Singapore Airlines Offers Compensation to Passengers Injured During Turbulent Flight

A Boeing Co. 777-300ER aircraft operated by Singapore Airlines Ltd. on the tarmac at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

Singapore Airlines announced on Tuesday that it is providing compensation to passengers who were injured during a flight that encountered severe turbulence. This rare incident resulted in the death of one passenger and injuries to dozens of others.

The Boeing 777 aircraft, carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew members on a flight from London to Singapore, experienced sudden turbulence over the Irrawaddy basin on May 20. The turbulence caused people and objects to be thrown around the cabin, forcing the plane to divert to Thailand.

A 73-year-old British man died from a suspected heart attack, and dozens of passengers were hospitalized with injuries including spinal, brain, bone, and organ damage. Nineteen individuals remain hospitalized in Bangkok.

Authorities believe the turbulence occurred while meals were being served, and many passengers were not wearing their seat belts. Passengers have described the “sheer terror” of the aircraft shaking violently, loose items flying through the cabin, and injured individuals lying paralyzed on the floor of the plane.

Singapore Airlines has offered $10,000 in compensation to passengers who sustained minor injuries.

“For those who sustained more serious injuries from the incident, we have invited them to discuss a compensation offer to meet each of their specific circumstances when they feel well and ready to do so,” the airline stated.

Passengers medically assessed to have sustained serious injuries requiring long-term medical care and requesting financial assistance will receive an advance payment of $25,000 to cover their immediate needs. “This will be part of the final compensation that these passengers will receive,” the airline said.

The airline also stated it will provide full airfare refunds to all passengers on the flight, including those without any injuries. All passengers will also receive delay compensation in accordance with European Union or U.K. regulations.

The airline added that it has already provided each passenger with 1,000 Singapore dollars ($739) for immediate needs, covered the medical expenses of injured passengers, and arranged for family members and loved ones to travel to Bangkok upon request.

A report by Singapore’s Transport Ministry revealed that the plane experienced significant g-force swings in less than five seconds, likely causing the injuries to those who were not wearing seat belts. The report also stated that the jet dropped 178 feet (54 meters) in less than one second, which “likely resulted in the occupants who were not belted up to become airborne” before falling back down.

The cause of the turbulence remains unclear. While most people associate turbulence with heavy storms, the most dangerous type is known as clear air turbulence. This type of turbulence can occur in wispy cirrus clouds or even in clear air near thunderstorms, as temperature and pressure differences create powerful currents of fast-moving air.

According to a 2021 report by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, turbulence accounted for 37.6% of all accidents on larger commercial airlines between 2009 and 2018. The Federal Aviation Administration has reported 146 serious injuries from turbulence from 2009 to 2021.