Please Remain Seated…

Photo courtesy of Singapore airlines. The iconic cabin crew sarong kebaya, adapted by Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain in 1974 remains the hallmark of Singapore Airlines
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Singapore Airlines has adjusted seatbelt rules on its flights after one passenger died and more than 100 were injured when one of its planes suddenly hit severe turbulence at a time when the passengers were not belted in.

Passengers and crew onboard flight SQ321 suffered skull, brain and spine injuries when they were thrown violently around the cabin during Tuesday’s terrifying high-altitude ordeal.

A 73-year-old British man died of a suspected heart attack and dozens of passengers were injured on Tuesday when their flight from London to Singapore was buffeted by severe turbulence, forcing an emergency landing in Bangkok.

Some passengers said the turbulence happened so fast there was no time to fasten their seatbelts.

The London to Singapore flight carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew was forced to make an emergency landing in Bangkok, where at least 48 people are still being treated in hospital.

In response, Singapore Airlines said it had introduced a “more cautious approach” to turbulence.

Under the revised policy, meal service and hot drinks will no longer be provided when the seat belt sign is on, the airline said.

Cabin crew will also continue to secure all loose items and equipment during poor weather conditions and continue to advise passengers to return to their seats and secure their seat belts.

“Pilots and cabin crew are aware of the hazards associated with turbulence. They are also trained to assist customers and ensure cabin safety throughout the flight,” an SIA spokesperson said.

Aviation experts say that further restrictions, such as seatbelts at all times would be difficult to enforce, as it would make it impossible for passengers to, for example, use the bathroom.

Air safety experts have told AFP that passengers are often too casual about wearing seatbelts, leaving them at risk if the plane hits unexpected turbulence.

Scientists also say that so-called clear air turbulence, which is invisible to radar, is getting worse because of the climate crisis.

The director of Bangkok’s Samitivej Srinakarin hospital, where most of the injured were taken, said his staff had never before treated such severe injuries caused by turbulence.

Keith Davis, an Australian passenger, described the ordeal, which left his wife, Kerry, with a severe spinal injury and no feeling below the waist.

“It was absolute carnage, instantly. It was absolutely surreal. You know, there’s no warning,” he told the Australian broadcaster Channel 9. “Before we knew it we were on the ceiling. And then bang, we’re on the ground. And you don’t know what is going on.”

Davis said his wife hit the doors of the overhead luggage lockers before falling to the floor of the aisle, and was unable to move for the rest of the flight.

On landing at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, the plane was met by emergency responders who used gurneys to ferry the injured passengers to waiting ambulances.

Photos taken inside the plane after it landed in Bangkok show the cabin in chaos, strewn with food, drinks and luggage, and with oxygen masks dangling from the ceiling.

The chief executive of Singapore Airlines, Goh Choon Phong, has apologised for the “traumatic experience” and expressed condolences to the family of Geoffrey Kitchen, 73, the British man who died.

Sources: The Guardian, Al Jazeera, news agencies, CNN.
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