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Posts falsely claim vaccinated American Airlines pilots died in flight

November 23, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: In two recent incidents during flights departing from the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, American Airlines pilots died from myocarditis caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. These incidents didn’t happen, a spokesperson for American Airlines confirmed in an email to The Associated Press. The claim has circulated widely online after appearing on a satirical website last month.

THE FACTS: Thousands of social media users this week shared a fearmongering article that falsely claimed to provide evidence for why “vaxxed pilots should not fly.”

The article shared two examples of incidents it said took place on American Airlines flights traveling from DFW to Fort Myers, Florida, and from DFW to Los Angeles. It claimed one pilot experienced cardiac arrest in flight, and the other “started convulsing and vomiting” in flight, and both died before the planes landed. The article attributed both deaths to myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that has very rarely been linked to the COVID-19 vaccines. It said both pilots had recently received their second COVID-19 vaccine doses.

In a final claim attributed to an anonymous source, the article said there had been “at least 12 non-fatal incidents involving pilots that had recently taken the jab.”

These claims are “all false,” American Airlines spokesperson Whitney Zastrow confirmed in an email to the AP.

An internet search reveals the claims surfaced last month on RealRawNews, a website that includes a disclaimer that it contains “humor, parody, and satire.”

A similar story circulating last month falsely claimed a Delta Airlines pilot who had recently been vaccinated died in flight. Both Delta Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed they were not aware of any incidents matching this description.

Very rarely, teens and young adults given the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines have experienced the serious side effect of myocarditis. It’s mostly in young men and teenage boys, and usually after the second dose. Even when individuals have developed myocarditis after receiving the vaccine, their condition has typically been mild and their recovery quick, the AP has reported.


This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.