Singapore Airlines Tightens Turbulence Safety Measures After Fatal Incident

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Singapore Airlines Ltd. has introduced stricter cabin safety protocols following a fatal turbulence incident on a flight from London to Singapore. The airline announced on Friday that it will adopt a "more cautious approach" to managing turbulence after Flight SQ321 experienced a sudden altitude drop, forcing an emergency landing in Bangkok.

The turbulence caused one passenger's death and left dozens injured, with many still hospitalized in Thailand with severe trauma, including spinal cord injuries and head injuries.

Enhanced Safety Measures

In response, Singapore Airlines has implemented new safety measures:

  • Meal Service Suspension: In-flight meal service will be halted when the seatbelt sign is activated.
  • Hot Drinks Ban: Serving hot drinks will be suspended during turbulence.
  • Crew Safety Protocols: Cabin crew will be required to return to their seats and secure themselves.

The airline emphasized that it will continually review these processes to prioritize the safety of passengers and crew.

Incident Details

The turbulence on Flight SQ321 caused significant injuries, with passengers being thrown against the cabin roof and items from the breakfast service scattered throughout the aircraft. According to Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, 22 passengers were treated for spinal injuries, six suffered skull and brain injuries, and 20 were in intensive care. Over 100 passengers required medical attention immediately after the incident.

Industry Perspective

Despite the severity of the incident, industry experts suggest that mandating seatbelt use at all times is unlikely. Ron Bartsch, former safety chief at Qantas Airways Ltd., noted that fatalities from turbulence are extremely rare and enforcing continuous seatbelt use might deter passengers. Bartsch, who is also the founder of Avlaw Aviation Consulting and an author on aviation safety, stated, "I can’t remember the last fatality associated with turbulence. It’s not a common occurrence."

Understanding Turbulence

Turbulence occurs when an aircraft encounters strong air currents, which can be caused by weather systems or temperature variations. At high altitudes, clear air turbulence—hard to detect but potentially severe—can pose significant risks.

Rohan Laging, deputy director of emergency services at Melbourne's Alfred Health, compared the forces experienced during severe turbulence to falling headfirst off a ladder or diving into a shallow pool, underscoring the potential for serious injury.

Conclusion

Singapore Airlines' new measures aim to enhance in-flight safety and mitigate risks associated with turbulence. The airline remains committed to improving its safety protocols to protect both passengers and crew during flights.

 

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