the flight or whether they were notified that they might have been exposed to the virus.
The CDC has said it has investigated about 1,600 cases of people who traveled while they posed a risk of spreading the coronavirus, identifying 11,000 people who were potentially exposed. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the agency investigated the case of the woman who died on the Spirit flight.
Kitts said the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator, which handles unusual deaths in the state, responded to the airport. The office could not be reached to comment.
Officials in Dallas initially said the woman died in Arizona, a detail that was widely reported, before confirming that she actually died in New Mexico.
Although it appears to be an extreme case, the woman’s death was disclosed as airlines continue to try to convince potential passengers that flying is safe during the pandemic. Trade organizations have stressed that there have not been confirmed cases of people catching the virus on planes in the United States and that only a few cases have been documented globally.
Nevertheless, passenger numbers continue to be down considerably from normal times as businesses curtail travel and some states impose quarantine requirements on travelers.