When it boils down to it, holidays abroad are fun, right? Yes, there’s the stress of getting to the airport on time, navigating security and forcing down that obligatory 5am pint, but once you’re safely settled down in your seat on the plane you can finally relax.
Or can you.
Seeing as you could be MERE FEET AWAY FROM A DEAD BODY.
Yes, that’s right, because it’s a little-known, or at least little-thought-about, fact that airlines transport thousands of dead bodies every year, taking them to their final resting place, perhaps because they’ve died abroad on holiday, or moved away, and requested to be buried in their nation of birth alongside family (although clearly they didn’t like them that much while they were alive). And they’re kept in the hold of the aircraft, just beneath where you’re sitting.
So how do you know if you’re getting a lift along with someone who has gone (or is at least on the way) to meet their maker?
Well, there’s a codeword which airlines use to refer to their ‘passed’ passengers: ‘Jim Wilson’. This means that the flight crew, undertakers and funeral directors, and relevant authorities can easily refer to their special cargo without freaking any squeamish members of the public out.
Oh, and just to make it clear, they’re not talking about this Jim Wilson:
Not all airlines use the code – some use the term HR (human remains) – but many use good old Jim as the codeword. The term comes from the trays in which cadavers are transported: a Jim Wilson Air Tray is an air casket. They are packed with ice to limit decomposition, and aeroplane holds get quite cold, but if you notice a funny smell, well – best to keep quiet we’d say. Interestingly, Jim Wilsons are also used to the transport cryopreservation – so they may not even be getting buried upon landing, just frozen in time to await medical developments.
50,000 dead bodies are believed to be moved by air every year, while 2,000 dead bodies pass through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport – a major hub. It even has its own mortuary.
However – one thing to make you sleep easier on that flight – short haul, low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet don’t transport cargo, so there’ll be no Jims on your flight.
And if your name is actually Jim Wilson? Don’t be surprised if you get a few funny looks from the staff.