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It Took Them 18 Hours to Realize That Someone Died in the First Class Lounge

It Took Them 18 Hours to Realize That Someone Died in the First Class Lounge
Jackie Reddy

Nearly 18 hours after he entered the bathroom of Cathay Pacific’s first class lounge at SFO late last October, academic Ming Kou Chan was found dead. According to an autopsy report, Chan died of heart failure caused by coronary atherosclerosis. Cathay has declined to offer comment on the incident.

An academic was found dead in the bathroom of the Cathay Pacific first class lounge at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) late last October, CBS affiliate KPIX 5 reports. According to an autopsy report, Ming Kou Chan, who held a Ph.D. in East Asian History from Stanford University and was a Hoover Institution Research Fellow, was found over 17 hours after he entered the facility on October 29th, 2018.

Chan’s last movements were captured on a security camera as he entered the lounge’s bathroom area that evening, where he was eventually found.

The autopsy report, as shared by the outlet, indicates that he suffered from heart failure as caused by coronary atherosclerosis. Cathay has offered no clarification as to why Chan lay undiscovered for almost 18 hours. Offering a statement to the outlet, the airline said, “Out of respect for the parties involved, we will not be commenting on the specifics of the incident.”

Authorities at SFO have further clarified that this lounge area is the responsibility of the airline and not the airport.

Malcolm Yeung, of the airport’s commission, further explained, adding, “From the airport’s perspective–we typically to leave it up to the airlines to manage the situation whenever the passengers don’t actually board the flight.”

(Source: Stanford biography)

[Image Source: Cathay Pacific]

View Comments (9)


  1. SanDiegoTrvllr

    May 15, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    That’s very sad. This shows how careless the cleaning staff is: anyone doing his/her job properly would have surely noticed that the stall in which Dr Chan suffered a heart attack hadn’t been attended to after a couple of rounds, and subsequently would have knocked on the door. In addition, gate agents working the flight should have called the lounge to see if a no-show passenger was in the lounge. 18 HOURS?!? This is outrageous.

    The work ethic of airport workers in all of the U.S. airports I’ve visited is despicable.

  2. KLBGO

    May 16, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    SanDiegoTrvllr, how would you prevent these things to happen?

    Knocking on toilet doors frequently?

    Search for every late passenger in every lounge and restaurant?

    Other things?

  3. SFRower

    May 18, 2019 at 11:02 am

    RIP Ming Kou Chan.

    As one who uses the the premium lounges at SFO often, the one way to prevent this is to install timers on the doors such that a door remaining locked for an unusually long time would sound an alarm to alert staff so that they can find the body before closing hours. The cleaning staff certainly would never detect this with their frequent rotations.

  4. UKTroll

    May 18, 2019 at 11:05 am

    Just as well it wasn’t an American Express Lounge. He might have been slung out dead or not after he ran over time.

  5. capedr

    May 18, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    UKTroll wins!

  6. SamirD

    May 18, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    As someone that has operated businesses with bathrooms that need to be looked after–even 18hrs is too long for a bathroom check. Plus, there should be alarm buttons in the bathrooms for this sort of thing just like in certain public restrooms. RIP Mr. Chan.

  7. Freebird

    May 19, 2019 at 7:26 am

    When he became a no show for his flight, they must have assumed he had left the lounge without the staff noticing. Makes you wonder if being discovered earlier might have saved his life.

    Hard to believe they do not check the lavatories before closing for the night but here’s the proof clear as day.

    Some Asian customers will now regard this lounge as inhabited by a ghost if they know about this.

  8. ulxima

    May 19, 2019 at 7:50 am

    So a passenger goes through security, enters the lounge, does not board the flight and authorities let him go errand through the terminal for 18 hours in this age of paranoid security, especially in the USA?
    Do we have the whole picture here or rather is something missing?

    RIP Dr Ming :-(

  9. ulxima

    May 19, 2019 at 7:56 am

    “Search for every late passenger in every lounge and restaurant?”

    You might have a very valid point KLBGO, if it we did not considered Dr Ming was a premium passenger (First Class lounge) and SFO is not the base airport for CX.
    I mean the flight might leave on time and without the passenger (and the baggage to be offloaded) but a security search would start immediately, unless Dr. Ming was a US citizen.

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